With 23 states (and Washington D.C.) having already legalized medical marijuana, the time has come when physicians are finally able to prescribe it for pain management, instead of opioids or in combination with them.

Having an alternative to opioids is an important step for patients suffering from chronic pain as these are known to be highly addictive. More importantly, with new laws that enable access to marijuana for medical purposes, mortality rates from opioid overdoses have lowered in states that legalized medical cannabis. However, because of the lack of adequate research about marijuana, many physicians are concerned about its effects in combination with opioids.

An interesting new study was published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. The study examined nearly 280 patients who have been receiving medical marijuana at a clinic in Michigan. More than half of them were using it in combination with opioids. The study found that using opioids in combination with cannabis does not increase substance abuse risk – the rate of co-occurring substance use between those medical marijuana users who combined it with opioids and those who did not was almost the same; there were no significant differences.

Lead study authour Brian Perron stated;

“In states where medical marijuana is legal, physicians should be aware that medical marijuana is a potentially safer and more effective treatment approach than opioids.”

His team of researchers is now looking into expanding their study over the course of two years, to discover if time has anything to do with development of substance abuse.

Opioid use in America has reached a point when it is being considered as an epidemic. The chronic misuse of pain medication is a result of easy access and more importantly, there was no other alternative to opioids…until now.

The Center for Disease Control reports that nearly 17,000 people die every year from an opioid overdose. Hopefully, our lawmakers will soon come to agreement and realize that marijuana my be the most proficient alternative.