The past few days we had talked a lot about the studies that show a steady decline in opioid-related deaths in states where marijuana is legal. However, a new study now shows quite the opposite.
What did the previous major study say?
A group of researchers published a paper in 2014 wherein they had analyzed mortality rates due to opioid overdose from 1999-2010 in states where medical marijuana is legal.
The researchers found that legal states witnessed an average of 21% lower death rates than those where the drug was illegal.
This very study forms the foundation of the changes that you see in existing medical marijuana programs of many states where opioid use disorder is now a qualifying condition.
What does the new study say?
Titled “Association between medical cannabis laws and opioid overdose mortality has reversed over time”, the paper published on June 10 in Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, however, points to a dramatic swing in the relationship between legalization of medical cannabis and opioid overdose deaths.
The legal states, which had on average seen a 21% lower death rate, showed a 23% higher rate of opioid deaths from 2010-2017 than states where MM is still illegal.
In words of the study’s lead author, Chelsea Shover, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University, “What we saw was that association between implementing a medical marijuana law and the death-rates from opioid overdose actually reversed over time.”
What might have caused this contrasting trend?
So the question that arises here in everybody’s mind is ‘whether medical marijuana was ever the real reason behind the lower opioid death rates seen from 1999-2010?’
Shover and her team don’t have a clear cut answer for this, but what they do have are a few hypotheses:
1) The team believes that since only 2.5% of the US population uses medical marijuana, the figure isn’t significant enough to make an impact.
2) Then the researchers believe that the decline seen from 1999-2010 across places like Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado and Alaska may have had something to do with the average wealth of patients. “These people had better access to addiction treatment and medications,” one of the co-authors of the study said.
The study authors believe that the contrasting figures shown in their study shouldn’t be taken as a piece of evidence for marijuana’s inefficacy at replacing opioid medicines. The research should continue until a specific deduction is made.