Americans Think Marijuana is Safer for Pain Than Opioids, Poll Finds


A new extensive, in-depth poll from Yahoo News and The Marist Poll examines Americans’ evolving attitudes about cannabis use.

Two-thirds of Americans believe opioid prescription drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin are “riskier” to use than marijuana for pain management, according to a poll by Yahoo News and The Marist Poll released earlier this week. Only one in five consider marijuana to be riskier than opioids, while the remaining 13 percent responded that they were unsure.

Physicians commonly prescribe opioids for the treatment of chronic and acute pain, despite that they carry a high risk of abuse, addiction, and overdose. About 2 million Americans are reportedly addicted to the pills, and according to the Associated Press, every day opioid overdose takes the lives of 91 people. In response, President Trump last month signed an executive order that calls for an opioid commission that will examine the nationwide epidemic, but addiction experts are disappointed in the move and want treatment programs.

Studies indicate that cannabis could help solve the opioid crisis. Marijuana has shown efficacy for pain management, and according to the DEA, has never caused a fatal overdose. Nearly all of the 28 states that have passed comprehensive medical marijuana laws allow cannabis to be recommended for the treatment of pain. Research suggests that marijuana can reduce the intake of opioids and potentially treat addiction, prompting researchers to encourage doctors to recommend cannabis rather than their typical go-to opioids.

The Yahoo/Marist poll was designed to investigate the changing social norms surrounding cannabis, the impact of use on relationships, and the debate over legalization. It found that 83 percent of Americans support marijuana for medical purposes. Attitudes regarding recreational marijuana were more divided, with 49 percent approving and 47 disapproving legalizing cannabis for adult use.

The survey’s findings indicate that social attitudes regarding cannabis are evolving, with more and more Americans seemingly dismissing the “reefer madness” theme. Americans now consider both tobacco and alcohol use to pose bigger health risks than cannabis use, according to the poll. Plus, adults are less worried about kids using cannabis than they are about them smoking cigarettes. Fifty-two percent of American parents who have consumed cannabis at least once put marijuana use at the bottom of a list of concerns for their children, below cigarettes, alcohol, sex, and cheating on a test.

The shifting attitudes around cannabis are thought to be partly related to the expansion of marijuana laws in the U.S. Federally, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance and therefore illegal. However, more than half of states have passed laws allowing marijuana for medical purposes, and eight of those have also legalized recreational marijuana. A recent cannabis market analysis suggests that medical and recreational marijuana legalization could spread to all states by 2021.

The Yahoo News/Marist Poll surveyed 1,122 adults over the phone nationwide in March. You can read the entire report here.

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