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  • by Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Director July 30, 2018

    During Denver’s State of the City Address, Mayor Michael Hancock addressed many of the biggest issues facing residents of the Mile High City — including his plan to respond to the city’s opioid epidemic. With Denver’s Office of the Medical Examiner reporting 110 overdose fatalities involving opioids in 2017 and data from Denver Needs Assessment on Opioid Use, Mayor Hancock’s response is not a moment too soon.

    In the plan’s welcome letter, Mayor Hancock proudly states, “I present to you the Opioid Response Strategic Plan, the result of a collaborative effort among more than 100 government agencies and community organizations to address the opioid crisis in Denver. The work here represents a truly united effort by the Collective Impact Group, which was formed to combat opioid and other substance (mis)use in the city.”

    If you’re in Denver, click here to urge Mayor Hancock to acknowledge the role that marijuana can play in combating Denver’s opioid epidemic

    While we appreciate Mayor Hancock’s leadership, his decision to not highlight the role that  marijuana access can play as an alternative to opioids is concerning. Several observational studies – such as those here, here, and here – find that medical marijuana regulation is correlated with reductions in opioid-related use, drug spending, abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Separate data evaluating prescription drug use trends among individual patients enrolled in state-licensed medical marijuana programs is consistent with this conclusion, finding that many chronic pain subjects reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following enrollment.

    Mayor Hancock should not ignore the reality that access to marijuana can play a role in mitigating the opioid abuse crisis. Click below to urge Mayor Hancock to acknowledge the role that marijuana access can play in combating the prescription drug overdose epidemic, and promoting greater public health and safety.

    If you’re in Denver, click here to urge Mayor Hancock to acknowledge the role that marijuana can play in combating Denver’s opioid epidemic

    Have you connected with your local NORML chapter? If there isn’t one in your community, please reach out to chapters@norml.org for help starting your own!

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 2, 2018

    The enactment of marijuana legalization laws is associated with a significant reduction in the number of opioids prescribed and filled, according to a pair of studies published online today in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

    In the first study, investigators from the University of Kentucky and Emory University assessed the association between medical and adult-use marijuana laws with opioid prescribing rates and spending among Medicaid enrollees. They reported:

    “State implementation of medical marijuana laws was associated with a 5.88 percent lower rate of opioid prescribing. Moreover, the implementation of adult-use marijuana laws, which all occurred in states with existing medical marijuana laws, was associated with a 6.38 percent lower rate of opioid prescribing. … [T]he further reductions in opioid prescribing associated with the newly implemented adult-use marijuana laws suggest that there were individuals beyond the reach of medical marijuana laws who may also benefit from using marijuana in lieu of opioids. Our finding that the lower opioid prescribing rates associated with adult-use marijuana laws were pronounced in Schedule II opioids further suggest that reaching these individuals may have greater potential to reduce the adverse consequences, such as opioid use disorder and overdose.”

    The full text of the study, “Association of Medical and Adult-Use Marijuana Laws With Opioid Prescribing for Medicaid Enrollees,” is available here.

    In the second study, University of Georgia researchers evaluated the association between the enactment of medical cannabis access laws and opioid prescribing patterns under Medicare Part D. They reported:

    “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. … Combined with previously published studies suggesting cannabis laws are associated with lower opioid mortality, these findings further strengthen arguments in favor of considering medical applications of cannabis as one tool in the policy arsenal that can be used to diminish the harm of prescription opioids.”

    The full text of the study, “Association Between US State Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Prescribing in the Medicare Part D Population,” is available here.

    Both findings are consistent with those of numerous prior studies finding that cannabis access is associated with reduced rates of opioid use and abuse, opioid-related hospitalizations, mortality, and overall prescription drug spending. A compilation of these studies is available in the NORML fact-sheet here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 5, 2018

    Pain reliefCannabis therapy mitigates symptoms of the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia and is associated with a reduction in the use of other prescription drugs, according to clinical data published online ahead of print in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology. An estimated 3 to 6 million Americans are afflicted by fibromyalgia, which is often poorly controlled by standard pain medications.

    Israeli investigators assessed the safety and efficacy of inhaled cannabis in a cohort of 26 patients with fibromyalgia. They reported that medical cannabis treatment “was associated with significant favorable outcomes in every item evaluated,” such as reductions in pain and increases in energy.

    Most patients also reduced their use of conventional prescription drugs, such as opiates and benzodiazepines, during the trial period. Nearly half of the participants (46 percent) reduced their prescription drug intake by more than 50 percent during the study. Several patients were also able to return to work following the initiation of cannabis therapy.

    Researchers concluded, “Medical cannabis treatment had a significant favorable effect on patients with fibromyalgia, with few adverse effects.”

    Prior trials evaluating the use of either whole-plant cannabis or synthetic cannabinoids have similarly shown efficacy in patients with the disease. A summary of these prior studies is available here.

    The abstract of the study, “Medical cannabis for the treatment of fibromyalgia,” is online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 21, 2017

    pills_v_potPatients use fewer prescription drugs in states where access to medical cannabis is legally regulated, according to data published in the journal Health Affairs.

    Investigators at the University of Georgia assessed the association between medical cannabis regulations and the average number of prescriptions filled by Medicaid beneficiaries between the years 2007 and 2014.

    Researchers reported, “[T]he use of prescription drugs in fee-for-service Medicaid was lower in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without such laws in five of the nine broad clinical areas we studied.” They added, “If all states had had a medical marijuana law in 2014, we estimated that total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1.01 billion.”

    The findings are similar to those previously published by the team which reported that medical cannabis access was associated with significantly reduced spending by patients on Medicare Part D approved prescription drugs.

    Separate studies have reported that patients with legal access to medical marijuana reduce their intake of opioids, benzodiazepines, anti-depressants, migraine-related medications, and sleep aids, among other substances.

    An abstract of the study, “Medical marijuana laws may be associated with a decline in the number of prescriptions for medicaid enrollees,” appears here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 19, 2016

    oil_bottlesThe implementation of medical marijuana programs is associated with a decrease in the prevalence of opioids detected among fatally injured drivers, according to data published in the American Journal of Public Health.

    Researchers at Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Davis performed a between-state comparison of opioid positivity rates in fatal car accidents in 18 states. Authors reported that drivers between the ages of 21 and 40 who resided in states that permitted medical marijuana use were approximately half as likely to test positive for opioids as were similar drivers in jurisdictions that did not such programs in place.

    They concluded, “Operational MMLs (medical marijuana laws) are associated with reductions in opioid positivity among 21- to 40-year-old fatally injured drivers and may reduce opioid use and overdose.”

    Prior comparisons have determined that medical cannabis access is associated with lower rates of opioid use, abuse, and mortality. Most recently, a 2016 study published in the journal Health Affairs reported a significant decrease in the use of prescription medications following the implementation of medical marijuana programs.

    An abstract of the study, “State medical marijuana laws and the prevalence of opioids detected among fatally injured drivers,” appears online here.

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