Medical marijuana may reduce opioid use a little

States with medical marijuana laws had fewer opioid prescriptions than states without such laws, new research finds. Mario Anzuoni / Reuters file

Since opioid prescriptions are considered to be a major driver of the opioid abuse epidemic, the researchers said, medical marijuana laws could be a part of the solution.

“State implementation of medical marijuana laws was associated with a 5.88 percent lower rate of opioid prescribing,” wrote Hefei Wen of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health and Jason Hockenberry of the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health.

“Marijuana is one of the potential non-opioid alternatives that can relieve pain at a relatively lower risk of addiction and virtually no risk of overdose,” they wrote in one of two reports published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s

JAMA Internal Medicine.

The researchers looked at the prescription records of people using Medicaid and also Medicare Part D – the prescription add-on plan for Medicare recipients.

In the Medicare study, Wen and colleagues found that states with medical marijuana laws had a more than 8 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions compared to states with no such laws.

“We found that overall opioid prescribing in Part D was lower when states permit access to medical cannabis,” they wrote.

“Prescriptions filled for all opioids decreased by 2.11 million daily doses per year from an average of 23.08 million daily doses per year when a state instituted any medical cannabis law,” they added.


“Prescriptions for all opioids decreased by 3.742 million daily doses per year when medical cannabis dispensaries opened.”

State and federal officials are looking for ways to reduce opioid deaths and to reduce the overuse of opioid prescriptions.

The National Center for Health Statistics says 63,600 people died of

drug overdoses in

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