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Study: Opioid Use Lower In States With Medical Marijuana

A new study published in the Journal of American Medical Association finds states with easy-to-access medical marijuana, like Oregon, are seeing less opioid usage than others.

Posted: Apr 4, 2018 6:42 PM
Updated: Apr 4, 2018 7:03 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- A new study published in the Journal of American Medical Association finds states with easy-to-access medical marijuana, like Oregon, are seeing less opioid usage than others.

A Southern Oregon cannabis clinic agrees, but Oregon health officials say it's still too early to draw that kind of conclusion.

The study took data from medicaid to see how opioid usage has changed in states with legalized medical marijuana.

Brent Kenyon, Southern Oregon Alternative Medicine Director, said many of his customers want to switch from prescription opioids to cannabis for pain relief.

"We've seen it here over the last 18 years we've been doing business, huge amounts of reductions of prescription pill abuse," Kenyon said.

Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County Health Officer, said the state has taken a public health approach to the opioid crisis since it started.

"I think we've seen a very steady, continued decline in the overall prescribing of opioids, overdose deaths from prescription opioids for sure, but all opioids as well, unlike almost all other states," Shames said.

According to the Oregon Health Authority website, Jackson, Josephine and Klamath Counties are all currently seeing a decline in Opioid deaths.

Dr. Katrina Hedberg, Oregon State Health Officer, said those declines may seem like opioid deaths are falling overall, but there's no way to prove medical marijuana is the cause of it.

"In Oregon, we've had medical marijuana available since 1997, but our opioid deaths increased up until the late 2000s and have only started to decline since about 2008," Hedberg said. "So we have seen a decline since then, but I cannot make a direct correlation since those deaths were going up even when we had medical marijuana."

Hedberg also said the studies are ecological, which means two things may be happening at the same time, but that does not mean one is causing the other.

Dr. Shames said Oregon has been aggressively working to combat the opioid crisis, and he believes all that work is paying off.

"I think we can see that affect in Oregon, so I think the study both addresses the issue of marijuana but maybe indirectly is kind of patting us on the back and saying good work Oregon, great public health work," Shames said.

Kenyon said he agrees the state has done a good job.

"But there's a lot more that we can do to kind of get this awareness out, put controls over the amount of opioids that are being prescribed by our physicians and show those alternatives such as a non-toxic substance like cannabis," Kenyon said.

You can click here  to read the full study.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 193732

Reported Deaths: 2572
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah38352591
Washington25592233
Marion22026306
Clackamas17440214
Lane13007148
Jackson10862139
Deschutes896274
Umatilla820284
Linn492969
Yamhill446376
Klamath441164
Polk375752
Malheur351863
Josephine334570
Douglas327271
Benton310019
Jefferson219837
Coos206633
Columbia174427
Union144823
Lincoln137921
Wasco137728
Hood River118730
Crook111322
Morrow110716
Clatsop9858
Baker95414
Tillamook6493
Curry6469
Grant5095
Lake4517
Harney3448
Wallowa1845
Gilliam631
Sherman581
Wheeler321
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3764405

Reported Deaths: 62573
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles123645624067
Riverside2994554594
San Bernardino2967824715
San Diego2785913729
Orange2709835026
Santa Clara1190642096
Kern1091771374
Sacramento1048401686
Fresno1018381688
Alameda879401657
Ventura810011013
San Joaquin732201391
Contra Costa68741805
Stanislaus621421061
Tulare49654839
Monterey43613383
San Mateo42038568
San Francisco36720544
Santa Barbara34337456
Solano32953252
Merced31898460
Sonoma30035320
Imperial28443726
Kings22989246
Placer22679292
San Luis Obispo21308260
Madera16462242
Santa Cruz16264207
Marin14056227
Yolo13910210
Shasta12152226
Butte12026199
El Dorado10168112
Napa987082
Sutter9433112
Yuba626847
San Benito606563
Lassen570624
Tehama557262
Nevada474275
Tuolumne413166
Mendocino410149
Humboldt404641
Amador365847
Lake347643
Glenn239125
Colusa223416
Siskiyou223424
Calaveras212954
Inyo142838
Del Norte13938
Mono12844
Plumas7106
Modoc4994
Mariposa4487
Trinity4005
Sierra1120
Alpine880
Unassigned520
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