Will the medicinal cannabis surge in Puerto Rico have any effect on the opioid crisis?
A recent study conducted by Northwell Health researchers showed that 27% of older adult patients were able to completely stop using opioid painkillers by using medical marijuana instead. It’s possible that using medicinal cannabis could help to reduce the opioid crisis in Puerto Rico.
The researchers surveyed over 138 patients who use medical marijuana. Those participants completed an anonymous 20-question survey that asked how often they used medical marijuana to manage their pain. It also asked about the form of marijuana they used, how well it reduced their pain, and how much they were able to reduce their use of other painkillers.
18% of participants said they were able to reduce their use of opioids “moderately.” 20% said they were able to reduce their use of opioids “extremely, and 27% said they were able to reduce their use of opioids “completely.” 91% of participants said they would recommend the use of medical marijuana to others.The patients involved in this study were all suffering from chronic pain related to conditions like osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and hip and knee issues.
Could medicinal cannabis in Puerto Rico help eliminate the opioid epidemic?
Like many areas throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico has a severe opioid crisis. There are not nearly enough rehabilitation resources in Puerto Rico to serve all of those suffering with addiction to drugs. Fortunately, the results of this study suggest that medicinal cannabis in Puerto Rico could help to improve this crisis.
Dr. Diana Martins-Welch, the study’s co-author, confirms that there is potential, here, for medical cannabis to replace opioids in many patients. “What I’m seeing in my practice,” she said, “and what I’m hearing from other providers who are participating in medical marijuana programs, is that their patients are using less opioids. I’ve even gotten some patients completely off opioids.”
Unfortunately, medicinal marijuana is not legal throughout all of the U.S., and it’s not always easy to access it, even if it proves to be medicinally therapeutic. Dr. Martins-Welch calls for medical marijuana to be widely available and easier to obtain, as it’s currently only legal in 30 U.S. states. Because it’s federally illegal, it’s also very expensive and not covered by insurance, making it inaccessible to many more patients.
Thankfully, medicinal cannabis is legal and accessible to Puerto Rican residents, which means that more and more patients could use it for pain relief. This means that less people will begin using opioids, which can be highly addictive, and it may begin to signal a reduction of the drug crisis.