Article byChristopher Ingraham, Washington Post
Two studies published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine find that the availability of medical and recreational marijuana is linked to lower rates of opiate prescribing.
In the first study, Hefei Wen of the University of Kentucky and Jason M. Hockenberry of Emory University found that the passage of medical and recreational marijuana laws were followed by reductions in Medicaid opiate prescription rates of 5.88 percent and 6.38 percent, respectively.
“Marijuana liberalization may serve as a component of a comprehensive package to tackle the opioid epidemic,” Wen and Hockenberry concluded.
In the second study, Ashley C. Bradford, W. David Bradford and Amanda Abraham of the University of Georgia found that at the state level, medical marijuana laws were associated with an 8.5 percent reduction in the number of daily opioid doses filled under Medicare Part D, relative to states without medical marijuana laws. Reductions were even higher (amounting to 14.4 percent) for states that allowed medical marijuana dispensaries. States that allowed home marijuana cultivation had 6.9 percent reductions in opiate prescriptions.
“These findings further strengthen arguments in favor of considering medical applications of cannabis as one tool in the policy arsenal that can be used to diminish the harm of prescription opioids,” the authors concluded.
The studies are the latest in a long line of research showing that marijuana availability is associated with reductions in opiate use and misuse. But the Wen and Hockenberry report is significant for finding a link between recreational marijuana and opiate use — most previous research has focused on medical marijuana.