Less Restrictive Marijuana Laws Linked To Reduced Opioid Prescriptions

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Italia V. Rolle, PhD and Dr. Tim McAfee, MD Office on Smoking and Health National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion CDC

Marijuana plant

Hefei Wen, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Health Management & Policy
University of Kentucky College of Public Health 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: 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. Medical and adult-use marijuana laws, has made marijuana available to more Americans. Yet no study to date has focused on the effect of medical and adult-use marijuana laws on opioid prescribing in particular.

Our study provides some of the first empirical evidence that the implementation of medical and adult-use marijuana laws between 2011 and 2016 was associated with lower opioid prescribing rates and spending among Medicaid enrollees.  

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

 Response: Medical and adult-use marijuana laws have the potential to lower opioid prescribing for Medicaid enrollees, a high-risk population for chronic pain, opioid use disorder, and opioid overdose. The potential of these marijuana liberalization policies to reduce the use and consequences of addictive opioids deserves consideration especially in states that have been hit hard by the opioid epidemic. As for the states currently reluctant to consider these polices, efforts can still be made in legislation and implementation process to extend the availability of marijuana to more people who may benefit from the therapeutic value of marijuana. Nonetheless, marijuana liberalization alone cannot solve the opioid epidemic. As with other policies evaluated in the previous literature, marijuana liberalization is but one potential aspect of a comprehensive package to tackle the epidemic.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Some undesirable consequences of marijuana liberalization policies, such as pediatric marijuana intoxication, marijuana addiction, marijuana-related crimes, marijuana-influenced driving impairments, and marijuana-related environmental issues, are worth investigating in the future and taken into consideration in policy discussion. 

Citation:

Wen H, Hockenberry JM. Association of Medical and Adult-Use Marijuana Laws With Opioid Prescribing for Medicaid Enrollees. JAMA Intern Med. Published online April 02, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.1007

 

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