Vermont falls to 'lagging' in addressing opioid crisis

Simon Moss
April 4, 2018

Studies show that cannabinoids - chemical components in Cannabis plants - can be effective in alleviating some kinds of pain, and "a mountain of anecdotal evidence from patients" suggests that some who turn to medical marijuana for chronic pain end up needing fewer opioids, said Dr. Kevin Hill, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who was not involved with the studies.

In Ohio, only one of the six actions hasn't been met- implementing a data sharing database which would allow prescribers, law enforcement, and more to share information about crimes associated with opioid misuse and more.

Drug overdoses killed almost 64,000 Americans in 2016, with two-thirds of deaths involving a prescription or illicit opioid, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week. While some deaths may be due to illegal narcotics like heroin, others are caused by opioid medications like oxycodone, fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, and methadone. Overdose deaths rose 21.5 percent in 2016, a much sharper spike than the 11.4 percent increase seen the previous year.

Pot can relieve chronic pain in adults, so advocates for liberalizing marijuana laws have proposed it as a lower-risk alternative to opioids.

"The potential of these marijuana (legalisation) policies to reduce the use and consequences of addictive opioids deserves consideration especially in states that have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic", Wen said by email. Studies suggest marijuana use is rising fastest among older Americans-a group that's also most likely to have the type of pain conditions that respond best to marijuana, the researchers said. They begin to take more than prescribed, and more often, which leads to overdose.

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But states with medical pot dispensaries filled 3.7 million fewer daily doses, and states with home cultivation filled 1.8 million fewer doses, they said.

New research has been released that further highlights the potential role of medical cannabis in combating the Nation's opioid crisis. Two new studies in the debate suggest it may.

Each day, 90 Americans die from opioid overdoses, Hill notes in JAMA Internal Medicine, where both studies were published. "But if a patient has tried to treat pain using multiple modalities without success, a trial of medical cannabis may make sense". Instead, it should be a back-up option for patients who are struggling to manage pain and who could be in danger of addiction.

The National Safety Council reported that employers are taking the biggest toll in the crisis- losing eligible workers to addiction, reporting that "certain industries like construction and manufacturing, report increasing difficulties in filling open positions". Hill wrote an editorial that accompanied the two articles.

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