ATLANTA – New research from the University of Georgia finds medical marijuana could play a major role in fighting the nation’s opioid crisis.
According to a study by UGA Public Policy Professor David Bradford and his team, legalizing medical marijuana appears to lead to less prescription opioid use.
“When you give … the physicians and the patients access to cannabis as a treatment option for medical purposes, they react very much as if cannabis is medicine, that is, they reduce the utilization of substitute goods like opiates,” Bradford said.
The study found states that have legalized marijuana dispensaries had a more than 14 percent drop in prescription opioid use.
Dispensaries allow patients access to marijuana in plant form and edibles.
Currently, Georgia law only allows people with certain chronic medical conditions to use cannabis oil.
“Anything that really can divert people away from that initial use of opiates or that might put them on a path toward misuse, abuse and ultimately for too many of them death, that’s something that policy makers really ought to explore,” Bradford said.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers expanded the number of conditions allowed under the medical marijuana law.
Opioid-involved overdose deaths have been rapidly increasing in Georgia since 2010.
In 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported 929 deaths and 1,700 hospitalizations.
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