PUEBLO, Colo. - Since people 21 and older have been able to buy recreational marijuana in Colorado, the number of opioid related deaths has gone down, according to a study by the American Journal of Public Health.
The study says their findings are preliminary, but they believe the numbers are associated.
However, Dr. Mike Nerenberg believes the reasoning behind this drop is different, including a crackdown on prescribing opioids.
"The crackdown really took several years to wind up to get to the point where the opioid death rate started down and that happened to be in 2014. And the heroin death rate is going up, but it hasn't caught up yet," Nerenberg said.
Nerenberg said there has been a drop in the number of opioid prescriptions written in states with legalized marijuana. Marijuana dispensary owner Jim Parco has noticed that as well.
"A lot of people come in and tell us, you know, opiates aren't working for me, they make me feel groggy, you know, do you have something else? And we'll typically find something that works for them," Parco said.
But the County Health Department doesn't want people replacing one drug with another drug, especially since Pueblo has above average numbers for opioid-related deaths.
"We're really working for prevention, safe storage, get rid of it, don't prescribe as much, education, all of those things," said Lynn Procell with the Pueblo City and County Health Department.
Although the numbers are preliminary, everyone involved agrees that fewer people dying from opioids is a step in the right direction.