Legalizing Medical Marijuana Does Not Reduce Rate of Fatal Opioid Overdoses: Study
A new study concludes legalizing medical marijuana does not reduce the rate of fatal opioid overdoses.
Major policy changes are needed to resolve the tension between providing adequate pain relief and tackling the epidemic of prescription opioid overdoses, according to drug policy expert Keith Humphreys, PhD. At the recent American Academy of Pain Medicine meeting, he laid out five policies that can achieve a realistic balance.
“Some of the policies are relatively easy to implement, while others involve changing cultural norms, which is much more difficult,” said Humphreys, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, and a former Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, from 1991 to 2009, prescriptions for opioid analgesics increased almost threefold, to more than 200 million. The Drug Abuse Warning Network system, which monitors drug-related emergency department visits and drug-related deaths, found that emergency room visits related to the nonmedical use of pharmaceutical opioids doubled between 2005 and 2009.
The five policies that Dr. Humphreys recommends are:
With so many people dying of prescription drug overdoses, a response of doing nothing isn’t an option, he emphasizes. “I tell doctors that change is coming, and they can get involved, or else an uninformed policymaker may do it for them, with some potentially bad results.”