MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Economist; Core Faculty, Pardee RAND Graduate School
RAND, Santa Monica
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: There has been some research suggesting that the adoption of state medical marijuana laws leads to reductions in prescriptions for opioid analgesics among certain populations and opioid-related overdoses overall. However, medical marijuana laws are very different across states and they have changed over time as well. We wanted to understand what components of a medical marijuana law could potentially lead to reductions in overdoses and substance abuse. We focused specifically on the role of dispensaries, given their importance in providing access to medical marijuana, and tested for different effects in states with and without legally-protected and operational dispensaries.
We found that dispensaries are critical to reduce opioid-related overdoses and substance abuse. We also found evidence that more recently-adopting states have experienced smaller reductions in overdoses and opioid substance abuse, potentially because the more recent adopters tend to enforce more stringent guidelines for dispensaries than the early adopters.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: We find that the introduction of medical marijuana dispensaries has the potential to reduce opioid-related harms quite significantly. More broadly, it also suggests that, when we think about the opioid crisis, improving access to pain management alternatives may be a useful mechanism for reducing dependence on opioids.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: During most of the time period that we studied, prescription opioids were driving the opioid crisis, but it has recently transitioned to the point where heroin and illicit synthetic opioids are playing more prominent roles. We are hesitant to suggest that medical marijuana access will have the same scope in a climate in which synthetic opioids and heroin are the primary substances of abuse. Future work could do more to explore the potential of different types of medical marijuana laws to reduce overdoses related to these substances.
Do medical marijuana laws reduce addictions and deaths related to pain killers?
David Powell,, Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, Mireille Jacobson
RAND, Santa Monica, United States
NBER Cambridge, MA, United StatesUniversity of California, Irvine, United States
Received 14 November 2015, Revised 15 August 2017, Accepted 30 December 2017, Available online 3 February 2018
Journal of Health Economics
Volume 58, March 2018, Pages 29–42
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