Opioid deaths fall in Colorado following recreational cannabis legalisation

  • Legalisation of recreational cannabis in Colorado is saving lives according to new research
  • Opioid deaths fell by 6.5% two years after Colorado legalised cannabis for recreational purposes in 2015
  • 10,000 of people die from opioid abuse in America every year

According to new research, legalisation of recreational cannabis in Colorado has led to a drop in opiate overdoses in the state.

Researchers from the University of North Texas, University of Florida and Emory University, examined monthly opiate overdose trends in Colorado overdose fatalities before and after the state’s recreational marijuana market opened in 2014.

They found that in the two years since Colorado legalised cannabis for recreational purposes, opiate deaths fell by 6.5%. Researchers also tried to isolate the effect of recreational, rather than medical, cannabis by comparing results to Nevada, where only medical marijuana was legal during that period. Nevada legalised recreational cannabis earlier this year.

The authors stress that results are only “preliminary,” and emphasize that the data only showed an association, not clear evidence that legalizing cannabis was directly responsible for reducing overdose deaths.

cannabis safer than prescription drugs

The report stated: “This reduction represents a reversal of the upward trend in opioid-related deaths in Colorado.

“Legalization of cannabis in Colorado was associated with short-term reductions in opioid-related deaths.

“For policymakers to balance the potential beneficial and deleterious effects of these laws, researchers must continue to examine the full range of health effects in both clinic- and population-level research.”

While we have reported on patients swapping opioid medications for medical cannabis, this report is one of the first to look at the impact of recreational cannabis laws on opioid deaths.

Opioid abuse is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with over 1,000 people being treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids every day.

The UK is also facing an “opioid crisis,” unless something is done to curb the overprescribing and abuse of dangerous pharmaceutical medications.

Many people are prescribed opioids to deal with chronic pain, something medical cannabis is world-renown for.

pain being treated with cannabis

According to a team of researchers from the Veterans Health Administration, between 45-85% of patients seeking medical marijuana in the U.S. do so for management of pain. Again, researchers stressed more research is needed.

Research on medical cannabis in the UK is restricted by its Schedule I status.

Could legalising cannabis for recreational purposes help prevent a similar opioid crisis in the UK?

As more and more research comes out supporting the argument that cannabis is a more suitable, and safer, alternative to opioids, it is becoming harder to deny.

References and further Reading