One of the darkest trends in America is the sharp rise in overdose deaths from opioids in the past years. In 2018 alone, there were more than 46,000 fentanyl-related deaths, representing over two-thirds of all US opioid-related deaths that year.
While this is truly a disheartening figure to read, a new study out of UC Davis suggests that increased access to cannabis stores that legally sell medical and recreational cannabis may help to reduce opioid-related deaths.
In the study, researchers examined the association between active cannabis dispensary operations and opioid-related mortality rates at the county level. What they found was that counties with a greater number of cannabis dispensary storefronts experience reduced numbers of opioid-related deaths relative to other locales.
“While the associations documented cannot be assumed to be causal, they suggest a potential relationship between increased prevalence of medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries and reduced opioid-related mortality rates,” said Greta Hsu, professor of management at the Graduate School of Management at UC Davis.
As reported by UC Davis, the study looked at 812 counties in the US examined opioid mortality rates, and counted dispensaries selling cannabis between 2014 and 2018, aggregating all opioid-related deaths but also separating out deaths due to prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic opioids.
“Given the alarming rise in the U.S.’s fentanyl-based market and in deaths involving fentanyl and its analogs in recent years, the question of how legal cannabis availability relates to opioid-related deaths can be regarded as a particularly pressing one,” said the researchers.
Although the study doesn’t necessarily suggest that cannabis dispensaries reduce opioid-related deaths, the research is certainly interesting and raises a possible avenue for combatting the rise of overdose deaths in America. That said, the researchers said more study is needed to determine if there is true cause and effect