Can Medical Cannabis Decrease Arkansas' Opioid Deaths? – Booneville Democrat

By John LovettTimes [email protected]

Will implementation of medical cannabis in Arkansas reduce the use of potentially deadly opioid painkillers?

Several medical studies indicate it will, but the conclusion of a recent study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information concludes it will take a one-two punch of medical cannabis and prescription drug monitoring programs to decrease opioid-related mortality.

That same study, titled “Implications of prescription drug monitoring and medical cannabis legislation on opioid overdose mortality,” also showed opioid-related mortality rate was slower in states with medical cannabis laws than those simply with prescription drug monitoring programs.

The Arkansas Prescription Drug Monitoring Program was amended this year to “mandate prescribers check the prescription drug monitoring program when prescribing certain medications.”

Dr. Joe Goldstrich, an Iowa-based physician who works with those in Arkansas creating medical cannabis guidelines, has become a vocal proponent of cannabis as an alternative to opioids. He says he has seen its benefits first hand: In 2014 at an Oakland, Calif., clinic he saw “a majority of patients reduce opioids to safer levels” and many reduced opioids enough with medical cannabis to completely wean themselves off drugs like oxycontin.

At 392 drug overdose deaths, Arkansas saw a 9.5 percent increase from 2014 to 2015. Oklahoma, on the other hand, had a 6.4 percent decrease, dropping from 777 deaths to 725. Oklahoma had 790 overdose deaths in 2013 and Arkansas had 319 that year, indicating a steady rise in Arkansas with a low but steady drop in Oklahoma.

Goldstrich pointed out another study published in 2014 by the Journal of the American Medical Association that found “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”

The doctor said he hopes to be able to provide continuing

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