Florida: Enrollment in Medical Cannabis Access Program Associated with Reductions in Prescription Drug Use

Gainesville, FL: Patients enrolled in the state’s low-THC medical cannabis access program often reduce their use of prescription opioids and other medications over time, according to data published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

A team of investigators from the University of Florida at Gainesville, School of Pharmacy assessed characteristics associated with patients enrolled in the state’s low-THC/high CBD cannabis access program, which was enacted by the legislature in 2014. (Florida voters later decided in favor of a constitutional amendment in 2016 broadening the program to allow access to higher THC varieties of cannabis.) Under the program’s initial rules, medical providers were mandated to submit initial and follow up treatment plans to the University of Florida.

Investigators’ review of these plans reported that most providers acknowledged improvements in their patients’ symptoms following the use of low-THC cannabis for one year. Providers also acknowledged that many patients reduced their prescription drug use over this same period.

Consistent with the findings of prior studies, authors reported, “In particular, reductions or complete cessation of opioid medications were reported as well as reductions of anxiolytics/benzodiazepines and hypnotics/sedatives.”

Authors concluded: “This retrospective analysis of MM [low THC/high CBD medical marijuana] treatment forms covering the initial implementation phase of Florida’s MM program provides characteristics and prescription drug utilization information on early registrants who sought treatment with medical cannabis. … Though follow-up information was only available for a fraction of patients, follow-up was mostly characterized by clinical improvements and reported reductions in some prescription medication classes.”

Full text of the study, “Clinical conditions and prescription drug utilization among early medical marijuana registrants in Florida,” appears in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. Additional information on cannabis/prescription drug substitution is available from the NORML fact sheet, “Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.”