The most conclusive evidence yet shows what people in the addiction and recovery trenches (honest ones, anyhow) already know: Cannabis is saving lives.
And based on a massive analysis of Medicare/Medicaid data, it’s likely saving taxpayers millions of dollars, too.
A study published this morning in Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, shows that not only are opioid deaths down where cannabis is legal, but prescriptions also have plunged in states where marijuana has been legalized for medical and recreational use.
Indeed, the entire opioid “lie” is crumbling. Cannabis has stepped in as the Superman who will save our nation from the opioid crisis, and the healthcare establishment and behavioral health communities are reeling.
Researchers from the University of Kentucky College of Public Health analyzed Medicare Part D data to compare how many opioid pain pills were prescribed before legal medical marijuana and after in states that have programs.
Across the board, the prescribing of opioid and non-opioid pain relievers has plunged. In states with medical cannabis programs only, the number of opioid prescriptions dipped 5.88 percent from 2011 to 2016. In states that have gone full-blown legal marijuana, doctors are writing 6.38 percent fewer medications for Medicare/Medicaid recipients (pills paid for with taxpayers’ dollars).
Not surprisingly, the most dramatic plunges in opioid prescribing occurred where recreational marijuana also happens to be legal. This likely is because all adults have equal access to the plant.
It literally amounts to millions and millions and millions fewer prescriptions for deadly opioids being written every year. You want an exact number? How about 3.7 million daily doses fewer PER YEAR, in total nationwide, among communities where medical cannabis dispensaries exist.
“Marijuana legalization, therefore, may have benefitted these patients by providing them with legal protection and access to marijuana as an alternative relief from their pain medications,” the researchers concluded.
As for overdose deaths? “A recent state-level analysis found statistically significant and meaningful reductions in opioid mortality when any form of (marijuana program) was passed,” the researchers explained. “A growing consensus suggests that cannabis can be used to effectively manage pain in some patients. If initial licit prescriptions for opioids can be reduced, then there is a plausible theoretical pathway to anticipate that opioid misuse and abuse could also fall.”
Research includes Medicaid expansion recipients like myself
In many states, the medical cannabis program is wildly prohibitive. In Illinois, for example, a three-year card will cost about $600 to acquire. Program qualifications are strict (not a lot of people qualify) and also require a background check and fingerprinting.
In the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa, where I live, the corrupt and greedy hospitals will not do business with doctors who help patients get a card. Thus, most of us have no choice but to drive to Chicago to obtain a cannabis card, even with “chronic PTSD” or whatever your qualifying condition may be scrawled all over your medical records.
What also is interesting about this research is that it includes post-Medicaid expansion data. That means people living in states where you don’t have to be elderly or disabled to qualify for Medicaid – like Illinois – also were included in this study.
“These findings suggest that medical and adult-use marijuana laws have the potential to reduce opioid prescribing for Medicaid enrollees, a segment of population with disproportionately high risk for chronic pain, opioid use disorder, and opioid overdose,” the researchers concluded.
In Illinois and in many states post-Obamacare, people can qualify for Medicaid based on their incomes. I have had Medicaid since last September. I never have used it, not even once.
But then, I have my medical cannabis card. So instead of sucking money out of the public till for healthcare, I’m pumping money into it, particularly by way of taxes for our cash-strapped state.
Just how much have I spent on medical cannabis since obtaining my card last June for my chronic PTSD? I have spent well over $5,000. I have sold my possessions to pay for my cannabis, I have borrowed money to pay for my cannabis, I have had people show up at my door and just GIVE me money to pay for my cannabis.
Cannabis a safe alternative to dangerous behavioral health systems
Why do you suppose so many good people want me to have my cannabis? Because it works in calming my chronic PTSD-related anger and fear when nothing else does.
There are so many dead LGBT people in this town who have gone through situations somewhat similar to mine it is not even funny. I live in terror every single day of my life.
Nobody wants to see me become exploited by the disgraceful Quad-Cities behavioral health system (the ones that take Medicaid, anyhow) or see me doped up on Pharma medications that ultimately lead to death. Because the truth is (and it just hasn’t come out yet, but it will) our nation is in the midst of a deadly benzodiazepine crisis, too.
I had been hopped up on 4 mg per day (with a prescription!) of Ativan before obtaining my medical cannabis card.
Throughout my incredibly traumatic life, I have been given dangerous psychotropic medications that led to drug and alcohol abuse and underemployment. I even grew breasts as a result of taking one dangerous Pharma medication.
Since obtaining the cannabis card, getting my health back, and losing weight, now my “man boobs” look like deflated breasts, like the elderly woman in a popular comic frame.
I have participated in many class-action lawsuits against Pharma companies through the years. Now and then, a check will come in the mail. I have been crossing my fingers that one such check will arrive at any time. How rich if it comes and pays for a gram or two of cannabis before I get my first full paycheck from my new job next week.
Mental health system used to discredit corruption victims
I have been doped up on so many pills throughout the course of my life it is outrageous. It’s also a black eye on the behavioral health system, especially when all I ever needed was a plant. Since obtaining my Illinois Medical Cannabis card, I take no medications at all and never have felt better in my life (so long as I have the cannabis…otherwise, I live with crippling fear and terror). It’s the only way I have survived the terrifying trauma that haunts my thoughts and my dreams when I do not have the cannabis.
Those who want to dope me up on psychotropics have only one goal: They want me to shut up about what happened in the jail and the hospital, and they want to try to take my civil liberties away via the healthcare system.
I am not the first person this has happened to in the filthy Quad-Cities. But by the grace of God, I may be the last. For at least a while
The. Quad-Cities. Public.Healthcare. System. Is. A. Disgrace.
Help for mom and dad, grandma and grandpa
When moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas end up heroin addicts after being prescribed painkillers for arthritis pain, it’s especially sad.
And anyone who thinks that doesn’t happen apparently never has written branded content for a behavioral health system owned by a Fortune 500 company.
“Interestingly, recent evidence suggests that cannabis use is rising fastest in the population older than 50 years – which is the group most likely to have the conditions for which the evidence for cannabis benefit is strongest,” wrote the Kentucky researchers.
From the first day I got my cannabis card, I have noted that the dispensary often is filled with elderly people, which I think is awesome.
Pull your heads out of the sand please, NIH
In an accompanying JAMA editorial, Drs. Kevin P. Hill and Andrew Saxon offer a pro-medical establishment assessment of the current state of cannabis research. But they also offer an accurate picture of why the current state of research is the way it is.
“For science to guide policy, funding the aforementioned studies must be a priority at the federal and state level,” they conclude. “Many companies and states (via taxes) are profiting from the cannabis industry while failing to support research at the level necessary to advance the science.”
“This situation has to change to get definitive answers on the possible role for cannabis in the opioid crisis, as well as the other potential harms and benefits of legalizing cannabis.”
The politicians are in bed with Pharma and its lobby and that’s why cannabis is not legal in the United States.
This has nothing to do with political parties; several Democratic members of Congress and the Senate have their pockets padded by C-Suite Pharma and healthcare big boys who oppose marijuana legalization.
Keep in mind, I covered the healthcare industry three years for Healthline.com, the largest health website in America, before going to work writing for Fortune 500 healthcare companies in 2015. Prior to going to work for Healthline, I worked 25 years in the newspaper business as an award-winning reporter and editor.
Please consider a donation to support my cannabis reporting via my online tip jar. I do not get paid for these pieces and many days cannot afford medical cannabis myself.
I know my stuff. I hope people listen.
Until next time.