Likewise, other researchers examined the link between medical cannabis and opiate use in a group of patients with chronic pain in New Mexico, one of the states hardest hit by the opioid crisis. They reported that subjects who had access to medical cannabis were 17 times more likely to stop using opiates for pain compared with those not using cannabis.
Because these are all observational studies, they cannot prove a causal link between cannabis use and lower opiate-related mortality. Still, the consistent epidemiologic evidence is hard to ignore.
Why might cannabis work so well as an alternative to opioids? It does offer some mild pain relief. But more significant, both opiates and cannabis — like all recreational drugs — cause the release of dopamine in the brain’s reward pathway. That signal conveys a powerful sense of pleasure and craving. Thus, cannabis might pre-empt some