Monday 18 February, 2019

Studies link legal marijuana with fewer opioid prescriptions

In this Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 file photo, 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, Pa. Two new studies released on Monday, April 2, 2018 suggest that legalization of marijuana may reduce the prescribing of opioids. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

In this Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 file photo, 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, Pa. Two new studies released on Monday, April 2, 2018 suggest that legalization of marijuana may reduce the prescribing of opioids. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Can legalizing marijuana fight the problem of opioid addiction and fatal overdoses? Two new studies in the debate suggest it may.

Pot can relieve chronic pain in adults, so it's been proposed as a lower-risk alternative to opioids by advocates for liberalizing marijuana laws.

But some research suggests marijuana may encourage opioid use, and so might make the epidemic worse.

Two papers published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine analyzing more than five years of Medicare Part D and Medicaid prescription data found that after states legalized weed, the number of opioid prescriptions and the daily dose of opioids went way down.

 

The results of one report looked at data from 2010 through 2015 which revealed that prescriptions for opioids fell by 2.21 million daily doses filled per year when medical cannabis went into effect in a given state.

The new studies don't directly assess the effect of legalizing marijuana on opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

Instead, they find evidence that legalization may reduce the prescribing of opioids. Over-prescribing is considered a key factor in the opioid epidemic.

Both studies were released Monday by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. They examined state laws and statewide levels of opioid prescribing.

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