Medical marijuana and the opioid crisis

In the last few years, the problem of prescription drugs has taken primary focus in the nation -- and with good reason, as the epidemic has affected thousands. Yet a less-reported topic, especially in the state of West Virginia, is that of marijuana laws. The nation has seen a major shift in attitudes towards the drug, but West Virginia has yet to fully legalize recreational use. While there are a number of researched medical benefits of marijuana, many locals are voicing that the drug could be one solution to the opioid epidemic itself. 

Last April, Vox News voiced this potential solution, stating that medical marijuana could help combat the opioid problem that has significantly worsened in West Virginia. Becoming the 29th state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, West Virginia could see future changes; those changes, however, may be slim. Although many see this update as a huge step forward, the new law is limited: it allows uses such as vaporization, oils and creams, but prohibits smoking and does not allow stores to sell edible forms of the drug. Recreational methods may be limited, but many patients in the state with the following illnesses are eligible for medical use:

  • Terminal illness
  • HIV/AIDS 
  • Cancer
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Epilepsy
  • Severe pain

As for the opioid epidemic that has clearly crippled the state, Vox notes that marijuana could be an answer. Since marijuana can relieve chronic pain, it could be used as an alternative to prescription drugs, which are also used to combat pain. The upside to this alternative is that, contrary to opioids, medical marijuana cannot cause fatal overdoses. 

TIME also commented on the potential of medical marijuana's lasting benefits, especially in connection with the nationwide opioid crisis. According to a study on medical marijuana, states where the drug was legalized also saw a drop in the number of painkiller prescriptions. Furthermore, doctors in a state where medical marijuana had become legal prescribed roughly 1,826 fewer painkiller doses per year. Medical marijuana may only be in its early stages of public acceptance, but many look forward to a future where doctors and patients can work together to help tackle the opioid epidemic that claims thousands of lives each year.      

 

 

 

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