Could We Beat the Opioid Epidemic by Easing Pain with Marijuana?

The number of Americans touched by the opioid epidemic has reached alarming proportions. Millions of people are affected each year, and death rates from overdoses have quadrupled since 1999, numbering in the tens of thousands annually, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). But there may be a less-risky alternative to opioids for alleviating certain types of chronic pain: marijuana.

A growing body of evidence suggests that cannabinoids — chemical components in Cannabis plants or certain synthetic compounds — can be effective in alleviating pain, either alongside or in place of opioids.

As medical marijuana becomes more accessible in the U.S., it could serve as a safer option for some kinds of pain relief and could even help to reduce the number of people addicted to opioids, experts told Live Science. [Marijuana: Facts About Cannabis]

Opioid misuse and dependency have spiked in recent years. Beginning in the

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