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Study finds medical cannabis could reduce use of opioid painkillers

Local doctor taps into medical marijuana and pain management

A study released last week found that states legalizing marijuana for medical use could see a reduction in the use of opioid painkillers, which are highly addictive.

The study examined people between the ages of 21 and 40 who died in car crashes.

In states allowing use of medical marijuana, fewer crash victims tested positive for opioids than in states outlawing medical marijuana.

The American Public Health Association analyzed data from 18 states covering a period from 1999 to 2013.

Reducing the use of opioid painkillers has become a focus across the U.S., as the increase in opioid deaths is considered an epidemic.

In Pennsylvania alone, ten residents a day are dying from drug-related causes, mostly due to opioid pain pill and heroin use.

The state passed a law in April allowing medical use of marijuana, and expects to have a program up and running by 2018.

Local doctor to focus on opioid-cannabis connection

Local physician Dr. Asit P. Upadhyay is looking at the connection between reducing opioid prescriptions and using medical marijuana for pain management.

This week Upadhyay said he is expanding his pain management practice and launching a consulting firm to teach physicians how to safely recommend medical marijuana to patients suffering from pain.

His practice, York Rehab and Pain Consultants, is located in Spring Garden Township, York County, but it will change its name to Keystone Pain and Rehabilitation and relocate to a larger space in Cumberland County by next year.

The new consulting firm, Advanced Pain Solutions of PA, will focus on educating professionals, entrepreneurs and insurers as they enter the medical marijuana market. It will teach them about cannabis and the science behind the drug’s interactions with other prescription medications.

Upadhyay wants to avoid another epidemic like the one happening with opioids, by teaching physicians how to decide which patients are good candidates for medical marijuana.

“Cannabis is another tool we can use for pain. Some patients will be good candidates and others will not,” said Upadhyay.

The discovery of a link between legalizing medical marijuana and a reduction in opioid use isn’t new.

A 2014 study published by JAMA Internal Medicine found that in states with medical marijuana laws, there were fewer opioid overdoses than in states without medical marijuana laws.

The mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate dropped 24.8 percent in states allowing medical marijuana, the study said.

Lenay Ruhl

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