Medical marijuana laws may lead to fewer opioid prescriptions, according to two studies published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
People who use medical marijuana as an alternative pain reliever may actually dodge the dangers associated with opioid prescriptions, researchers from the University of Georgia and the University of Kentucky suggest.
Both of the studies primarily focused on comparing opioid prescription patterns in states that have medical marijuana laws with states that do not.
Researchers from the University of Kentucky collected and examined Medicare data that detailed opioid prescribing patterns between 2010 and 2015. The results indicated that opioid prescriptions declined dramatically if medical marijuana dispensaries were accessible to people.
“We had about a 14.5% reduction in opiate use when states turned on dispensaries, and about a 7% reduction in opiate use when states turned on home cultivation-based cannabis laws,” said researcher David Bradford, chairman of public policy at the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs.
The second team of researchers from the University of Kentucky looked at opioid prescriptions covered by Medicaid between 2011 and 2016, and found that opioid prescriptions decreased by 5.88% in states that allowed the use of medicinal or recreational marijuana.
Although medical marijuana shouldn’t be considered the primary treatment for chronic pain, it could be something that people turn to as a backup if they are battling opioid addiction, according to researchers.