While lawmakers saw it as a solution to the state’s opioid crisis, health experts in Steamboat said there is not enough evidence to say marijuana is an effective, or safe, replacement.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Twenty-five years ago, when Dr. Brian Siegel began his career in medicine, he had a liberal policy when it came to prescribing opioids to his patients.

As he remembers, almost everyone did.

In 2012, doctors wrote a total of 255 million prescriptions for opioids, the most ever recorded, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Siegel followed the recommendations of fellow doctors and pharmaceutical companies. They had the same message: “If they need more, you give them more,” Siegel said.

Experts in Colorado, including Siegel, a pain management physician at UCHealth Pain Management Clinic in Steamboat Springs, now believe the frequent and free-wheeling approach to opioid prescriptions contributed to the state’s current opioid crisis. The impacts in Routt County have been among the worst in Colorado.

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