America’s Opioid Epidemic: Is Medical Marijuana the Cure?

America’s Opioid Epidemic: Is Medical Marijuana the Cure?


Arizona Organix was the first licensed medical marijuana dispensary in Arizona. Over the years, we’ve had the privilege to meet and educate many different people from all over the state and beyond on marijuana and its uses as a medical treatment. From what we’ve seen, marijuana is greatly reducing the troubling issue of prescription drug abuse.

Here’s what we’ve learned about current opiate usage patterns, how medical marijuana can help, and the current legal matters concerning these issues.

Abuse of Opiates and Prescription Drugs

The abuse of prescription drugs is a growing problem across the nation. In 2014, more Americans died from drug overdoses than any year previous and 60 percent of these deaths involved opiates.

Many prescription drugs are opiates, and as noted by the CDC, the amount of opiates sold to patients has quadrupled from 1999 to 2014. Within the same time frame, opiate-related deaths have also quadrupled.

Americans were no less healthy in 2014 than they were in 1999. Nonetheless, medical professionals increased the number of opiate prescriptions they wrote, recommending drugs such as oxycodone and methadone at four times their previous rate.

Opiates are a pain relief drug meant to be used temporarily during recovery or long term due to chronic pain. The widespread availability of the drugs and prescriptions to acquire them legally make them a common option for doctors to prescribe.

Medical marijuana is also used to relieve chronic pain symptoms and may be useful in reducing opiate abuse when available to be used as an alternative.

Medical Marijuana as a Solution

In states where marijuana has been legalized for medicinal purposes, the data available shows promising results. From 2010 to 2013, many seniors who could receive medical cannabis through Medicare Part D did so in states where it is a legal option.

Those same states have seen prescription drug rates fall. States with medical marijuana have also seen a reduction in the yearly prescriptions of painkillers.

Current MMJ Issues

Medical cannabis has great potential as an alternative treatment for conditions where opiates are normally prescribed as a painkiller. Unfortunately, a hindrance to widespread use is the current federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. With the medical marijuana field being a relatively new business, there are still matters of regulation and industry standardization (i.e. labeling) that are ongoing.

Since marijuana has not been legalized for medical purposes until relatively recently, scientific interest and research are also sadly lacking. That is starting to change, however, as more states have become interested in further research. Many government entities may be hesitant to invest in research or change current legal standings because marijuana is not yet legalized at the Federal level. That being said, the status quo is changing. Trends seem positive across the country, as more states have legalized marijuana for medical and personal use despite the failure of Arizona’s Prop 205.

At Arizona Organix, we believe in the medicinal properties of marijuana and that it can be used as an alternative to opiates. Please contact us for more information.


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