Findings may have ramifications for dealing with opioid abuse.
Access to legal cannabis stores is associated with a reduction in opioid related deaths in the United States, especially those linked to artificial opioids such as fentanyl, finds a study released by The BMJ today.
Opioids are ‘morphine-type’ drugs that relieve short-term (acute) pain and discomfort at the end of life. There is little evidence that they are handy for long-lasting (chronic) pain, however they are typically recommended for this reason.
This has actually caused extensive abuse and a sharp increase in overdose deaths, particularly in the United States. In 2018, there were more than 46,000 fentanyl-related deaths, representing over two-thirds of all US opioid-related deaths that year.
Some research studies have actually suggested that increased access to marijuana shops– lawfully authorized to offer medical and leisure cannabis– may assist to decrease opioid-related deaths, however the evidence up until now is combined.
To explore this further, researchers examined relationships between medical and leisure marijuana stores (referred to as dispensaries) and opioid-related deaths from 2014 to 2018.
Their findings are based upon data for 812 counties within the 23 US states that allowed legal marijuana dispensaries to run by the end of 2017.
Info on state-level cannabis legislation was integrated with county-level data on certified dispensaries and opioid-related mortality rates.
After managing for population attributes and other possibly influential elements, the researchers found that counties with a higher number of active cannabis dispensaries were associated with reduced opioid-related death rates.
According to this quote, a boost from one to two dispensaries in a county was associated with an approximated 17rease in all opioid-related mortality rates.
This association held for both medical and leisure dispensaries and appeared especially strong for deaths associated with artificial opioids aside from methadone, with an estimated 21Þcrease in mortality rates related to a boost from one to 2 dispensaries.
An increase from 2 to 3 dispensaries was connected with an additional 8.5%reduction in all opioid related death rates.
This study is the very first to examine the association in between active marijuana dispensary operations and opioid associated death rates at the more fine grained county level.
However, the outcomes are observational, so can’t develop cause, and the scientists stress that while marijuana is typically believed to be less addicting than opioids, it still carries potential damages and public safety risks must not be ignored.
However they state their findings recommend “a possible association in between increased prevalence of medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries and lowered opioid-related mortality rates.”
And they require “a greater understanding of the effect of marijuana legalization on opioid misuse and public health results prior to policy makers can weigh the potential advantages against the harms of promoting marijuana legalization.”
In a connected editorial, researchers argue that marijuana liberalization “can not be considered a solution to the opioid crisis till a robust evidence base is readily available.”
Although some might translate these findings as proof supporting marijuana liberalization to resolve the opioid crisis, they point out that “such conclusions are presently premature without evidence of causality.”
Further experimental studies consisting of individual-level information of those with usage of prescription opioids and illicit opioids “would inform a more nuanced understanding of the alternative between opioids and marijuana,” they conclude.
Referral: 27 January 2021, The BMJ
DOI: 10.1136/ bmj.m4957