It’s no secret by now that marijuana can help ease a host of troubles, from a lackluster love life to depression, anxiety, and PTSD. Celebrities, athletes, and even the NFL, are continuing to jump aboard the maryjane train thanks to its ability to help treat chronic pain.
But one entity that’s been reluctant to embrace weed’s many potential health benefits? Uncle Sam. But that could change thanks to two comprehensive studies recently published in JAMA that indicate legal marijuana could significantly reduce opioid dependence.
In both studies, researchers analyzed records of opiate prescriptions reported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services between 2010 and 2015, and noted how the prescription trends changed after a state made changes to its marijuana laws. One study focused on measuring the total number of daily opioid doses prescribed in each US state, while the other study specifically tracked changes in opioid prescribing rates and spending among Medicaid enrollees.
The results of both studies came to a similar conclusion: states that legalize medical or recreational marijuana prescribed markedly fewer opioids in the years following legalization than those that do not. The number of opioid prescriptions is reduced even further when states open medical cannabis dispensaries, according to the results.
“Medical and adult-use marijuana laws have the potential to lower opioid prescribing for Medicaid enrollees, a high-risk population for chronic pain, opioid use disorder, and opioid overdose, and marijuana liberalization may serve as a component of a comprehensive package to tackle the opioid epidemic,” said the authors in one of the studies. And while weed probably isn’t the only answer to the nation’s growing opioid epidemic, studies like these may encourage lawmakers to consider policies that are more lenient towards marijuana use and research.