Two new studies have found that rates of opioid painkiller usage declined in states that legalized medical marijuana. The studies’ findings suggest that the legalization of medical marijuana could serve as a tool to help patients treat chronic pain and address the nationwide opioid epidemic, which claims tens of thousands of lives each year.
In the first study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers examined the question of whether patients who had access to medical marijuana were less likely to use opioid painkillers. The study found that in states where medical marijuana was legal, opioid painkiller prescriptions were 14% lower than in states where medical marijuana was prohibited. Researchers estimated that the availability of medical marijuana to these patients reduced the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed in these states by a total of 3.7 million doses per day.
The authors of the second study reached similar conclusions about the potential of medical marijuana to reduce the use of opioid painkiller. The study found that both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana “have the potential to reduce opioid prescribing for Medicaid enrollees, a segment of population with disproportionately high risk for chronic pain, opioid use disorder and opioid overdose.” However, the authors of the study cautioned that marijuana alone could not address the nationwide problem of opioid abuse, dependency, and addiction.
One concern about the use of marijuana to replace opioid prescriptions for chronic pain is that it could lead users to try other drugs – including opioids. A study conducted by researchers at Columbia University found that marijuana users were six-times more likely than non-users to abuse opioids.
The lead author of the Columbia study, Dr. Mark Olfson, called for more studies tracking individual users in order to determine whether marijuana use actually supplants opioid use. However, studies like this are difficult under current laws because federal regulations place tight restrictions on how marijuana can be studied by scientists, even for medical reasons.
The search for alternatives to opioid painkillers in order to treat patients with chronic pain comes at a time when these drugs are having a devastative effect on patients across the U.S. According to data published by the CDC, opioid overdoses killed more than 42,000 Americans in 2016, surpassing firearms deaths for the first time.
Although the FDA and other federal agencies have passed new rules in order to help combat the opioid epidemic, the tens of thousands of deaths each year caused by opioid painkillers has had an effect on the life expectancy of patients in the U.S. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancies in the U.S. have fallen for two years in a row as a result of the opioid crisis.
Opioid Overdose Lawsuits Filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson
If you have lost a loved one to an opioid painkiller overdose, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit. Opioid lawsuits have been filed against manufacturer of these drugs, doctors who prescribed them, and pharmacies or distributors that issued these prescriptions.
The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson has filed dozens of lawsuits on behalf of opioid overdose victims. Our firm has handled more lawsuits involving the powerful opioid painkiller fentanyl than all other law firms in the country combined. Heygood, Orr & Pearson has also filed lawsuits on behalf of hundreds of other patients who have been harmed by opioid painkillers or other dangerous drugs.
For more information about the opioid lawsuits filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson and to find out whether you may qualify to file a case, contact our office by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few simple questions to get started.