As we move closer to November, many Americans are poised to vote on marijuana legalization and/or adopting medical marijuana programs. It seems like there is less talk about marijuana of late, due to the constant focus on the use of prescription opioids and heroin. Which makes sense because opioids, unlike marijuana, are responsible for as many as 78 deaths every day in the United States.
Regardless of one’s views on marijuana, there is still much we do not understand about the long term effects of chronic cannabis use. However, it is widely accepted that marijuana is perhaps the most benign mind altering substance commonly used and abused. That being said, all efforts to change the legality of marijuana use have their roots in medical marijuana. In 1996, California became the first state to allow for cannabis use for patients who met certain requirements. Today, 25 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana programs in play.
Marijuana is used by a number of chronic pain patients as an alternative to prescription painkillers, like hydrocodone and oxycodone for instance. Practically every American adult is aware that prescription opioids can be a slippery slope to addiction and/or overdose. Marijuana is not linked to such eventualities in the same way.
That is not to say that marijuana use, especially among young people, is not without downsides. The drug can both impact developing brains and lead to dependence. That being said, when used medically, the drug is characterized as being the lesser of two evils when compared to opioid narcotics.
At a time when practically every state is trying to curb rampant prescription opioid use, new research suggests that states with medical marijuana programs have seen a drop in the use of prescription drugs, MNT reports. The findings were published in the journal Health Affairs. While the findings may be a good sign with regard to reducing prescription opioid use, more research is needed to understand the full meaning of the findings.