A study recently found that opioid deaths had fallen by more than 20% in countries and territories where cannabis is legalized and thus legally available.
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts and Colorado State University have published a new study on the impact of recreational marijuana laws on opioid-induced deaths.
The study links the availability of cannabis for adults to a decrease in opioid overdose deaths. The study found that opioid deaths had fallen by more than 20% in states where adult cannabis is legal and available.
Why it's important
Opioids were responsible for 2017% of all drug overdose deaths in 67,8, accounting for 47.600 deaths, according to the study, published Aug. 6 in the Journal of Economic Inquiry.
Cannabis has been presented by many as a safer alternative to opioids and an important tool in the opioid epidemic. The potential role of cannabis in mitigating the opioid crisis has not yet been definitively confirmed, which means that new research studies are crucial to prove or disprove cannabis's ability to help overcome the opioid epidemic.
Earlier preliminary investigation
A research from 2014 made headlines by linking the availability of medical marijuana to a decrease in opioid deaths. The study analyzed the rate at which opioid mortality declined in states with medical marijuana laws between 1999 and 2010 and linked the cause to the availability of cannabis as a substitute treatment.
From a study that in January 2019 However, when data up to 2017 were analyzed using the same approach, the results were found to be inconclusive. The study found that the number of opioids increased even in those same states through the 2010s. The study published in January does not rule out a role for cannabis in the fight against the opioid crisis, but only refutes the effectiveness of the earlier study's approach.
The study that was published in Economic Inquiry last week was conducted by economists Nathan Chan, Jesse Burkhardt and Matthew Flyr. They collected data on recreational cannabis use and the availability of cannabis.
"We see that access to recreational marijuana reduces opioid mortality by 20% -35%," the study said.
While the study did not identify a specific mechanism explaining the new results, the studies speculated that the numbers are achieved by replacing one drug with another. Indirect causes for the reduction in opioid mortality in areas where recreational marijuana is available may also include an improvement in economic conditions in areas where cannabis is legal, according to the study.