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Journal of American Medicine: Legalizing Marijuana Could Help Solve the Opioid Crisis

Two large papers published in JAMA Internal Medicine Monday may point to an unlikely solution to the opioid crisis – marijuana legalization.

According to the papers, which analyzed over five years of Medicare Part D and Medicaid prescription data, in states that legalized marijuana, opioid prescriptions and the daily dose of opioids drastically decreased – by a rate of 40 fewer opioid prescriptions per 1,000 people each year in one study, or 4 percent, and 14 percent fewer prescriptions in the other study. These drops were even more drastic in states which legalized both medical and recreational weed.

“In this time when we are so concerned — rightly so — about opiate misuse and abuse and the mortality that’s occurring, we need to be clear-eyed and use evidence to drive our policies,” W. David Bradford, an economist at the University of Georgia and an author of one of the studies, told Stat News. “If you’re interested in giving people options for pain management that don’t bring the particular risks that opiates do, states should contemplate turning on dispensary-based cannabis policies.”

This research supports smaller 2014 research findings that states with medical marijuana laws had almost 25 percent fewer deaths from opioid overdoses. These papers are the first to connect marijuana legalization to prescription painkillers with data sets of such a large scale.

[photo via Getty Images]

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