Legalizing pot won’t slow the opioid epidemic, study suggests

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Image: iStock

Nearly five years ago, a team of researchers performing a study on medical cannabis came to a startling conclusion: The 13 states that had legalized medical marijuana had a 25 percent lower rate of opioid mortality than those that hadn’t.

If more people used the less addictive and less harmful pot instead of opioids, the thinking went, deaths might abate.

But a new paper, published [June 10] in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, throws cold water on that dream. A new set of researchers replicated part of the 2014 study’s findings: That is, from 1999 to 2010, it’s true that the introduction of medical-marijuana laws was associated with a decline in opioid-overdose deaths. But when the researchers included states that introduced laws between 2010 and 2017, the direction of the relationship reversed. Instead of a reduction in opioid overdoses, medical marijuana was associated with a 23 percent increase in overdose deaths.

“I think the reason the association is changing is that it’s not causal,” [researcher Chelsea Shover] says. “It would be wonderful if it was true that passing a medical-cannabis law could prevent deaths from opioid overdose, but the evidence doesn’t seem to support that.”

Read full, original post: The Misplaced Optimism in Legal Pot

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