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Study: Opioid-Related Deaths Decreased After Colorado Legalized Marijuana

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The American Journal of Public Health published research showing that opioid-related deaths fell by 6.5% in Colorado following marijuana legalization. This comes after a 14-year increase in opioid deaths. Researchers want to dig further to see if the trend follows suit in other legal states.

For this study, researchers compiled data from the CDC and WONDER charting opioid-related deaths per month going back as far as 2000. The average was “model-smoothed” and then compared to deaths recorded at the end of 2013 through 2015, WCPO 9 reports. The result of this analysis found that the number of opioid-related deaths declined to about 0.7-per month, which helped the researchers determine the 6.5% reduction following legalization.

Colorado has the longest standing data regarding legal marijuana in the country, yet a University of Michigan’s 2016 study regarding chronic pain and medical marijuana showed a 64% decrease in opioid use. An additional study from the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that overdose deaths were about 25% lower in states where medical marijuana is legal.

Colorado’s 11th annual report, from the Colorado Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force, displayed that an increase of 41% in heroin-related hospitalizations occurred between 2011 and 2014. Between 2011 and 2016, heroin overdose deaths increased by 756% in Colorado. Colorado law enforcement agencies increased heroin seizures by 2,035% between 2011 and 2015.

Colorado has moved forward by using some of its marijuana industry revenue to help open more opioid treatment programs statewide.

Researchers said, “Given the rapidly changing landscape of cannabis and opioid policy in the United States, the need for evidence of the diverse health effects of these laws is increasing.”

These new findings are promising for the legal marijuana industry and for those suffering with opioid addiction and dependency that want an alternative option.

Photo: Levarepainrelief