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Could cannabis combat the opioid crisis? Marijuana users say drug helped them stop prescription meds


(Newsweek) – Cannabis could be used instead of prescription and over-the-counter medications—including opioids—to treat pain and insomnia, researchers have found. The team also found that many people who took marijuana for pain had been able to stop taking opioids, potentially suggesting it could lower the use of these pain relievers.

America’s opioid epidemic began in the 1990s when pharmaceutical companies told doctors that patients would not get addicted to opioids, so they were increasingly prescribed. However, they were addictive. This led to increasing misuse, including people turning to illegal opioids such as heroin. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency. It is estimated that 130 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day.

Cannabis has previously been looked at in relation to the epidemic. In May, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai published a study showing how cannabidiol (CBD)—a chemical in marijuana—helped former addicts with their cravings and anxiety, as well as lessening stress. The study sample—42 recovering addicts—was small, but the findings helped show that cannabis could play a role in the opioid crisis.

In a study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs on Monday, a different team of researchers looked at how cannabis helped with pain relief among customers of a dispensary in Colorado. In this state, use of the drug is legal for both medical and recreational use. The team surveyed 1,000 people who bought the drug privately.

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