America’s opioid crisis is spiking fatal overdose rates from sea to shining sea, lining the pockets of pharmaceutical executives and inspiring only minimal responses from President Trump. To combat the deadly drug epidemic, public health experts from the local level to the federal government have turned to medical marijuana, a painkiller in its own right that has so far been associated with a decline in prescription pill and heroin use.
Outside of medical marijuana, a new piece of research published in the American Journal of Public Health is claiming that recreational legalization has had a similar dampening effect on Colorado’s opioid overdose deaths. While that sounds like reason for celebration, Centennial State health experts are urging researchers to slow their roll before making any causal conclusions.
According to the Washington Post, the study’s authors make the case that legal cannabis was a significant factor in Colorado’s 6 percent decrease in opioid-related deaths from 2014 to 2016.
To isolate the effect of Colorado’s recreational cannabis industry from the medical marijuana market and other outside factors, researchers compared the state’s overdose numbers with the same stats from Nevada, where recreational sales were outlawed until July 2017, and tried to account for a change in Colorado’s prescription drug monitoring program, a move that made it harder for residents to abuse doctor-approved painkillers.
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