Lee Shearer @LeeShearer
Legalizing medical marijuana appears to lead to less prescription opioid use, and could help curb the national opioid epidemic, a University of Georgia research study finds.
UGA researchers studying Medicare records found that states that had legalized marijuana dispensaries saw a 14.4 percent drop in the use of prescription opioids among Medicare Part D patients between 2010 and 2015. States that allowed only home cultivation saw a reduction of about 7 percent.
Medicare Part D is an optional prescription drug benefit plan open to people — mainly those 65 and older — enrolled in Medicare, the federal health insurance program for people 65 and older.
The opioid prescription types they looked at included hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, methadone and fentanyl.
The researchers have also looked to see if there were changes in the rates at which doctors prescribed other, nonopioid drugs such as blood thinners and flu medications, but found no changes in those prescription rates, according to the study’s lead author, Ashley Bradford. a graduate student in UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs, or SPIA.