Since 1999, nearly 841,000 people have died from a drug overdose, with synthetic opioids being responsible for 72.9% of these deaths. The opioid crisis has taken hundreds of thousands of lives over the past two decades, and with people becoming increasingly aware of the long-term consequences of using opioids, there has been increased interest in alternative pain relievers. Cannabis is one such alternative, and as more than 30 states have legalized it for either medical or recreational use, more people have been abandoning opioids and turning to the controversial plant for pain relief.
There were, and still are, many objections to legalizing cannabis, with one of them being that it would be a gateway to opioid use. However, a recent study has found just the opposite: states that legalize recreational cannabis markets see a decline in opioid-related emergency department (“ED”) visits for six months. After studying data from Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts and California, researchers from the University of Pittsburg found that over a six-month period, there has been a 7.6% reduction in opioid-related ER visits compared to states that do not have adult-use cannabis markets.
Analysis by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health found that this decline was particularly prominent among men and people aged 25 to 44 years old. Although the decline was small, Coleman Drake, PhD, lead author of the study and assistant professor at Pitt Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management, says it isn’t a trivial feat. It may have been only for six months, but Drake observes that any decline in opioid-related emergency room visits is a welcome public health development.
Even if the effect of the recreational markets on ER visits stops, the study has provided evidence that cannabis is not a gateway to opioids use, as many cannabis prohibitionists feared. The study, which was published in “Health Economics,” looked at data concerning opioid-related ER visits from 29 states with Nevada, Maine, Massachusetts and California having legalized adult use cannabis and the other states acting as controls.
Cannabis has been informally used for years as a pain reliever, but the advent of cannabis laws has allowed researchers to study its medicinal properties more closely. According to the study’s abstract, recent evidence shows that recreational cannabis laws may be alleviating the opioid crisis by allowing adults suffering from chronic pain to turn to cannabis rather than opioids. Cannabis may also be used to treat symptoms of opioid withdrawal, although the study notes that the plant cannot directly treat opioid-use disorder. However, Drake cautions, cannabis laws aren’t enough to curb the effects of the opioid pandemic.
As companies such as Sonoma Biologics Corp. keep manufacturing high-quality medical cannabis, it is possible that an increasing number of patients with chronic pain may ditch opioids for cannabis, especially when the legalization drive succeeds in more parts of the country.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Sonoma Biologics Corp. are available in the company’s newsroom at https://cnw.fm/Sonoma
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