California Prescription Database Could Help Prevent Opioid Abuse, But System Still Lags

Legal marijuana linked to reduction in opioid prescriptions

In the second study, another team of researchers looked at the number of opioid prescriptions filled under Medicare in all USA states from 2010 through 2015. One study examines state implementation of medical and adult-use marijuana laws with opioid prescribing rates and spending among Medicaid enrollees, while a second study examines prescribing patterns for opioids in Medicare Part D and the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

In Ohio, only one of the six actions hasn't been met- implementing a data sharing database which would allow prescribers, law enforcement, and more to share information about crimes associated with opioid misuse and more.

"Patients and physicians seem to be responding to the introduction of medical cannabis as if it were medicine - in many ways as they would with the introduction of a new FDA-approved medical treatment", said study coauthor W. David Bradford, a researcher at the University of Georgia in Athens. So far, clinical studies suggest that marijuana is effective in easing chronic pain, neuropathic pain (pain caused by damage to the nervous system), and involuntary and continuous muscle contractions associated with multiple sclerosis, Hill told Live Science.

In response to the ongoing opioid crisis, Americans for Safe Access, in partnership with the U.S. Pain Foundation and other advocacy organizations launched the End Pain, Not Lives campaign in late 2017. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, almost 80 percent of heroin addicts were hooked after using prescription drugs.

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The California opioid database, called CURES, has been around for decades, but it recently got a reboot to make it faster and easier to use. They found that the rates of opioid prescribing in states that had legalized medical marijuana dropped by 5.9 percent annually, on average. Overdose deaths rose 21.5 percent in 2016, a much sharper spike than the 11.4 percent increase seen the previous year.

Both research teams suspected that if this were true, then medical marijuana might ease opioid use in people with chronic pain.

The other study, led by researcher Hefei Wen, from the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, found a decrease in opioid prescriptions covered by Medicaid in states that legalized either medicinal or recreational pot.

"I think at this point, with patients dying every day as a result of opioid use disorder, we need to consider all possible solutions to the crisis", said Dr. Kevin Hill, director of addiction psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Patients who were once trying to relieve pain are now addicted to the drugs. Hill wrote an editorial that accompanied the two articles.

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