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Study: Opioid overdose deaths do not decline in states with legal medical marijuana

Aubrey Whelan, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

Levine said that she supported medical marijuana for patients with opioid use disorder partially to encourage more research on how it can help people with addiction. And, she said, under current directives, it's only permitted for patients who didn't improve with proven addiction treatments, or as a supplement to such treatment.

"It's not a first-line treatment," she said.

There's much evidence that marijuana is effective in treating chronic pain, as well as the side effects of chemotherapy, like nausea and vomiting, and symptoms of multiple sclerosis, The Associated Press reported.

"A lot of people do use cannabis for pain relief and report benefits -- that's great. I hope that as we keep doing research we can find ways to make that possible on a broader scale, in a regulated and predictable way," Shover said.

She added that there's promising early research on how marijuana can be used to reduce opioid cravings, and that research needs to continue. But it's just not certain that marijuana legalization has an overall effect on opioid deaths, she said.

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"Cannabinoids have demonstrated therapeutic benefits, but reducing population-level opioid overdose mortality does not appear to be among them," the researchers wrote.

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