Two papers published in April in JAMA Internal Medicine that analyzed more than five years of Medicare Part D and Medicaid prescription data found that when states allow for the use of marijuana the number of opioid prescribed, and the daily usage of opioids, reduced significantly. What we don’t know is if patients are gravitating towards weed or if doctors are the driving force.
In this time when we are so concerned—rightly so—about opiate misuse and abuse and the mortality that’s occurring, we need to be clear-eyed and use evidence to drive our policies. If you’re interested in giving people options for pain management that don’t bring the particular risks that opiates do, states should contemplate turning on dispensary-based cannabis policies.” – W. David Bradford, an economist at the University of Georgia, author of one of the studies.
We have seen this correlation in other research but the new research includes much larger datasets.
One of the new studies stated that people on Medicare filled 14 percent fewer prescriptions for opioids after medical marijuana laws were passed in their states. The second study found that Medicaid enrollees filled nearly 40 fewer opioid prescriptions per 1,000 people each year after their state passed any law making cannabis accessible—with greater drops seen in states that legalized both medical and recreational marijuana.” – Scientific America
A recent Pew survey states 61 percent of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana. Currently, there are nine states that allow marijuana use with no restrictions, and 20 other U.S. states allow for medicinal marijuana. The states with medical marijuana laws vary in how restrictive marijuana use is. States that have marijuana dispensaries had the greatest decrease in opioid prescriptions. States that allow for medical marijuana but do not have active dispensaries did not realize the same dramatic decline, but opioid use was still down for those more restrictive states.
That makes sense, Bradford noted. There’s a big difference between telling someone they can pick up a prescription at a local pharmacy and telling someone they should go pick up some plants and grow them at home for a few months, often with little help or support.” – Discovery Campus
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