According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention opioid overdose killed a record 42,000 Americans in 2016. Forty percent of those deaths can be contributed to prescriptions. While Congress can’t seem to pass a bill to address this crisis and cannabis remains a Schedule 1 drugs, there is good news for the opioid crisis.
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is launching one of the first academic cannabis programs in the world to study the painkilling properties of cannabis. The high-quality study is set to use opioid patients as its subject.
The Director of the Cannabis Research Initiative at UCLA, Dr. Jeffery Chen said, “The public consumption of cannabis has already far outpaced our scientific understanding. We desperately need to catch up.”
Thirty states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis treatment of chronic pain. This is largely dependent on anecdotal research and personal accounts of cannabis treatment.
While some research has previously be published about cannabis and opioids, this is will the first to help determine a relationship between medical cannabis versus opioid use. The journal of the American Medical Association published an article reporting that states with medical cannabis law also reported approximately 6 percent fewer opioid prescription to Medicaid patients than states where medical cannabis remains illegal. A second study amongst Medicare Part D patients showed a 8.5 percent decrease in opioid prescriptions.
These studies, however, did not prove whether medical cannabis can stem the opioid epidemic as it did not determine is patients were actually switching from opioid prescriptions to medical cannabis.
Ultimately it is thought that cannabis shows some promise in reducing opioid addiction and abuse. The new study at UCLA aims to look at the connection between the two.
The initiative has received funds from the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, federal and state sources, and private donors. However researchers need approval from the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
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