How Legalized Marijuana is Changing The Healthcare Industry

by Trevor McDonald

Medical marijuana continues to be a hot-button issue, and we can expect that to continue until it’s legalized in all 50 states. But as the debate heats up and more states approve medical marijuana, we can look to the early adopters to find out what’s working.

Here are a few ways legalized marijuana is changing the healthcare industry.

Fewer opioid overdose deaths

In states that have legalized marijuana, we’re seeing fewer deaths from opioid overdose. In fact, a 2014 Journal of the American Medical Association study found that states with medical marijuana programs have a 25 percent lower opioid-related death rate than states that haven’t approved marijuana for medical use.

America’s addiction epidemic is currently claiming an average of 115 lives every day, so this is clearly an issue that is rocking the healthcare in addition to thousands of families. If we can reduce those overdose deaths by 25 percent, that would equate to nearly 29 fewer overdose deaths – every day.

Marijuana is showing promise for chronic pain

Harvard researchers completed a systematic review of the available research and found that almost all patients who took marijuana for chronic pain saw some improvement.

This is likely why we’re seeing fewer opioid prescriptions in states that have legalized marijuana.

For those who understand how both of these medications work, this news should come as no surprise. Opioids and marijuana both work as analgesics, so they block pain signals within the nervous system. THC binds to CB1 and CB2 receptors to block pain signals while opioids bind to opioid receptors.

A Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research study suggests that patients even prefer cannabis over opioids. Researchers found that 81 percent of patients who used opioids believe that adding medical marijuana is more effective than opioids alone.

Fewer prescriptions for anxiety and depression

In states that have legalized medical marijuana, doctors seem to prescribe fewer doses of anxiety and depression medications. A 2016 a Health Affairs study found that Medicare prescriptions for drugs used to treat these conditions dropped. Interestingly, researchers only found a dip in prescriptions for conditions that marijuana can effectively treat. They did not see the same drop in other prescriptions.

It’s important to note that marijuana can exacerbate some mental health conditions, and it can even make anxiety worse for some people. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has also been associated with psychosis in some cases.

Medical marijuana has emerged as an alternative to many prescription medications with dangerous side effects. Because of this, the benefits of using marijuana in these areas far outweighs any risks.

Still, we must remember that medically-approved marijuana is in its infancy. At best, we have about two decades of history to draw from. As more states legalize cannabis, we’ll have a better picture of its full impact on the healthcare system.

 

Author Bio: Trevor is a freelance content writer and a recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.