Monday, April 02, 2018 2:26 p.m. CDT
By Lisa Rapaport
(Reuters Health) – Opioid prescriptions may decline when states legalize marijuana, two U.S. studies suggest.
One study focused on older adults with Medicare drug benefits. In each state, in an average year, doctors prescribed 23 million daily doses of opioids. Compared to states where cannabis was banned, states where medical marijuana was legal averaged 3.7 million fewer opioid doses annually, while states that permitted only home cultivation of marijuana had 1.8 million fewer doses.
A separate study of adults insured by Medicaid, the U.S. health program for the poor, found medical marijuana laws associated with an almost 6 percent decline in opioid prescriptions.
“These findings suggest that cannabis may play a role in fighting the opioid crisis by reducing some patients’ need for opioids,” said Dr. Kevin Hill, coauthor of an accompanying editorial and director of addiction psychiatry at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
“The evidence thus far does not suggest that cannabis should be a first-line or even a second-line treatment for pain,” Hill said by email.