A recent study found that opioid use may be lower in states that have legalized medical marijuana.
Last week, the American Journal of Public Health published the study, conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. It utilized data that was compiled from 1999 to 2013. The primary focus of the study was to compare traffic deaths in states with medical marijuana before and after it was legalized.
The study is the first to analyze motorist fatalities in this way. Researchers looked at opioid positivity among drivers ages 21 to 40 who crashed their cars in states with an operational medical marijuana law compared with drivers crashing in states before those laws went into effect. There was an overall reduction in opioid positivity for most states after implementation of an operational medical marijuana law.
“We would expect the adverse consequences of opioid use to decrease over time in states where medical marijuana use is legal, as individuals substitute marijuana for opioids in the treatment of severe or chronic pain,” lead author June H. Kim, a Columbia University doctoral student said in a statement.
A study in 2014 also supports the idea of legal medical marijuana reducing opioid use. Overdoses linked to opioids dropped by 25% in states that legalized medical marijuana.
Despite the findings by multiple studies, marijuana remains on the DEA’s Schedule I list of banned drugs, categorizing it at the same level of danger as opioids and LSD.
The DEA’s opinion does not seem to be influencing the views of most Americans. Polls have shown that approximately 90% of Americans support a physician’s right to recommend marijuana to patients. Despite the DEA’s decision to keep federal marijuana laws the same, four states (Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota and Montana) will vote on legalizing medical marijuana in November. Currently, there are 25 states that have legalized marijuana medical use.
“As states with these laws move toward legalizing marijuana more broadly for recreational purposes, future studies are needed to assess the impact these laws may have on opioid use,” Kim said in a statement.