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“Looking at mortality records from 2009 to 2015, a team of researchers investigated whether the presence of dispensaries in counties with medical cannabis laws had an effect on deaths from prescription opioids, synthetic opioids and heroin. The results supported previous research, indicating that access to marijuana can mitigate the opioid epidemic.”
The federal government continues to hold firm on it’s stance that cannabis is a schedule 1 dug, denying it’s medical value and prohibiting it’s use by anyone. Professional sports associations are no different in holding to their ban of the drug, but leagues like the NFL could benefit hugely from the drug with many players experiencing pain on a regular basis.
A great example is former player Kyle Turley, who played 8 seasons in the NFL as an offensive lineman. Even after his football career he is in pain and has been open about his addiction to prescription pain killers like Vicodin, Flexeril, Percocets, Vioxx, and morphine. After experiencing addition and thoughts of suicide, he decided to kick his prescription pain killers and started using marijuana for his pain. Since, Turley has helped start a group called the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition to advocate for marijuana as legal pain treatment in football. Legal pain killers like prescription opioids were responsible for 14,000 overdoses in 2014 according to the CDC, but a human simply cannot overdose on cannabinoids.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014 more than 14,000 people died from overdoses involving prescription opioids.
“You can’t directly die from taking a cannabinioid, the way tens of thousands of people are directly dying from opioids each year in the U.S.,” says Dr. Clauw.
Dr. Clauw published a study this year of about 250 people who said they’d used marijuana and opioids for chronic pain. The subjects said as marijuana use went up, opioid use went down. Significantly.
“They noted on average a two-thirds decrease in their opioid dose,” says Dr. Clauw, adding, “they also noted that they just felt a lot better overall with respect to side-effect profile when their pain was being controlled largely with cannabinoids.”
Marijuana is now legal in some forms in over half of US states, and medical marijuana patients can be recommended the drug for conditions like arthritis, cancer, PTSD, depression and anxiety.
The drug’s popularity has allowed voters to legalize through state ballot initiatives rather than through legislation. Studies are very limited on cannabis due to the harsh federal classification, but the effects of marijuana on mental and physical health are far more than anecdotal these days. Not only has marijuana legalization curbed opiate abuse in several states, but researchers are excited about the possibility of substituting marijuana to treat harmful opioid addictions. Researchers can all agree that marijuana needs more attention and should be studied for it’s therapeutic potential.
Though more research is needed, studies also suggested that cannabis may have a place in dealing with addiction. “We are really excited about the potential substitution effect,” says study author Zach Walsh, an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia. “If people use cannabis as a replacement for opioid medications, or to get off of opioids or cut back, we could see some pretty dramatic public health benefits. The level of opioid overdoses is so high right now.