Marijuana’s Effect on Problematic Use
The main concern about the opioid epidemic is the high rate of mortality due to opioid-related overdose. Bachhuber and co-authors analyzed death certificate data to determine the relationship between medical cannabis laws and opioid overdose mortality in “Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1999-2010.” They found that opioid overdose death rates in states with medical marijuana laws were 25 percent lower than other states. Over time, the disparity grew to 33 percent lower opioid rate in year six (Bachhuber et al.). Even when the study included heroin overdose deaths without the presence of analgesic, the effect persisted, suggesting that lower rates of painkiller overdoses were not offset by higher rates of heroin overdoses. However, they could not determine whether the relationship between opioid analgesic mortality and medical cannabis laws was causal.
Bachhuber and his co-researchers acknowledge ...
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...dford and Bradford examined the effect of medical marijuana legalization on prescription and painkiller expenditure. For the 24 states and the District of Columbia that had legalized medical marijuana, they analyzed the drug “prescribing patterns and program and patient expenditures in Medicare Part D.” They found substantial decreases in the number of daily doses filled, ranging from 265 fewer doses to 1,826 daily doses for pain (Bradford and Bradford). Additionally, they found that spending for opioid painkillers fell by $104.5 million in 2010 and $165.2 million in Medicare Part D in 2013. This effect was only observed for prescription drugs that marijuana was a prescribed substitute for. From this observation, the authors draw a causal relationship between the shift in prescribing patterns to the implementation of the medical marijuana law (Bradford and Bradford).
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