According to University of Pittsburgh research, statistics are suggesting that legalizing cannabis for recreational may be resulting in a temporary drop in emergency room visits as a result of opioid abuse.
In recent years, the opioid epidemic has increased in speed in the USA. In Europe, the number rises in some countries, while it falls in others. Overall the number is relativelystable. The opioid epidemic in the United States has been getting steadily worse for the last several years. Opioid abuse is killing more than 80,000 Americans each year.
On the other side of the recreational drug spectrum, we have cannabis. Cannabis is general consider to be almost entirely unharmful and the world is trending towards more progressive policies on the substance. 19 out of 50 states in the USA have legalized recreational cannabis to date. This means that more than a third of America’s population can now access recreational cannabis.
So why does this matter? There may be in answer to the opoid ciris in legalization of cannabis. The medical journal, Health Economics, published data that showed a decrease in use opioids use among males between age 25 and 44 in states where cannabis is legal.
Coleman Drake, a professor of health policy and management at Pitt Public Health, said that “it’s a real and welcomed trend in public health.”
Legalisation of Cannabis has already provided relief to the Opioid Crisis
A team analysed data from emergency rooms that dealt with opioid abuse between 2011 and 2017. This included 4 states that legalized recreational marijuana during this period. As a control, the remaining 25 states were used. This is what the analysis revealed:
In the six months after the new legalisation law was implemented, there was a 7.6% drop in opioid-related emergency department visits in legalized states.
The largest regular consumers of cannabis are men between 25 and 44. As such, the reduction we saw is most noticeable in men in this age range.
The rate opioid abuse emergency room visits persist for over 6 months and the rate of visits has not risen again since. This suggests that cannabis not only reduces opoid abuse, but the effect on opioid consumption is stable and longterm. It also further suggests that cannabis is in fact, not a gateway drug to heroin and other opoids. We could extrapolate this and conclude that it is not a gateway to any other susbtances however this study provides no direct evidence to support or deny this claim.
These results, taken together, add to the evidence in the literature and confirm that cannabis is an effective opioid replacement for pain relief: “Cannabis may relieve pain in those who use opioids but not cannabis. It is of course not an opioid treatment but this is a positive result. We should consider it good news for the public’s health.