The outcome of a recent study undertaken by economists rather than doctors has revealed that fatalities linked to opioid overdoses has been reduced by at least 20% in States that legalise recreational marijuana, AFP reported on Wednesday August 7th
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were responsible for 47,600 overdose deaths in the US in 2017, the crisis was declared a national emergency by President Donald Trump the same year.
The legal status of marijuana meanwhile has shifted significantly over the past two decades: 10 states and Washington, DC now allow its recreational use and Illinois will follow in January, while 34 states and the federal capital permit medical cannabis treatment.
The opioid mortality reduction has been recognised following a comparison between rates of overdose deaths before and after legalisation, according to the authors of the new paper published in the journal Economic Inquiry.
Latest official data however, showed that the econometric analysis has placed the reduction in the range of 20-35%, with the effect particularly pronounced for deaths caused by synthetic opioids like fentanyl, the United States' deadliest drug,
The controversial findings, nonetheless, are likely to be welcomed by the nascent legal marijuana industry, however such probable acceptance is also treated with some degree of caution before they are replicated in other studies.
The fact that previous papers have been predominantly authored by doctors and not by economists would probably signal a failure in adequately differentiating between a positive correlation and causation, according to lead author Nathan Chan, an economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
An alternative hypothesis is that marijuana legalisation improves a state's economic activity and produces other effects on crime, incarceration, employment, and long-term health, all of which may be linked to opioid overdoses.
Additionally, some previous work on the topic has even found the opposite result: that cannabis use increases, rather than decreases non-medical prescription opioid use.