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Legal Medical Marijuana Associated With Lower Opioid Use Rates, Another Study Finds

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Legal access to medical marijuana is associated with lower rates of moderate and high-risk opioid use, according to a recent study—the latest in a string of research to come to the same conclusion.

Researchers analyzed prescription data on nearly 5 million people from 2006 to 2014, and they found that patients living in states that have legalized medical cannabis were less likely to take prescription painkillers, even after adjusting for various individual and state-level factors such as whether a state had a prescription monitoring system in place.

“Medical marijuana legalization was found to be associated with a lower odds of any opioid use,” the study found.

The results were published on Friday in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

In general, patients were less likely to take opioids if they lived in a state with medical cannabis (19.3 percent) than those in non-legal state (19.9 percent). Chronic opioid use was also lower in legal states (1.8 percent) than non-legal states (1.9 percent).

“In states where marijuana is available through medical channels, a modestly lower rate of opioid and high-risk opioid prescribing was observed.”

The study considered different subgroups as well, looking at patients who didn’t have cancer and also pain patients who didn’t have cancer. The study revealed a similar trend: lower rates of opioid use in states with medical marijuana.

For that latter group, opioid use was generally lower in legal states (33.5 percent) compared to non-legal states (34.7 percent). This group was also less likely to use opioids long-term in legal states (4.5 percent) than non-legal states (4.8 percent), which is important because chronic use is more likely to result in patients building a tolerance to opioids that leads to misuse.

High-risk opioid use—defined as taking opioids and benzodiazepines at least once on the same day, taking painkillers that contain 120 morphine milligram equivalents or being diagnosed with a substance use disorder within the same year of being prescribed opioids—was also lower in legal states (5.1 percent) than non-legal states (5.6 percent).

“This study indicates that legalizing medical marijuana is associated with lower use of opioids and opioids used chronically across states, broadly, and in subgroups of cancer patients and cancer-free groups with chronic pain,” the researchers wrote.

There are multiple recent studies supporting this conclusion. For example, a research released in November demonstrated that it’s not just a question of whether a state enacted a medical cannabis system; lower opioid overdoses occurred specifically in counties where dispensaries were allowed to operate.

Marijuana Dispensaries Reduce Local Opioid Overdose Rates, Study Finds

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Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Science & Health

Dogs Treated With Cannabis Oil Experience Less Frequent Seizures, Study Finds

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Dogs with epilepsy experience considerably fewer seizures when treated with CBD oil, a new study published in the journal Pet Behaviour Science found.

The small study—which followed three dogs receiving hemp-derived CBD treatment over the course of two months, indicates that dogs respond to the cannabis compound in a way that’s similar to humans.

The dogs ranged in age and breed. One was a three-year-old Labrador Retriever that suffered seizures spaced out one month apart on average, another was an 11-year-old Papillon that experienced seizures every two to three months and the last was a 10-year-old Chihuahua that has infrequent seizures about twice a year.

For the experiment, each dog was treated with CBD twice a day on an empty stomach. The findings are based on reports from the owners, two out of three of whom said the treatment improved their dog’s condition. The Papillon’s owner said the dog’s condition was unchanged.

“The owner [of the Labrador Retriever] reported that the dog slept longer and barked less in the daytime, even when other dogs were excited, during the first two weeks than in the preceding weeks,” the study authors wrote. “Overall, the owner felt that the dog showed improvement.”

“The owner [of the Chihuahua] felt that seizure-like behavior during the attacks had decreased slightly with treatment,” they wrote. “The owner also reported that the dog showed less aggression toward familiar people, such as the owner’s children.”

While the sample size of the study is particularly small, making it difficult to draw broad conclusions, the researchers said “seizure frequency improved considerably and owners reported a positive impression” of the CBD treatment.

It’s not clear if the same biochemical mechanisms that make CBD an effective treatment for epilepsy in humans produced the effects in the dogs. It’s possible that, because seizures can be triggered by anxiety, the same “anxiolytic effect may attenuate the symptoms of epilepsy in dogs as well as humans.”

