Study: Opioid Abuse Rates Lower In Medical Cannabis States

pills_v_potRates of prescription opioid abuse are significantly lower in jurisdictions that permit medical marijuana access, according to data reported by Castlight Health, an employee health benefits platform provider.

Investigators assessed anonymous prescription reporting data from over one million employees between the years 2011 and 2015.

In states that did not permit medical marijuana access, 5.4 percent of individuals with an opioid prescription qualified as abusers of the drug. (The study’s authors defined “abuse” as opioid use by an individual who was not receiving palliative care, who received greater than a 90-day cumulative supply of opioids, and received an opioid prescription from four or more providers.) By contrast, only 2.8 percent of individuals with an opioid prescription living in medical marijuana states met the criteria.

The findings are similar to those reported by the RAND Corporation in 2015, which determined, “[S]tates permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.”

Data published in 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine also reported that the enactment of statewide medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, finding, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.”

Full text of the new study, “The opioid crisis in America’s workforce,” appears online here.

14 thoughts

  1. It must be embarrassing even to the DEA and Big Pharma when certain opiates in schedule II and alcohol and tobacco not even scheduled cause thousands of confirmed cases of microcephaly in the US each year (long before we ever heard of zika) while marijuana, in schedule 1, is treatment and possibly preventive medicine for the same condition. Better expand those trials quick Chuck!

    Ive written before about how despite having access to marijuana all my life, I did not begin smoking until I was 18, the year I became morbidly depressed, and marijuana and some good friends snapped me out of my depression.
    I was suffering from separation from family, the need to pick a career in order to give myself permission to have a relationship, and perhaps worse, an unconquerable guilt from a list of traumatic family events I had little to no control over that depressed people seem so willing to blame themselves for.
    I was living in a recurring nightmare, wide awake, unable to cure the pain, and unwilling to play around with prozac (Really? Horny when you’re NOT supposed to be and NOT horny when you ARE supposed to? THAT could have lead my life down a different direction. Good thing I read the fine print!)
    What marijuana did for me is it made me revisit the nightmare feeling relaxed, objective and willing to accept the tragedies of life with humor and only perceptible anger reserved for more clinical judgement. Yes, there can be anxiety for first time users as we breach the walls we create in our subconscious, but this is only a temporary part of the healing process. Marijuana helped me bravely “look within” and determine WHERE the pain was coming from, and SOLVE the problems… a problem people who take opiates say they failed to do… If they live to tell the tale…

  2. The Bigger problem– and it is a political problem– is the Tobaccolash alias backlash which may get drumpfed up when legal cannabis, and co-legalized 25-mg one-hitters and vape-not-burn along with it, get a chance to do to the noxious nicotine $IGARETTE format bizne$$-a$-u$ual something even more sudden and drastic than what medical cannabis is reportedly now doing to the profits of Those Opioid pHARMa corporations.

    Organizations now fighting for cannabis legalization could preempt this problem by campaigning also for Compa$$$ionate Father Taxpayer to fund retraining and job-replacement programs for stooge drudges now wasting their time and precious talent in the soon doomed tobacco-raising, $igarette manufacturing and $elling faileds.

  3. Cure the pharmaceutical companies’ epidemic with Cannabis for public safety! Gloating and vindicated by factual research that cannot seem to be communicated fast enough for the general public to dispel ignorance of how helpful and benign Cannabis use is. No more lies, no more greed! Decriminalize and deschedule with no more people to suffer and die for lack of a medical system that will fully accommodate the scientific effiacy of cannabis. No doctor has the right to treat lightly your assessment of cannabis’s effect upon you. It is real and the science is catching up quicker than the cult of fear, loathing and greed can keep up. Peace, except for the pricks who covered up the medical truth in the 70’s for a corrupt political expedient and greed.

  4. This is huge.

    First and most importantly, it demonstrates one way, among many, how legalization saves lives.

