How Marijuana Plays a Part in Decrease of Opioid Deaths in Western PA

Pennsylvania has gained a reputation in recent years for being a major hub for the opioid crisis within the United States.

Last week, many news stations across the Western district reported that US Attorney Scott Brady made the announcement that finally, opiate overdoses in Western PA have seen a significant decrease across 8 counties. There are many reasons for the drop in opioid deaths, however, none of these stories credit one major factor in the decline – Medical Marijuana.

2018 Pennsylvania Opiate Overdose Statistics

On March 8th, 2019 Brady held a press conference alongside the FBI, DEA, and PA State police to disclose 2018 opiate overdose statistics. For the second year in a row, overdose deaths have dropped – and this year more significantly than the last. In fact these statistics show, 2018 had the lowest number of overdose deaths since 2015. Allegheny County had a reduction of 47% – and similar statistics were shown in Beaver, Butler, Washington, Westmoreland, and other counties nearby. Altogether, the district had an average drop of 43%.

Most area news stations quoted the U.S. Attorney citing the reasons for the dramatic change being “due in part to a coordinated law enforcement attack on dealers and illegal prescribers in conjunction with education efforts and the use of Narcan.” It was also noted that use of other substances, such as cocaine and amphetamines, had an upward trend.

How Medical Marijuana Plays a Part

The factor no one seems to be mentioning….is Medical Marijuana. It is important to recognize that Medical Marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania took effect in late 2016…and PA became the first state to use medical cannabis to combat opiate use disorder in 2018. While this alone doesn’t prove any correlation, there are plenty of studies and statistics that show US states with medical marijuana laws see a significant decline in opioid use. Forbes posted an article in April of last year highlighting 2 studies done by the American Medical Association which show an opposing correlation between the accessibility of legal dispensaries and the demand for prescription opiates (saving state insurance programs thousands each year). The article mentions a Univ. of Kentucky and Emory University study included in thesis that “”marijuana is one of the potential nonopioid alternatives that can relieve pain at a relatively lower risk of addiction and virtually no risk of overdose” and therefore was a key component in beating the pain-killer epidemic. The conclusion of this study noted that legal access to medicinal or recreational cannabis means a state government may “have the potential to lower opioid prescribing for Medicaid enrollees, a high-risk population for chronic pain, opioid use disorder, and opioid overdose.” An additional study presented results which confirm that it is not only overdose deaths seeing a decline, but usage rates overall. The findings show “states with active dispensaries saw 3.742 million fewer daily doses filled.”

If you are wondering how Medical Cannabis can help you or someone you love – don’t hesitate to find out. Call Compassionate Certification Centers at 888-316-9085. We don’t judge and we won’t drug test you. Our physicians and staff are COMPASSIONATE to your struggle, whether you are battling addiction or just want to take fewer pills. Your comfort is our priority – and we can help you find relief. If you prefer not to make a phone call, we offer a live web-chat feature you can utilize while you browse our THC-FREE™ CBD products and services online at You can also stop in any of the offices listed below during normal business hours.

Author: Melissa Rigby, March 15, 2019
Content Property of Compassionate Certification Centers

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