Could cannabis help solve the opioid crisis?
via AP

Could cannabis help solve the opioid crisis?

#CannabisCanHelp
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More than two million Americans are addicted to opioids, and the opioid crisis could lead to a million deaths by 2020. Some medical experts and addiction specialists say marijuana could combat this devastating epidemic, citing evidence that cannabis can help addicts wean themselves off opioids. But others say there isn't enough science to support that claim. Many recovery experts oppose giving addicts cannabis, saying it just replaces one drug addiction with another. What do you think?💊 🌿

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#CannabisCanHelp
54.2%
#NoMoreDrugs
45.8%

Two recently published studies show a 14 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions in states that allow easy access to medical marijuana.

"We do know that cannabis is much less risky than opiates, as far as likelihood of dependency," says W. David Bradford, a professor of public policy at the University of Georgia. "And certainly there's no mortality risk" [from cannabis].

But as others pointed out, the analysis found a correlation, and correlation is not causation. Researchers can't prove that marijuana use led to a reduction in the growth of opioid use. And opponents say marijuana is just not a solution–it's still a gateway drug.

Researchers say there are several ways medical marijuana could combat the opioid crisis—most importantly, by helping them avoid that first prescription. Giving people with chronic pain medical marijuana instead of dangerously addictive prescription drugs could prevent many people from becoming addicted to opioids in the first place.

Cannabis could also help current addicts. States where marijuana is still banned have higher rates of addiction and overdose, and in 2014, researchers found that states with any kind of medical marijuana law had a 25 percent lower rate of death from opioid overdoses than other states. Several treatment centers are even using marijuana to help people transition off more dangerous drugs, the way methadone is used to transition heroin users.

But other researchers argue marijuana is still a dangerous substance, and we just don't have enough data to prove it could help opioid addicts recover.
While it is true that states with medical marijuana laws have seen a reduction in hospitalization rates related to opioid abuse and overdoses, more research is needed to determine whether this shift can be attributed to medical marijuana or other contributing factors. Quite simply, there’s not enough data.

But cannabis advocates point to the stark difference in the death rate between opioid users and pot smokers as pretty good "data." 

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