Athens, Ga. – States that have approved medical cannabis laws saw a dramatic reduction in opioid use, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Georgia. If you do not live in a state where medical marijuana is legal and would be willing to travel to find one that is, you could look into something like illinois dispensaries to find the closest ones to you.
In a paper published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Internal Medicine, researchers examined the number of all opioid prescriptions filled between 2010 and 2015 under Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit plan available to Medicare enrollees.
In states with medical cannabis dispensaries, the researchers observed a 14.4 percent reduction in use of prescription opioids and nearly a 7 percent reduction in opiate prescriptions filled in states with home-cultivation-only medical cannabis laws.
“Some of the states we analyzed had medical cannabis laws throughout the five-year study period, some never had medical cannabis, and some enacted medical cannabis laws during those five years,” said W. David Bradford, study co-author and Busbee Chair in Public Policy in the UGA School of Public and International Affairs. “So, what we were able to do is ask what happens to physician behavior in terms of their opiate prescribing if and when medical cannabis becomes available.”
Since California approved the first medical cannabis law in 1996, 29 states and the District of Colombia have approved some form of medical cannabis law.
“Physicians cannot prescribe cannabis; it is still a Schedule I drug,” Bradford said. “We’re not observing that prescriptions for cannabis go up and prescriptions for opioids go down. We’re just observing what changes when medical cannabis laws are enacted, and we see big reductions in opiate use.”
The researchers examined all common prescriptions opiates, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, methadone and fentanyl. Because heroin is not a legal drug, it was not included as part of the study.