The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced on Friday that federal monies doled out by the health agency would no longer flow to individuals or organizations that use, prescribe, or provide marijuana for the treatment of opioid use disorder and mental health issues. Furthermore, SAMHSA Director Elinore McCance-Katz stated that treatment programs must document efforts urging patients to stop using marijuana to prevent a loss of federal funding.
“We commend the Department of Health and Human Services for this decision, which will have a significant positive impact on public health,” said Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana and a former senior drug policy advisor to the Obama Administration. “Numerous studies have been released in the last year alone showing that marijuana use has no positive impact on opioid addiction. It is refreshing to see SAMHSA take such a firm action against the misinformation campaign being peddled on this front by the marijuana industry.”
Claiming marijuana could be a solution to the opioid epidemic has been a key talking point for the marijuana industry in its efforts to legalize the drug. Legalization supporters have covered states considering legalization in billboards promoting a 2014 study claiming states that legalized marijuana experienced a 25 percent reduction in opioid deaths. This year, Stanford researchers attempted to recreate the 2014 study and instead found legalization resulted in a 25 percent increase in opioid deaths.
Just last week, Canadian researchers at McMaster University analyzed twenty-three studies with more than 3,600 participants and found that marijuana use neither led to reduced opioid use during treatment, nor did it lead to people staying in treatment programs.
In October, a study by researchers in Oregon and California found 78 percent of states where marijuana was “legal” significantly higher rates of opioid-related deaths after legalization than states that have not legalized the drug. Furthermore, a study published earlier this year in Substance Use and Addiction, a JAMA-related publication, concluded that “medical marijuana law enactment was not associated with a reduction in individual-level non-medical opioid abuse, contradicting the hypothesis that people would substitute marijuana for prescription opioids.”
Furthermore, researchers from the National Institutes of Health found that marijuana users are 2.6 times more likely than nonusers to abuse opioids and develop an opioid addiction.
“For far too long, we have allowed the marijuana industry to play fast and loose with the science while ignoring warnings from the medical and scientific communities,” continued Dr. Sabet. “Assistant Secretary McCance-Katz and SAMHSA are to be applauded for beginning a much-needed pushback against the dangerous myths being perpetuated by the marijuana industry.”