What's more, studying prescription data from states can only reveal a correlation between medical-marijuana laws and a reduction in opioid use; it can't show a cause-and-effect relationship, Hill said.
Each day, 90 Americans die from opioid overdoses, Hill notes in JAMA Internal Medicine, where both studies were published.
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"These findings suggest that cannabis may play a role in fighting the opioid crisis by reducing some patients' need for opioids", said Dr Kevin Hill, co-author of an accompanying editorial and director of addiction psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
In the Medicare study, conducted from 2010 to 2015, researchers didn't find cannabis legalization associated with a meaningful reduction in prescriptions for fentanyl or oxycodone. What's more, states that widened access further, by legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, saw a 6.4-percent annual decrease, on average. In Prescription Nation, a digest analyzing how states are tackling the worst drug crisis in recorded U.S. history, the Council assigned its highest mark of "Improving" to Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington, DC, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia and West Virginia. Studies suggest marijuana use is rising fastest among older Americans-a group that's also most likely to have the type of pain conditions that respond best to marijuana, the researchers said.
"Of course, there may be diversion from medical cannabis sources to recreational purposes - our research can't really speak to that", Bradford said by email.
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One looked at trends in opioid prescribing under Medicaid, which covers low-income adults, between 2011 and 2016. The researchers in the study were able to continue the research up until 2013, where they found that lower rates of opioid deaths completely corresponds to use of medical marijuana in individuals with issues of addiction.
North Carolina's largest health insurer is clamping down on coverage of opioid prescriptions. Even if patients made a decision to switch from opioids to medical marijuana, the number was not high enough to reflect lowered opioid use throughout the data. "The potential for marijuana policies to reduce the use of addictive opioids deserves consideration, especially in states that have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic". Overdose deaths rose 21.5 percent in 2016, a much sharper spike than the 11.4 percent increase seen the previous year.
They called for states and the federal government to pay for more studies to clarify the effect of marijuana use on opioid use, saying such research is needed for science to guide policy-making.
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