Painkiller Prescriptions Fall in States With Medical Marijuana

One chart about a recent study's results says it all

Could medical marijuana help solve the problem of prescription painkiller abuse? A new study suggests so.

The study, published in the journal Health Affairs, is the first to provide “clear evidence of a missing link in the causal chain running from medical marijuana to falling overdoses,” reports The Washington Post in a story titled “One Striking Chart Shows Why Pharma Companies Are Fighting Legal Marijuana.”

The piece, by Christopher Ingraham, describes the study and its implications in fascinating detail. But, as the headline suggests, the chart that boils down the findings (below) pretty much says it all.

Ingraham explains that University of Georgia researchers Ashley and W. David Bradford analyzed data for all prescription drugs paid for under Medicare Part D from 2010 to 2013.

They found, he writes, that “in the 17 states with a medical-marijuana law in place by 2013, prescriptions for painkillers and other classes of drugs fell sharply compared with states that did not have a medical-marijuana law.”

The conditions in the chart are among those for which medical marijuana is most often approved under state laws. “This provides strong evidence that the observed shifts in prescribing patterns were in fact due to the passage of the medical marijuana laws,” the researchers said.

Furthermore,  they noted, “the typical physician in a medical-marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a given year.” Striking indeed.


When Medical Marijuana is Allowed Patients Use Fewer Meds chart embed

By Heidi Raschke
Heidi Raschke is a longtime journalist and editor who previously was the Executive Editor of Mpls-St. Paul Magazine and Living and Learning Editor at Next Avenue. Currently, she runs her own content strategy and development consultancy.@heidiraschke
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