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The Opioid Epidemic: Can Cannabis Help End Opioid Overdose and Addiction?

We are in the middle of the worst opioid epidemic in recorded history. Since 1999, opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled. An estimated 91 people die from an opioid overdose each day in the US. These numbers are staggering. And prescription opioids are largely responsible for the epidemic. In 2012, 259 million opioid prescriptions were written. That’s enough to give each American adult their own bottle of pills.

Opioid addiction rates are at their highest. Ever. People are looking for solutions to end this epidemic that is destroying countless lives across the country. What they’re finding is cannabis is a likely candidate. From helping with addiction recovery to decreasing opioid use, cannabis shows potential to help end the opioid crisis that is crippling the country.

Numerous Studies Show Promise of Cannabis to Help End Opioid Overdose and Dependency

Several studies have tested this idea. Most have come to a unanimous conclusion. Cannabis can help significantly with opioid use and addiction. One study showed that states with medical cannabis laws had almost 25 percent fewer opioid overdose deaths than states without medical marijuana.

Another study conducted by Canadian researchers showed something similar. Published in August 2017, the study suggested many people managing pain in medical states had switched from opioids to cannabis. The study mentions a “substitution effect” of using cannabis rather than opioids for treating pain.

According to researcher Philippe Lucas, “The argument in favor of recognizing medical cannabis as a first-line option in the treatment of chronic pain is informed by science, common sense, and simple compassion. If patients never start using opioids, there is no risk their use might progress to dependence or overdose.”

Even Dr. Oz is on board. In September, the author and TV personality physician told Fox News, “The real story is the hypocrisy around medical marijuana. People think it’s a gateway drug to narcotics. It may be the exit drug to get us out of the narcotic epidemic.”

He went on to comment about the federal government’s position on cannabis. “We’re not allowed to study it because it’s a Schedule I drug, and I personally believe it could help.”

People Strongly Support Cannabis for Opioids…Even with a Government Against It

The Trump administration will officially declare the opioid crisis a state of emergency next week. Requests to consider cannabis as a replacement therapy however, have been largely ignored. Yes, recommendations to declare a state of emergency have been heeded. But the something in the original report that was given to Trump has been largely ignored. This would be more than 8,000 public signatures that suggested the government consider cannabis as a solution.

It seems almost everyone is in strong support of cannabis to help end the deadliest drug epidemic our country has ever experienced.  From famous TV personalities and physicians to addiction specialists and advocates, people want the public to know what’s really working.

Take New Mexico Minority House Leader, Republican Nate Gentry. Two days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions said cannabis was “only slightly less awful” than heroin, Gentry counteracted Sessions’ comment. “Medical cannabis has great potential as an opioid replacement drug and we want to move people away from being prescribed highly addictive opiates.” He hopes to make things easier on patient’s enrolled in the New Mexico’s medical marijuana program.

Recreational Marijuana Reduces Opioid Overdose Deaths in Colorado

To further show how powerful cannabis is in helping the opioid crisis, new research was just published in the American Journal of Public Health. This research found that cannabis legalization in Colorado has led to a “reversal” of opioid deaths in the state.

In one of the first reports to study the impact on recreation legalization and opioids, it highlights recreational and medical marijuana are helping with opioid use. The study found since recreational marijuana laws were passed, opioid deaths fell 6.5 percent in the two years that followed.

Study after study shows the increasing potential cannabis holds to help a nation hooked on opioid painkillers. The opioid epidemic unfortunately isn’t likely to be over anytime soon. There is high hope however, that cannabis can help one day put it to an end.

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