Could Medical Marijuana Help Solve the Opioid Crisis?

The evidence shows promise, but researchers caution it’s not a miracle cure.

Despite years of public-health interventions, opioid addiction remains a crisis, and overdose fatalities keep climbing. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that opioid overdoses killed 49,000 Americans in 2017, the highest figure to date. Eager for solutions, some policy makers see a possibility in an unorthodox approach: treating opioid dependence with medical marijuana.

The state of Pennsylvania’s Department of Health, for example, approved the use of cannabis to treat opioid use disorder in August 2018, making it one of three states — along with New York and New Jersey — to do so.

“Medical marijuana offers another tool in the tool box,” says Rachel Levine, MD, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health, based in Hershey.

But does it work?

Emerging evidence shows that it might. States with legalized access to medical marijuana see far fewer deaths from

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