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Rural Blog: Could medical marijuana be the solution to Appalachia’s opioid addiction epidemic?


Could medical marijuana be the answer to the nation’s opioid epidemic, which is a major concern in rural areas, especially in Appalachia?

Christine Vestal reports for Stateline, “Some medical practitioners and researchers believe that greater use of marijuana for pain relief could result in fewer people using the highly addictive prescription painkillers that led to the epidemic.”

About 1.4 million Americans legally use medical marijuana, Vestal writes.

“A 2016 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that states with medical-marijuana laws had 25 percent fewer opioid overdose deaths than states that do not have medical-marijuana laws. Another study published in Health Affairs last year found that prescriptions for opioid painkillers such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet paid for by Medicare dropped substantially in states that adopted medical-marijuana laws.”

“Advocates for greater use of medical marijuana argue that including chronic pain as an allowable condition could result in even further reductions in dangerous opioid use,” Vestal writes.

Some physicians remain cautious about recommending it.

Dr. Jane Ballantyne, a pain specialist at the University of Washington and president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, which promotes the use of alternatives to opioids for chronic pain, told Vestal, “There is no doubt marijuana is much safer than opiates. So we don’t discourage its use.” But she said, “non-drug treatments are far more helpful than any drug treatment, and marijuana is a drug.”

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The Rural Blog is a digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America, from the IRJCI, based at the University of Kentucky. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is an extension program for rural journalists and news outlets. It takes no positions on issues and advocates only for strong news coverage, responsible commentary and things that make them possible, such as open-government laws. For more information see www.RuralJournalism.org.


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4 Comments

  1. Except lobbyist for pharma and doctors orgs in KY are anti-pot as KY has the leading cancer death rate in the US, meaning it’s big $$$. I’m a cancer patient; two time survivor, and I’ve had to flee from KY to protect from prosecution for medical marijuana use. The amount of flower required in my treatments is a felony charge. Not to mention half the legislature and staff toke up at the capitol during session.

  2. jusyin geary says:

    i get 150 perkasets 10’s a moth i would much rather have canniabis then the pain killers

  3. Elmer Hall says:

    Medical weed would stop over half the opioids deaths, the people receiving pain, nerve. Would have access to a drug with no side effects that would eventually kill them, stop half the money going to cartels and big pharmacy. More jobs less crime more taxes(ALOT)

  4. Not sure about Appalachia’s opioid addiction epidemic, but yes I have read that medical marijuana can help treat many medical conditions, including AIDS and cancer

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