Opioids prescribed less in states where medical marijuana legal, studies find

Two new studies have found a correlation using data from programs used by millions of older, poor and disabled Americans

A woman holds the prescribed medical marijuana product used to treat her daughter’s epilepsy after making a purchase at a medical marijuana dispensary in Butler, Pennsylvania. Photograph: Keith Srakocic/AP

The number of opioid prescriptions for the elderly and the poor declined in states where medical marijuana is legal, two new studies have found.

In one study, researchers at the University of Georgia, Athens, used data from Medicare Part D, a government-run prescription drug program for people older than 65.

They found prescriptions filled for all opioids decreased by 2.11m daily doses a year when a state legalized medical marijuana, and by 3.7m daily doses a year when marijuana dispensaries opened. Forty-one million Americans use Medicare Part D. The study analyzed data between 2010 and 2015.

In a second study, researchers at the University of Kentucky examined opioid prescription data from Medicaid, a government-run program for the poor and disabled. More than 74 million Americans use Medicaid.

That analysis found state medical marijuana laws were associated with a 5.8% lower rate of opioid prescribing, and states with recreational marijuana laws were associated with a 6.3% lower rate of opioid prescribing. That study used data from 2011 to 2016.

Both studies were published in Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.

The findings are likely to bolster legal marijuana advocates, who have long contended legal marijuana could curb the

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