The opioid epidemic is a massive problem for the U.S. these days. it seems like everywhere you look, the fatality and overdose rates are staggeringly high. However, in some areas, that risk seems to be slowing down just a bit. Not outright declining, but slowing at the very least. This isn’t great news, but when it comes to an epidemic— we’ll take a small victory when it comes.

The news came earlier today, and soon spread across CNN, NPR, and plenty of other national news outlets. A possible association between medical cannabis and the opioid epidemic. The study found a decrease in filled prescriptions for opioids. The numbers? A 3.742 million daily dose per year decrease in areas where medical cannabis dispensaries have opened. So, what will this mean for medical marijuana and it’s credibility?

Opioid Epidemic and Medical Marijuana: Lowered Rates in Legal States

This latest study comes from JAMA (or, The Journal of the American Medical Association) and it focuses on original research. In their latest publication, which came out today, they have something to say about medical marijuana….

A Downward Shift on Sad Statistics

“This longitudinal analysis of Medicare Part D found that prescriptions filled for all opioids decreased by 2.11 million daily doses per year from an average of 23.08 million daily doses per year when a state instituted any medical cannabis law. Prescriptions for all opioids decreased by 3.742 million daily doses per year when medical cannabis dispensaries opened.”  

Their research was rooted heavily in data coming from Medicare; this ultimately means that the test group was mostly that of people over the age of 65. In this group, they found a 14% reduction in prescriptions when the state had legal access.

The findings from this journal confirm what many have assumed, or known to be true— depending on who you believe. But, to see it in writing adds another layer to the argument for medical marijuana. All in all, it’s still a drug. This seems to be the argument for many, but when you weigh the pro’s and con’s— the opioid epidemic will never quit cold turkey.

What medical marijuana is doing…

In short, people are turning to medical marijuana instead of opioids from the start when given the chance. Those legal states show a strong decrease— even more so when there is a dispensary that’s easy to get to. Ultimately, we are seeing a shift in mentality when conditions allow for it. Decreases by the millions are undeniable, and while a drug is still a drug— when it comes to the opioid epidemic, it might be time to choose the lesser of two evils.