The debate over the benefits of medical marijuana legalization touches on numerous topics and factors. Research has indicated that cannabis may be effective at reducing certain forms of pain, easing the severity of Parkinson’s disease tremors, and treating anxiety in veterans with PTSD, among many other benefits.
However, medical marijuana may be useful for more than just treating health problems. There is now evidence to suggest that it could help prevent these issues in the first place.
Specifically, recent studies indicate that states which offer legal medical marijuana tend to have fewer opioid-related deaths. This is because cannabis potentially offers many of the same benefits that opioids provide. Unlike opioids, however, cannabis is not physically addictive and does not cause overdoses.
In fact, some believe that medical marijuana may essentially bridge the gap between traditional modern medicine and alternative treatments. It offers measurable health benefits, but has yet to be fully accepted by the medical community.
The Opioid Epidemic
The positive impact on opioid deaths seems to increase the longer medical marijuana has been available in a given state. On average, opioid deaths drop by 20% in a state the first year cannabis is legally available for medical use. This climbs to 24% in the third year, and 33% in the sixth.
Thus, it’s reasonable to conclude that medical marijuana could serve as a viable alternative to opioids. The rate at which physicians in the United States prescribe opioids has been steadily rising for years. Doctors prescribe these drugs to reduce chronic pain or manage acute pain caused by an illness, injury, or surgery.
Unfortunately, opioids are highly addictive. Researchers also found that some patients choose not to use all of them. Instead, they pass them on to friends and family, who may also develop addictions. When doctors knowingly overprescribe these pain killers, they open themselves up to medical lawsuits and expose their patients to potentially life-threatening addiction problems.
Medical Marijuana as an Alternative Medicine Solution
Mounting evidence suggests that medical marijuana may offer the same painkilling benefits as opioids without the potential for addiction or overdose. However, the medical community’s reluctance to prescribe it more widely may not only be linked to its legal status.
As a plant, medical cannabis is often considered to be a form of alternative medicine. This connotes ineffectiveness to some. Many forms of alternative medicine have not been thoroughly vetted or effectively demonstrated their usefulness. Studies regarding their benefits don’t consistently reveal anything tangible.
That’s not the case with medical marijuana. Studies, along with anecdotal reports, continue to highlight its practical benefits. As more doctors embrace it as a safer alternative to opioids, medical marijuana could theoretically become one of the first openly-accepted forms of alternative medicine among healthcare providers.
Author Bio: Rae Steinbach is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to NYC to pursue her career and continue curating quality content. Rae is passionate about travel, food, and writing, of course.