Cannabis as a Cure (Yes, a Cure) for Addiction
Yep, you read my headline correctly. Empirical evidence suggests that marijuana can actually cure drug addiction. Pot already is proving its efficacy in curbing opioid addiction and deaths.
There’s more to the marijuana industry than getting high. Maligned during the War on Drugs as “the devil’s weed,” marijuana is showing in studies that it can save lives that are lost because of addiction to harmful drugs.
The die-hard pot prohibitionists, of course, aren’t buying it:
“Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse? Give me a break. This is the kind of argument that has been made out there. It’s almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that’s true.”
Those words were spoken on February 28, 2017, by then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Science is proving the prohibitionists wrong.
Regardless of the persistent efforts of anti-pot politicians, the marijuana business is a multi-billion-dollar juggernaut that’s unstoppable.
The latest evidence that medical marijuana can cure opioid abuse arrived this month, when Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center released a study that opioid prescription rates have dropped on average nearly 20% in states where medical marijuana is legal compared to states where pot is illegal. The authors of the study said the results highlight the need to provide cannabis to patients as a pain management alternative.
This study and many others like it are generating a multi-year tailwind for the medical marijuana industry and its publicly traded biotech stocks.
The study’s medical data help explain why, during the coronavirus pandemic, several states and localities have designated marijuana companies (especially medical-oriented ones) as “essential services” that are allowed to stay open during lockdowns.
The scientifically proven medical advantages of marijuana have boosted pot’s public image, generating greater impetus for legalization (see chart).
The opioid scourge…
First, let’s get our terms straight.
“Opioid” refers to any drug that acts on opioid receptors in the brain. “Opiate” refers to a subset of opioid derived from poppy. Opioids can be either synthetic or semi-synthetic drugs whereas opiates are natural, synthetic or semi-synthetic.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that nearly 70,000 Americans die every year from drug overdoses. About 70% of all drug overdose deaths are now caused by opioids, a class of drugs that includes prescription painkillers as well as heroin and dangerous synthetic versions like fentanyl.
The CDC reports that 115 Americans die from opioid-related causes, every single day, outpacing the number of deaths from vehicular accidents or firearms. Between 1999 and 2018, nearly 450,000 people died of opioid (legal and illegal) overdoses.
The new Columbia University study examines opioid prescriptions made specifically by orthopaedic surgeons, who it notes are the nation’s third-highest prescribers of opioids. The study states:
“…these population-level findings show that legalization of medical cannabis and patient access to dispensaries may be associated with reductions in opioid prescribing by orthopaedic surgeons.”
Analyzing nationwide Medicare Part D prescription drug data, researchers measured the aggregate daily doses of opioid medications prescribed by orthopaedic surgeons in each state annually. They then looked for associations between that state-level data and the legal status of medical marijuana in each state.
The study found a pronounced drop in prescriptions among states with medical cannabis laws (MCLs):
“State MCLs were associated with a statistically significant reduction in aggregate opioid prescribing of 144,000 daily doses (19.7% reduction) annually.”
Marijuana is an especially appealing alternative pain medication to study, the authors wrote, “because of its efficacy in treatment of chronic and acute pain and its potential for replacing and/or reducing opioid treatment.”
The study’s results come on top of an increasing body of research proving that medical cannabis accessibility significantly reduces statewide opioid use and even opioid deaths. The study concludes:
“Multiple large nationwide database studies have shown that states with the legalization of medical marijuana have seen reductions in the opioid prescription rates and opioid-related mortality rates. The authors of these studies have theorized that in states where medical cannabis is more available, patients are likely to substitute cannabis for opioids in their pain management.”
The Columbia University study was published on May 11 in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
As the medical benefits of marijuana become all too clear, an increasing number of states are legalizing cannabis.
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John Persinos is the editor-in-chief of Marijuana Investing Daily. You can reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org