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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries May Reduce Opioid Overdose Deaths

In the United States, people have mixed feelings about medical marijuana and the subsequent recreational legalization in four states. With more states expected to follow suit, a number of researchers have set out to determine the impact such programs have had on communities.

As the nation continues to struggle with an opioid epidemic, a group of researchers were interested in, whether or not, medical marijuana laws had an effect on opioid overdoses, MSNBC reports. The study found that states with greater access to medical marijuana, through dispensaries, may see a reduction in prescription opioid abuse.

Researchers from the University of California-Irvine (UCI) and the Rand Corporation analyzed data to see if states that legalized medical marijuana had opioid overdose death reductions and saw reductions in addiction treatment admissions.

In the states that have legalized medical marijuana and provided access to dispensaries, the researchers found significant reductions in opioid misuse and treatment admissions for opioid abuse, according to the article. The researchers found a 16% reduction in “opioid-related mortality” and 28% reduction in treatment admissions for opioid-abuse. However, medical marijuana states without access to dispensaries saw no reductions.

Medical marijuana is currently legal in 23 states and D.C. Although, medical marijuana dispensaries can only be found in 18 states.

While the findings may suggest that people swapping their pills for cannabis may save lives, it is important to keep in mind that chronic marijuana use has side effects of its own. It seems evident that in the coming years the country will see more states relaxing their marijuana laws; however, keeping the drug away from teenagers is crucial. Research indicates that marijuana can do more damage to developing brains than adult brains.

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