Recreational Marijuana Could be Reducing Opioid Deaths

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shutterstock 593324582

A new study showed an approximate six percent decrease in opioid-related deaths in Colorado that has been linked to the legalization of recreational marijuana.

As the opioid crisis continues to ravage the United States, a new study suggests that legalized recreational marijuana could help reduce deaths related to opioid overdoses.

The American Journal of Public Health has just released new research that examined the first two years of recreational marijuana in Colorado where sales began in 2014.


“After Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sale and use, opioid-related deaths decreased more than 6% in the following 2 years,” write authors Melvin D. Livingston, Tracey E. Barnett, Chris Delcher and Alexander C. Wagenaar said according to the Washington Post.

Patients have reported a preference for marijuana over opioids for pain management in multiple studies. Without the dangerous side effects and potential for addiction, many believe marijuana is an ideal alternative to opioid-based medications.

While other studies have examined the drop in opioid use in states that have legalized medical marijuana, the American Journal of Public Health study is the first to examine recreational marijuana’s impact on opioid overdoses.

But it could be too early for marijuana advocates to declare any definitive victory based on these study results. For one, legalized marijuana is in its infancy and the study was only able to examine a two year period in Colorado. It will take more time and research before anyone can outright conclude that marijuana fixing the opioid problem.

Additionally, the study noted that while there may be an encouraging drop in opioid overdoses, there could be a rise in traffic fatalities since recreational marijuana was legalized.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) concluded that over 22,000 deaths were linked to opioid overdoses in 2015. There have not been official numbers from the CDC yet for 2016, but analysts suggest that there has been a sharp rise in opioid overdoses in 2016 and 2017 as fentanyl’s availability increases.