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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.

Confirmed Cases: 40443

Reported Deaths: 635
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah8743155
Marion5590106
Washington546973
Umatilla329543
Clackamas299065
Lane221226
Malheur186634
Jackson15556
Deschutes107413
Yamhill95615
Linn76414
Polk63915
Jefferson5979
Morrow5426
Lincoln50913
Union4582
Benton4186
Klamath4013
Wasco33515
Douglas3314
Hood River2721
Josephine2583
Columbia2491
Clatsop2340
Coos2290
Baker1132
Crook872
Tillamook700
Curry561
Wallowa402
Lake340
Sherman180
Harney170
Gilliam110
Grant100
Wheeler10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 886939

Reported Deaths: 17167
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2904866944
Riverside650561275
San Bernardino609451065
Orange576351423
San Diego53263863
Kern33551413
Fresno30220430
Sacramento24811474
Santa Clara23591382
Alameda22932435
San Joaquin21436484
Contra Costa18273238
Stanislaus17403394
Tulare17317279
Ventura13930160
Imperial12610336
San Francisco11969137
Monterey1115884
San Mateo10918157
Santa Barbara9671119
Merced9386153
Sonoma9016134
Kings817383
Solano720574
Marin7036127
Madera492873
San Luis Obispo408032
Placer402355
Yolo309958
Butte302651
Santa Cruz272524
Napa190814
Sutter182112
Shasta178629
San Benito141114
El Dorado13024
Yuba128010
Mendocino111121
Tehama7938
Lassen7611
Lake67815
Glenn6473
Nevada5988
Humboldt5609
Colusa5486
Calaveras33917
Amador31316
Tuolumne2574
Inyo21815
Siskiyou1860
Del Norte1751
Mono1752
Mariposa782
Plumas610
Modoc270
Trinity250
Sierra60
Alpine30
Unassigned00
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