    But I also love how it pits the War On Drugs ideology against itself, exposes its self-contradictory irrationality, and highlights the profound stupidity of our self-defeating drug policies.

    We love it when a fireman saves a baby.
    Lives saved by activists and voters legalizing marijuana don’t get the same glory, but lives are saved just the same.

    When you vote for legalization this November, you will be my hero!!!!!!!!

  5. It was pot that helped me dump my 20-year long use of morphine for pain. Yeah, I hurt more now, but if it hadn’t been for pot I would never have managed it. This was one of my life’s major wins, and it’s great to be off that shit. Pot helps a lot with the pain, and I am most grateful for living in Washington State. The greed of the pharmaceutical companies is off the charts. My original dosage was 100 mgs twice a day. This cost $179 for fifty-six tablets. While I was titrating down to zero, I used 30 mg tablets along the way, and the cost was $279 for just thirty of them. What’s wrong with this picture?

  6. It is astonishing the irony and hypocracy of Big Pharma and the Medical industrial complex getting America strung out on pain killers, synthetic opiates and psych drugs the entire time this “war on drugs” is going on… Labeling marijuana a “gateway drug”, while all this is happening right under their stuffy noses….and now because Big Pharmas prices (greed) is so out of control they’ve creative a heroin epidemic..,, how mad is that ~ and now Med pot and recreational legalization actually heals…and is out of the control of big pharma ~ what irony, it would make Shakespeare giggle

  7. “Hurt more now, but [I have] managed it”– exactly! Cannabis provides a mental energy to examine, interpret, understand, react to pain or any problem in a more positive way, addressing root issue instead of only the pain itself. Whereas the predator pHAMRa companies think of you as a passive lump of coal to be $hoved palliatory drugs into.

  8. This an old one but worth reviewing and sharing
    For over a century, big busines and pharmaceutical companies worldwide have withheld the cure for cancer and countless other medical conditions.
    Run From the Cure

  9. I’m 1yr free of 15 yrs of prescribed benzo’s,opiates and antidepressants.

    I had to save my own life from this deadly combination.

    I hope that cannabis is legal in NH soon.

    For now I use legal CBD concentrate and it helps,but need the THC to activate “entourage effect” to get the full spectrum of cannabis’ properties.Something combinations of pharmaceuticals cannot replicate.

  10. I’ve seen the worst side of opiod abuse far too many times. If it is not considered the most addictive and dangerous substance one can prescribe than I don’t know what is.

    Battling big pharma and politics to reduce opiate use will continue to be an uphill battle but we must continue to fight.

    We are working with local physicians in our area who are willing to listen and explore new alternatives to the poisonous chemicals that have been prescribed. With enough perseverance the truth will come out and we will beat this epidemic.

    If anyone is struggling due to opiate addiction in or around Chicago or neighboring suburbs, look us up and contact us so we can assist you in finding access to a physician who cares about your well being.

    Midwest Compassion Center

    1. I have been on prescribed opiates for years and feel like I’m dying a slow agonizing death. I live in Georgia near Atlanta. Do you have an affiliate near my home I could get in contact with?

  11. I just recently had my Kaiser doctor inform me that he would not continue my Percocet prescription (8-pills per day) because I tested positive for THC! I have been on Percocet for many years due work related disabling back injury as a firefighter. I have never abused Percocet and now I find that without my cannabis edibles that the Opiates don’t work so well. The Kaiser doctor has a sadistic way of “helping me” with his personal policy of anti-Cannabis in my legal medical use state of California. I don’t know what to do now except use the Opiates as much as they let me and get ready for the next urine test he vowed I’d get in 30 days. Btw, I’m 66 years old and not a millennial “pothead.”

  12. As an owner of a medical marijuana dispensary in Oregon, many of our customers have stated that they use medical marijuana in lieu of opioids to control their pain. This is a fact. I have cried from some of the stories these people have told us. The crime here is to not make this plant available, widely, to all human beings. The stigma that the powerful have created around this plant is truly criminal.

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