New Research Links Medical Marijuana And Adult-Use Marijuana Laws With Lower Opioid Prescribing Rates for Medicaid Patients

adam wong · April 18, 2018

New research from the College of Public Health from the University of Kentucky, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association observed an association between state implementation of medical marijuana laws and a 5.88% reduction of opioid prescribing rate for Medicaid patients. Moreover, the implementation of adult-use marijuana laws was associated with a 6.38% reduction of opioid prescribing for Medicaid patients.

While the association between prescribing patterns for opioids in Medicaid and the implementation of medical cannabis laws is not well understood, scientists have been able to demonstrate a reduction of patient filled prescriptions covered by Medicaid on a quarterly, per-1,000-Medicaid-enrollee basis in states with a medical or adult-use cannabis law.

The researchers of this cross-sectional study compared opioid prescribing trends between states with implemented medical and adult-use marijuana laws vs states without these marijuana laws between 2011 and 2016. The population-based study included all Medicaid fee-for-service and managed care enrollees, a high-risk population for chronic pain and opioid use.

The paper states “overprescribing of opioids is considered a major driving force behind the opioid epidemic in the United States.” The research suggests that by increasing patient access to marijuana through the introduction of medical and adult-use marijuana laws, patients will have greater options for pain management medication and may reduce the number of opioid prescriptions requested and filled.