Minnesota Study Adds to Growing Evidence Medical Marijuana Reduces Opioid Use

This study, plus an earlier on in Israel, bolsters anecdotal evidence that in states where marijuana is legal, opioid overdoses decline.


Could at least a partial solution to the opioid crisis be sitting on the shelves at the local medical marijuana dispensary? A new report out of Minnesota, and one earlier this year from Israel, both found that marijuana is beneficial to people with chronic pain conditions and those suffering from cancer.

More than half the participants in the Minnesota study found that cannabis offered a high level of benefit in treating chronic pain.

In addition to alleviating pain and anxiety and improving sleep, the use of medical marijuana also led many in the studies to either reduce or eliminate the use of prescription pain medication.

Marijuana In Minnesota

Minnesota voters first approved the use of medical marijuana in 2014, with patients enrolling into the state program in July 2015.

In August 2016, the state added “intractable pain” to the list of conditions approved for treatment with medical marijuana. The state defines intractable pain as “pain whose cause cannot be removed and, according to generally accepted medical practice, the full range of pain management modalities appropriate for this patient has been used without adequate result or with intolerable side effects.”

“Intractable pain” is often treated with opioids. To determine the effectiveness of the program, the state commissioned a $51,000 study of patients in the first five months that intractable pain qualified as a condition treatable with medical marijuana. The study focused on 2,245 patients enrolled in the medical marijuana program for intractable pain between August and December of 2016. About 64 percent of the patients were between the ages of 36 and 64, while 52 percent were female. The vast majority lived in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.


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