When people discuss the opioid crisis, many like to offer marijuana as a possible alternative. Many of the conditions that are treated by opioids, such as chronic pain, can also be treated with cannabis. And plenty of evidence suggests that access to medical marijuana leads to less opioid abuse. And another study is simply confirming those results.
A study published in the Public Library of Science found that opioid users were more likely to ditch the drug if they had access to medical marijuana, and that those who switched to cannabis saw an improvement in quality of life.
The study involved 66 patients who were using opioids to treat chronic pain. 37 of the 66 began using medical marijuana to treat their condition, while the other 29 just continued using prescription meds. Over 21 months, the patients who used cannabis were 17 times more likely to stop using opioids and five times more likely to decrease their daily usage of prescription painkillers. On average, the marijuana users cut their opioid usage in half. Meanwhile, the 29 patients who did not use cannabis on average increased their opioid use by 10 percent over those same 21 months.
Anyone who's researched medical marijuana cannot be particularly surprised by these results. It's long been established that states with legalized medical marijuana have lower rates of opioid use than those that do not. And yet, the task forced created by President Donald Trump earlier this year recently came out and said that marijuana is not a viable alternative for opioids.
At this point it isn't really a question of whether marijuana is an alternative to opioids, but rather how long until politicians accept that fact.