For all of those who have heard the gateway drug theory, there is now evidence providing clarity to one of the most abused arguments by those opposed to cannabis law reform. Medical cannabis legalization has been significantly associated with decreased hospitalizations related to opioid dependence or abuse and overdose.
According to a recent study from the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, states with medical marijuana programs saw a decrease in opioid painkiller abuse by 23 percent. Further findings show hospitalization rates for opioid overdoses dropped 13 percent. The study also highlights that medical cannabis had no impacts on marijuana-related hospitalizations.
Previous Studies Helped Solidify These Findings
A study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that states with medical cannabis laws recorded 25 percent fewer opioid overdose deaths than those without medical cannabis laws. “Prescription drug abuse and deaths due to overdose have emerged as national public health crises,” says Colleen L. Barry, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School and senior author of the study. “As our awareness of the addiction and overdose risks associated with use of opioid painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin grows, individuals with chronic pain and their medical providers may be opting to treat pain entirely or in part with medical marijuana, in states where this is legal.”
In light of an expanding opioid problem, Gov. Christie has made recent efforts to raise awareness of the new addiction treatment services available in the state and tried to limit supplies of opioid bases pain medication.
One would hope that Gov. Christie would keep medical cannabis as a discrete and unintended tool to help boost the results of his efforts. This could be possible if chronic pain is approved as a qualify condition for New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Program.