Studies link legal marijuana with fewer opioid prescriptions

Can legalizing marijuana fight the problem of opioid addiction and fatal overdoses? Two new studies in the debate suggest it may.

Pot can relieve chronic pain in adults, so it's been proposed as a lower-risk alternative to opioids by advocates for liberalizing marijuana laws. But some research suggests marijuana may encourage opioid use, and so might make the epidemic worse.

RELATED: Doctor: Pot likely better than opioid pills for pain relief

The new studies don't directly assess the effect of legalizing marijuana on opioid addiction and overdose deaths. Instead, they find evidence that legalization may reduce the prescribing of opioids. Over-prescribing is considered a key factor in the opioid epidemic.

Both studies were released Monday by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. They examined state laws and statewide levels of opioid prescribing.
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