Additionally, researchers found a 14.5 percent reduction in any opiate use in states operating legal marijuana dispensaries. Medical and adult-use marijuana laws, has made marijuana available to more Americans.
After comprehensive evaluations of data and prevention strategies, the National Safety Council identified the following six key actions that could have immediate and sustained impact addressing the opioid epidemic.
In response to the ongoing opioid crisis, Americans for Safe Access, in partnership with the U.S. Pain Foundation and other advocacy organizations launched the End Pain, Not Lives campaign in late 2017.
When states implemented medical marijuana laws, however, the annual opioid prescription rate declined by nearly 6%, or approximately 39 fewer prescriptions for every 1,000 people enrolled in Medicaid each year. The latest studies suggest that such a painkiller already exists - it is called marijuana, and it is legal for medical use in 29 states and for recreational use in nine states plus D.C.
"Patients and physicians seem to be responding to the introduction of medical cannabis as if it were medicine - in many ways as they would with the introduction of a new FDA-approved medical treatment", said study coauthor W. David Bradford, a researcher at the University of Georgia in Athens. They begin to take more than prescribed, and more often, which leads to overdose.
In the USA, states where medical marijuana was legal averaged 3.7 million fewer opioid doses annually than states where it is banned.
Results did vary based on the type of opioid, however.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina says starting Sunday it's no longer covering first-time prescription of short-acting opioids for more than a seven-day supply.
The second study found a similar effect among people covered by Medicaid.
"And now, with these two papers, plus a handful of previous studies, we've got pretty compelling evidence that shows that we need to really to think about cannabis as a potential way to curb the opioid crisis", said Hill, who co-authored an editorial that was published alongside the two studies in the same journal. Two new studies in the debate suggest it may.
"There has been substantive evidence that marijuana can relieve pain at a lower risk of addiction than opioids and with virtually no risk of overdose", said lead study author Hefei Wen, an assistant professor of health management and policy at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health in Lexington, Kentucky.
In this Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 file photo, a woman holds the prescribed medical marijuana product used to treat her daughter's epilepsy after making a purchase at a medical marijuana dispensary in Butler, Pa.
We also need stronger background checks before patients can be prescribed risky drugs like Vicodin and Oxycontin, which are usually responsible for starting the downward spiral of addiction.