Could medical marijuana help fight the opioid epidemic?

Five Fast Facts: Marijuana

New research suggests medical cannabis may play a key role in ending the opioid epidemic plaguing the nation.

The findings from Aclara Research, a cannabis patient and consumer insights group come soon after President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in the U.S. as an estimated 175 Americans die from opioids each day.

The study, which will be released in full in early 2018, was conducted in partnership with pharmacists active in the cannabis industry and included online surveys of more than 400 patients using prescription opioids nationwide.

Researchers also examined 500 pharmacists’ perceptions of medical cannabis and its role in the industry.

According to the Aclara study, the preliminary findings showed that 67 percent of the patients stopped using opioid medications after using medical cannabis.

And another 29 percent reported a decrease in the number of opioid medications used after starting medical cannabis.

Thirty percent of the patients said they stopped using any and all prescription drugs after using medical marijuana.

Of the 500 pharmacists surveyed, 87 percent said medical cannabis should be legalized and 69 percent said pharmacists should dispense medical cannabis and counsel patients on medical cannabis use.

Another recent study, published in the "Public Library of Science" last week found opioid users were more likely to stop usage if they had access to medical marijuana.

That study involved 66 patients using opioids to treat chronic pain. Over a 21 month period, patients who used medical cannabis were 17 times more likely to stop using opioids and patients who didn’t use cannabis on average increased their opioid use by 10 percent over that time period, according to the research.

Research from 2014, published in the Journal of the American Medical Associationalso found states that had legalized medical marijuana saw lower rates of fatal opioid overdoses.

Aclara researchers said they will continue to collect data and examine the results in conjunction with additional pharmacy partners. The study’s final results will be released in January 2018.