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Drug advocate undeterred by study challenging link between medical pot and lower opioid deaths

Last Updated Jun 15, 2019 at 11:13 am PDT

FILE - A man smokes marijuana to celebrate the legalization of recreational cannabis, in Vancouver, on Wednesday October 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Summary

At least 1,514 people died of illicit drug overdoses in B.C. in 2018

Bylth says what users really need is access to a safe opioid supply

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A drug use advocate isn’t giving up hope cannabis can help prevent opioid overdose deaths, despite new research showing it may have no effect.

A previous U.S. study linked medical cannabis laws to slower than expected increases in state prescription opioid deaths from 1999 to 2010. Using the old data and the same methodology, a new study included data through 2017 and found those states saw a 23 per cent higher than expected rate of deaths involving prescription opioids.

The new authors do not draw direct links between medical marijuana laws and opioid usage while the original authors warned against drawing conclusions.

“This is one of the first ones that I’ve seen that have come out this way,” Overdose Prevention Society executive director Sarah Blyth said. “I think there’s a lot more studies that need to be done. I can certainly say that we’ve done internal studies in the past at our site which have shown that it’s helped with reduced pain and trauma. I don’t think we can finally say anything at all until we do some more research.”

RELATED: Safer opioids needed to stem epidemic of overdoses: top public-health doctor

Bylth says what users really need is access to a safe opioid supply.

Vancouver Non-Partisan Association City Councillor Rebecca Bligh has put forward a motion calling for changing zoning laws to allow retail stores to sell low-cost cannabis in the Downtown Eastside, or allow grey market retailers to transition to the legal market. Bligh did not return NEWS 1130’s requests for comment.

Blyth supports the motion, saying she thinks it will “give people more of an opportunity to do research to see how people use cannabis, especially in places where there’s a lot of opioid use.”

At least 1,514 people died of illicit drug overdoses in B.C. in 2018, according to the B.C. Coroners Service.