In California, researchers from University of California, San Diego looked at medical marijuana and opioid related deaths, and found that fewer people were using opioids once medical marijuana was prescribed to pain management patients. This research suggests medical marijuana could be used to help prevent opioid addiction.
Hospitalization rates for opioid abuse dropped on average 23 percent. Hospitalization rates for opioid overdoses dropped 13 percent on average. At the same time, fears that legalization of medical marijuana would lead to an uptick in cannabis-related hospitalizations proved unfounded, according to a 2016 report in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Yuyan Shi, a public health professor at the University of California, San Diego said that “Instead, medical marijuana laws may have reduced hospitalizations related to opioid pain relievers.”
In Los Angeles, California, one treatment center is paving the way for medical marijuana users. At High Sobriety, a drug and alcohol treatment center, program director, Joe Schrank, believes total abstinence from all substances isn’t for everyone. Schrank founded High Sobriety in 2017 as a response to the minimal choices for people who reject the idea that total abstinence in Alcoholics Anonymous as the only valid path to recovery. High Sobriety uses medical marijuana as a drug replacement approach- citing its medical use for insomnia, discomfort and flu like symptoms.
However, in contrast to the research done in California, Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been legal since 2014, has seen the opposite effect. Colorado is ranked second in opioid abuse according to a study done by a Colorado news station.
On a study in Time Magazine, done on rats by Yasmin Hurd, a marijuana researcher, the question posed was simple: Could marijuana exposure pass on changes in the next generation, even if offspring never used the drug? The rats were given a regular dose of tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. Then, after a lifetime of THC use, Hurd cut the rats off of the drug for one month and mated the rats. She raised the offspring of the rats who used THC along with rats who were never exposed to THC, giving them the same exact life. Then, Hurd trained the rats to play a game in a box, the prize was an injection of either saline or opioids. When Hurd changed the rules of the game, so that the rats would have to work harder, it was found that the rats whose parents were exposed to THC worked harder in order to get the heroin. After analyzing the rat’s brains Hurd also found differences in the neural circuitry, which shows how they seek rewards. Hurd said, “This data tells us we are passing more things that happen during our lifetimes to our kids, I wasn’t expecting these results.”
Douglas Fields of the National Institute of Health says that the government's restrictions are so severe it is difficult to find and show medical benefit, or dangers when it comes to long term use of marijuana.