Pitt Review Finds That Legalizing Marijuana Temporarily Decreases Opioid Use

As Congressional Democrats force for cannabis legalization at the federal degree, a new University of Pittsburgh study further throws drinking water on the notion that marijuana is a so-known as “gateway” drug.

For a long time, public health and fitness education and learning programs and anti-legalization advocates have warned that cannabis use prospects people today to experiment with other much more deadly and addictive substances, this kind of as opioids. This conversing position has major public well being implications due to the ongoing overdose epidemic.

“We don’t discover any evidence to help the theory that hashish capabilities as a gateway drug…if something, we obtain that leisure cannabis legalization decreases opioid-relevant unexpected emergency office visits,” explained guide author Coleman Drake, an assistant professor specializing in health plan and administration at Pitt’s Graduate College of Community Wellbeing.

Drake and his workforce seemed at point out-stage combination details from California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada, which all legalized cannabis at the start of 2017. For 50 % of 2017, these states saw a 7.6 p.c decline in opioid-similar visits when in contrast to states in which recreational use was illicit. Right after six months, the fee of the opioid-linked ER visits reverted back in direction of the stage it was at prior to legalization.

While the reduction in opioid-associated ER visits was temporary, Drake argues that it’s nonetheless sizeable. Since researchers experienced accessibility to only a person 12 months of information, he plans to return to the topic to see how the results of legalization play out more than a for a longer time period of time.

The examine would make no definitive conclusions as to why legalization has this impact, nor why it was short-term. But Drake pointed out that some people today start working with opioids due to chronic soreness, and then become addicted.

“Cannabis is a substitute for suffering relief, but it’s not a treatment for opioid use problem,” said Drake. “People could possibly be discovering that cannabis does assist address agony for opioid use disorder, but finally is not treating other signs of the condition.”

That will cause men and women to return to opioids.

The results reveal a probable will need for extra robust accessibility to addiction therapy options that use prescription drugs, these as methadone and buprenorphine, to blunt opioid cravings. Abstinence-only restoration plans frequently oppose the use of these remedies, even with a expanding overall body of evidence that exhibits medicated-assisted treatment enhances outcomes.

It’s difficult to draw too lots of conclusions from this review, cautioned Alice Bell of Prevention Place Pittsburgh, a nonprofit specializing in drug user wellbeing and harm reduction.

“This data with any luck , as soon as and for all places a nail in the coffin that cannabis is a ‘gateway drug,’ ” mentioned Bell. “It would be beneficial to do qualitative investigate and request persons who use drugs what they are actually accomplishing.”

Drake agreed that this would be a excellent route of inquiry. However, he hopes that his findings will develop on the public’s comprehension of the consequences of legalization, which is a rather new phenomenon.

“The kicker with a great deal of leisure cannabis analysis at this issue in time is that we’re commencing to uncover items,” he mentioned, “but we have not experienced adequate however large-excellent scientific tests exactly where we are capable to set all the parts with each other certainly.”

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