Hashish dispensaries linked to decreases in opiate-related deaths

A study published in the British Medical Journal by researchers from Yale University and the University of California, Davis, shows an association between the prevalence of cannabis dispensaries and a decrease in opiate deaths, something that has been studied in other cannabis-not specifically -opiate Relationship studies.

The study, led by authors Greta Hsu and Balázs Kovács, looked at whether adding more pharmacies to an area and thus easier access to cannabis made a difference in deaths from opiates.

To conduct the study, the researchers looked at 812 counties in the United States and 23 states that allow legal pharmacies in any form. Only states were considered that had legalized cannabis in any form by the end of 2017.

The results show that from 2014 to 2018, opiate deaths decreased by 17 percent in areas with at least one pharmacy. Two pharmacies per region appeared to result in a 21 percent decrease in opiate deaths, and three pharmacies resulted in a further 8.5 percent decrease in the rate.

“Our study examines the relationship between the number of active pharmacy operations (a more direct measure of the availability of legal cannabis than legal events) and opioid-related mortality rates at the district level in 2014-18,” the abstract of the study reads. “We have concentrated on the county level because the counties are important analysis units for studies on population health.”

How cannabis can help alleviate the opioid crisis

The opioid crisis in the United States is grave as more than 67,000 people were killed in 2018 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 10 million people are abusing their prescription opiates at some point, not to mention those who have died from opiate use or those who illegally market their opiates. Fentanyl was specifically responsible for 46,000 deaths in 2018, about two-thirds of all deaths that year.

The authors stated that the study “aims to promote a better understanding of the impact of cannabis legalization on opioid abuse and public health outcomes before policy makers weigh the potential benefits against the harms of promoting cannabis legalization can.

“Increasing the number of pharmacies in medical and recreational stores has been linked to reduced opioid-related death rates, particularly deaths related to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Although the documented associations cannot be considered causal, they suggest a possible association between an increased prevalence of medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries and a decreased opioid-related mortality rate. This study shows the importance of considering the complex supply side of related drug markets and how this affects opioid use and abuse. “

However, as in many studies of cannabis and opiate addiction, the authors do not specifically sponsor cannabis dispensaries to help with the opiate crisis. The study ensures that “such conclusions are currently premature with no evidence of causality”.

Disclaimers of this kind come naturally to cannabis research, and this is another important piece of evidence that better access to cannabis means less demand for opiates.

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