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New Study Finds Cannabis Helps Reduce Tobacco, Alcohol and Opioid Use

Findings in a new Canadian study indicate that marijuana could be used to reduce the consumption of dangerous substances and potentially help treat addiction.

A new study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy has found that marijuana use reduces the consumption of tobacco, alcohol and prescription drugs. The study’s findings suggest that cannabis could be beneficial for those managing addiction.

The survey, conducted by Canadian researchers Philippe Lucas and Zach Walsh, asked 271 registered medical marijuana patients 107 questions regarding demographics and patterns of drug use. It found that 25 percent of people were able to successfully stop consuming alcohol once they began using marijuana products. Twelve percent of participants reportedly were able to successfully use cannabis as a substitute for tobacco.

Previous research has found marijuana to be a substantially safer substance, causing no ill effects in most people. There has never been a case of an individual dying from a marijuana overdose, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributes more than 1,600 U.S. deaths per year to alcohol and more than 480,000 per year to cigarette smoking. A 2015 study published in Scientific Reports compared the lethality of the recreational use of 10 common drugs and found marijuana to be the safest of all the substances, including tobacco and alcohol.

In regards to the use of opioids, the study by Lucas and Walsh found that 63 percent of people were able to replace their prescription drugs, including opioids, benzodiazepines and antidepressants, for cannabis. In regards to opioids specifically, 30 percent of people were able to replace their painkiller with cannabis. Sixteen percent used cannabis as a substitute for benzodiapines, while 12 percent used it in place of their traditional antidepressant medication.

Opioids, including prescription painkillers, killed more than 33,000 people in the U.S. in 2015. Research indicates that cannabis, a proven effective painkiller, shows promise as an opioid crisis cure. Last November a medical advisory board publicly recommended that cannabis be used to curtail opioid painkiller abuse, and previous research has shown medical cannabis to be a non-addictive way to treat chronic pain. Earlier this month, a study linked medical marijuana legalization to a reduction in the number of hospitalizations related to opioid dependence or abuse. Medical marijuana is currently legal in more than half of U.S. states.

While all of the study’s participants were registered medical cannabis patients, nearly half of them (42 percent) obtained their cannabis from illegal and unregulated sources in addition to licensed producers. More than half (55 percent) responded that they had been charged to obtain a medical recommendation for cannabis, and nearly 25 percent said it cost them at least $300.

You can access the entire study, “Medical cannabis access, use, and substitution for prescription opioids and other substances: A survey of authorized medical cannabis patients,” via The International Journal of Drug Policy. The full report will be published in the April 2017 edition of the journal.

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