“Further research is needed for better understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of CBD treatment,” the researchers wrote.

Last year, a separate study determined that CBD can alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis in dogs.

Dogs With Arthritis Benefit From Cannabis Oil, Study Says

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Science & Health

Study Finds Marijuana Motivates People To Exercise, Smashing Lazy Stoner Stereotype

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Most people who use marijuana report that consuming before or after exercising improves the experience and aids in recovery, according to a new study. And those who do use cannabis to elevate their workout tend to get a healthier amount of exercise.

Researchers at the University of Colorado surveyed more than 600 marijuana consumers in states where it is legal to assess how people use cannabis in relation to exercise. Their results, published this month in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, poke yet another hole in the lazy, couch-locked stoner stereotype.

Almost 500 participants said they endorse using marijuana one hour before, or up to four hours after, exercising. And based on data from the questionnaire, those who did use cannabis in that timeframe worked out longer than consumers who didn’t pair the activities. Specifically, those who engaged in co-use worked out an average of 43 minutes longer for aerobic exercise and 30 minutes longer for anaerobic exercise.

What’s behind the trend?

There are a few known barriers to exercise that researchers have identified: a lack of motivation, difficult recovery after working out and low enjoyment of the activity. Cannabis seems to help lift those barriers for some individuals.

Seventy percent of respondents said they agree or strongly agree that “cannabis increases enjoyment of exercise,” 78 percent said that marijuana “enhances recovery from exercise” and just over 50 percent said that it “increases motivation.”

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to survey attitudes and behavior regarding the use of cannabis before and after exercise, and to examine differences between cannabis users who engage in co-use, compared to those who do not,” the study authors wrote. “Given both the spreading legalization of cannabis and the low rates of physical activity in the US, it behooves public health officials to understand the potential effects—both beneficial and harmful—of cannabis use on exercise behaviors.”

While it might seem counterintuitive given how cannabis consumers have typically been portrayed in media, there’s a growing body of research showing that many marijuana enthusiasts engage in active lifestyles and that cannabis is associated with positive health outcomes. For example, another recent study found that people who use marijuana are less likely to be obese compared to non-users.

Marijuana Consumers Gain Less Weight Than Non-Users, Study Confirms

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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Politics

Another Federal Agency Wants You To Stop Calling About A Marijuana-Related Job

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Six days after posting a notice that calls for a contractor to prepare and distribute research drug products like marijuana cigarettes, a federal agency posted an update, emphasizing that private citizens are not being encouraged to apply for a casual joint-rolling job.

Why? Well, it might have something to do with various viral articles reporting on the opening—and readers who then volunteer for the role.

On Monday, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) added an unambiguous message at the top of the notice: “THE FOLLOWING IS A PRE-SOLICITATION NOTICE and is NOT ADVERTISEMENT FOR EMPLOYMENT.

The situation seems similar to another recent example that prompted the Houston division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to ask private citizens to stop calling about a contractor opening to incinerate thousands of pounds of cannabis per hour.

The division wrote last month that “misleading articles” about the position “resulted in an influx of calls from citizens.”

“This solicitation was targeted for a large scale licensed vendor, not private citizens,” they wrote.

But according to NIDA, their problem isn’t quite as severe. In an email to Marijuana Moment, a representative of the agency said it has “only received a few public inquiries.” The spokesperson did not respond to a follow up question about the reasoning behind the update.

For serious candidates, the position isn’t as simple as rolling a massive amount of joints. The contractor must have “the capability to analyze and characterize various drugs of abuse including cannabinoids and other research chemicals” and also “acquire, develop, and produce marijuana and nicotine research cigarettes of varying strengths and specifications.”

NIDA posted several cannabis-related contract notices last year, including for professional joint rollers and bulk marijuana manufacturers.

The DEA Wants You To Stop Calling Them About Getting Paid To Burn Marijuana

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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