Opioids And Marijuana


The American Society of Addiction Medicine adopted a policy statement declaring: “…there is no current evidence that cannabis is effective for the treatment of OUD (opioid use disorder).”

Do opioid-related emergencies decrease in areas where recreational marijuana has been legalized?

No. CURRENT data from legalized states is showing that the opposite is actually true. A 2021 study found that six months after legalization, the number of opioid injuries started trending upward again, eventually reaching or even surpassing the previous totals.


Does marijuana treat pain?

The FDA has not approved marijuana as a pain medication.

2017: A review of 27 published studies on marijuana and chronic pain found “low strength evidence“ that it relieves nerve pain but does not help with other kinds of persistent pain.

2019: Cannabis showed inconsistent results when treating the pain from rheumatic disorders and neuropathic pain, and was not effective at all at treating chronic cancer pain.

2021: A review of 32 clinical trials found that non-inhaled marijuana had little effect on chronic pain.




Do opioid overdose deaths decrease in medical marijuana legal states?

No. Opioid overdose mortality rates increased by 23% in medical marijuana legal states.


Can marijuana use lead to opioid abuse?

Early initiation of marijuana is a dominant predictor of Opioid Use Disorder.

A 2018 study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine found that individuals who use medical marijuana have significantly higher rates of both medical and nonmedical use of prescription drugs compared to those who do not use medical marijuana

Young adults who smoke marijuana are two-and-a-half times more likely to misuse prescription medications than their abstaining peers. This is significant as 80% of heroin addicts started out by abusing prescription opioid painkillers.

National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that people who use marijuana are more than twice as likely to be dependent on or addicted to prescription opioids, and six times more likely to take pain pills.





Could the use of marijuana potentially help people with Opioid Use Disorder and ease cravings?

One of the biggest dangers of marijuana is how it can trigger other drug use. For those trying to recover from illicit heroin, prescription pain medications, or synthetic opioids like fentanyl, cannabis use can directly lead to relapse.

A study published earlier this year in Emerging Trends in Drugs, Addictions, and Health found that young people with OUD who attempted to use marijuana as a “safer” substitute for their chosen opioid were unsuccessful in their recovery.

Because smoking marijuana actually intensified their cravings for opioids, they were much more likely to relapse into active use.

Quotes from the subjects in this study stated:

“Weed was just not enough, and it accelerated my need for a heroin high.” “Smoking weed was like a little tickle, and started the cravings for heroin in motion.”

“If I’m already getting high, I might as well get REALLY high, because opiates are better.”

“Each time I relapsed on weed, I would immediately think heroin is so much better.”


CAN MARIJUANA USE LEAD TO OPIOID ABUSE? pamphlet to use for education

Is Legal Marijuana Making the Opioid Epidemic Worse?

Is marijuana REALLY a safer alternative to prescription painkillers and the solution to the opioid epidemic? From the beginning, supporters of expanded cannabis legalization have promised that marijuana could save lives by replacing other, more dangerous drugs.

But like so many other claims about marijuana’s supposed benefits, that assertion doesn’t quite hold up. Despite that promise, legal medical and recreational marijuana play a significant role in the still-worsening opioid overdose crisis in America.

Let’s take a closer look at what science and statistics have to say.

Keep reading!

Other Resources

Among US adults with problem substance use who use non-medical opioids, the odds of opioid use appear to be approximately doubled on days when Cannabis is used. This relationship does not appear to differ between people with moderate or more severe pain versus less than moderate pain, suggesting that Cannabis is not being used as a substitute for illegal opioids.

Is Cannabis being used as a substitute for non‐medical opioids by adults with problem substance use in the United States? A within‐person analysis – Gorfinkel – 2021 – Addiction – Wiley Online Library

Legal weed was supposed to help ease the opioid crisis. What happened? (yahoo.com)


Twenty-six adolescent/young adult patients with opioid use disorder smoked marijuana in an attempt to avoid relapse to opiate use. In each case, smoking marijuana increased cravings and urges for opiates and promoted opiate relapse. These clinical case reports show that smoking marijuana was not helpful as a harm reduction strategy to prevent return to opioids in young people with OUD.

Case Reports on the Failure of Smoking Marijuana to Prevent Relapse to Use of Opiates in

Adolescents/Young Adults With Opiate Use Disorder – ScienceDirect

Recreational cannabis laws and opioid‐related emergency department visit rates – Drake – – Health Economics – Wiley Online Library

US overdose deaths hit record 93,000 in pandemic last year (yahoo.com)

  • A new report from the CDC estimates 93,331 people died from a drug overdose in 2020 in the United States.
  • That’s nearly a 30 percent increase from the previous year, and a far higher number than the previous peak of roughly 72,000 deaths in 2017.
  • Experts say that opioids, particularly illegally manufactured fentanyl, significantly contributed to the rise in overdose deaths during the pandemic.

Overdose Deaths Increased by Nearly 30% in 2020 (healthline.com)

New research suggests that marijuana users may be more likely than nonusers to misuse prescription opioids and develop prescription opioid use disorder. The study was conducted by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and Columbia University.







Rather than being at lower risk, people who use medical marijuana may be at higher risk for non-medical prescription drug use, suggests the study by Theodore L. Caputi, BS of University College Cork’s School of Public Health and Keith Humphreys, PhD, of Stanford University. However, an accompanying commentary questions whether medical cannabis is the cause of higher prescription drug use, or whether other factors explain the association.