The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a division of the National Institutes of Health, has updated their website to reflect recent NIDA research on the effects of medical cannabis legalization on prescription opioid use outcomes.
The section, updated last month, outlines two NIDA-funded studies “that explored the relationship between marijuana legalization and adverse outcomes associated with prescription opioids.” One study found an association in medical cannabis legalization and a reduction in opioid-related due to prescription painkillers, while another NIDA-funded study by the RAND Corporation showed that states with comprehensive medical cannabis programs see lower levels of opioid prescribing, non-medical prescription opioid use, and less opioid-associated hospital admissions.
“Notably, the reduction in deaths was present only in states with dispensaries (not just medical marijuana laws) and was greater in states with active dispensaries,” the new section states. “Though none of these studies are definitive, they cumulatively suggest that medical marijuana products may have a role in reducing the use of opioids needed to control pain. More research is needed to investigate this possibility.”
The update also includes a brief overview of a study which found that the availability of medical cannabis led to Medicare prescription drug coverage savings of $165.2 million in 2015.
An archived version of the medical cannabis section from Feb. 11 makes no mention of the plant’s role in prescription opioid outcomes.