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How the Legalization of Marijuana Has Influenced the Opioid Crisis

New ideas about the positive effects of legalizing marijuana have recently been brought into the spotlight, following the release of new data regarding the number of opioid overdoses in Colorado since the year 2000.

Drugs deaths have been on the rise in recent years, and are projected to keep rising as a result of the current public health crisis. Opiates have been prescribed as pain medication in order to treat medical conditions, as well as dealt as street drugs. The main reason that opioid addiction has become such as problem is that the drugs produce a feeling of euphoria that becomes addictive. Once the user has become accustomed to the drug’s effects, it takes more to achieve the same experience, leading to deadly rates of dependency on opiates across the United States.

Although most of the data, collected by the American Public Health Association, shows a steady incline as the devastating opioid epidemic claims more victims, it changes abruptly in 2014–the same year that Colorado legalized marijuana. According to the Washington Post, deaths resulting from opiate use have decreased approximately 6.5% over the past two years.

The reason that marijuana is having such a positive impact? Many illnesses that opioids are prescribed to treat can be combatted with the drug. However, it’s not just medical marijuana that’s making a difference. Using it for recreational purposes is making a difference as well because those who would usually take opiates are turning to marijuana instead.

This switch is especially useful for preventing deaths because marijuana has essentially no risk of fatal overdose, making it a much safer option. But despite this newfound trend, drug policy changes may not be in store anytime soon.

The main reason for this is that the results are preliminary, as the data comes from one state and has been recorded over a period of only two years. The relatively shaky information, as well as collective reluctance to treat one drug with another, has left politicians somewhat hesitant.

The information is also lacking as to whether or not there have been increases in other fatalities in Colorado since marijuana was legalized, such as among drivers. Overall, the results of the study, combined with indecisive the political reactions, can lead us to question what the future of the opioid epidemic looks like–if the decline in overdoses will continue, if policies may change, and if other states may follow suit.

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Margaret is a Sophomore at Kirby School in Santa Cruz, California. She is a passionate activist and journalist and especially enjoys writing about feminism. You can follow her on Instagram at: @_.margaret.

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