Marijuana Legalization Is Good For Curbing Opioid Addiction: New 2016 Study

Maryam Louise

The 2016 elections are an exciting time for marijuana legalization, and a new study published in mid-September shows that medical cannabis is also good for painkiller, opioid, or heroin addicts.

This scientific study flies in the face of a recent announcement by the DEA that marijuana "has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States" and that "scientific evidence is not widely available," according to an August 18 report by The Hill.

Nevertheless, the Washington Post wrote on September 2 that "an unprecedented number of states will vote for marijuana legalization" on November 8, 2016. This includes five states that will vote for recreational marijuana and another four states that will vote for legalizing medical cannabis.

If all of the votes go through, this means that nine states will have recreational marijuana and 24 states will have medical cannabis -- and only 17 states will have neither.

Sadly, marijuana legalization voting has some opponents, and a scandal broke out on September 8 when U.S. News & World Reports and others reported that the opioid company, Insys, the maker of the painkiller Fentanyl, allegedly made a big donation to an anti-marijuana legalization campaign in Arizona.

This act was especially heinous since Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is suing Insys because she alleges they "hawked the drug to doctors for off-label prescribing" and that Insys' "desire for increased profits led it to disregard patients' health and push addictive opioids for non-FDA approved purposes."

Now, the American Journal of Public Health has published a new study in mid-September that indicates medical marijuana could be lowering the numbers in the opioid, heroin or painkiller epidemic.

In particular, the rates of painkiller addiction in people suffering serious car injuries were lower in states that allowed for medical marijuana. The Washington Post touts the study as "the first to look at the relationship between medical marijuana laws and individual-level laboratory measurements of opioid use."

In addition to calling out drug makers on their dangerously addictive painkillers and providing research that shows medical marijuana can help curb opioid use after car wrecks, there is a lot of backlash against the government for voicing biased data that suggests marijuana should remain in the same drug scheduling as heroin, meth, or cocaine, according to Forbes.

Furthermore, the argument that marijuana legalization is a "gateway drug" for youth is also being put to rest. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on September 12 that new data published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for 2015 states marijuana use for kids between 12 and 17 has not increased or decreased, but instead was "similar to the percentages in most years between 2004 and 2014."

On top of kids not smoking marijuana more or less even though it is becoming more commonly available thanks to marijuana laws, they also stated that "smoking and drinking among teenagers fell to new lows in 2015, new federal data shows, as young Americans continued to shift away from the habits of their parents."

NPR also supported the fact that marijuana legalization is good for preventing opioid, heroin, or painkiller use in college students. On September 9, it was reported that a University of Michigan study found "use of prescription opioids by college students has dropped from 8.7 percent in 2003 to 3.3 percent in 2015."

Moreover, the same research by the University of Michigan showed that "people in their 40s and 50s used far more drugs in their youth than do people in their teens and 20s today."

In the end, it is clear that if marijuana legalization could help with the opioid abuse epidemic, that aid is welcome. For example, Science Daily reported on September 14 that the October issue of Medical Care released numbers that stated the prescription opioid abuse epidemic currently costs Americans $78.5 billion per year.

[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]