• by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 9, 2016

    pain_reliefMarijuana consumers do not access health care services at rates that are higher than non-users, according to data published online ahead of print in the European Journal of Internal Medicine.

    Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin assessed the relationship between marijuana use and health care utilization in a nationally representative sample of 174,159,864 US adults aged 18 to 59 years old.

    Authors reported “no significant increase in outpatient health care visits and overnight hospital admissions in marijuana users compared to non-users.” They also reported that those who consumed cannabis multiple times per day were no more likely to seek health care patient services as compared to those who used the substance less frequently.

    They concluded, “[C]ontrary to popular belief, … marijuana use is not associated with increased healthcare utilization, [and] there [is] also no association between health care utilization and frequency of marijuana use.”

    A previous assessment, published in 2014 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, similarly reported that the use of marijuana within the past three months was not associated with adverse effects on health, comorbidity, ER visits, or hospitalization.

    An abstract of the study, “Marijuana users do not have increased healthcare utilization: A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) study,” appears here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 12, 2016

    substitutionThe enactment of statewide medicinal cannabis laws is associated with a quantifiable decline in the use of traditional prescription drugs, according to data published in the July edition of the scientific journal Health Affairs.

    Investigators at the University of Georgia assessed the relationship between medical marijuana legalization laws and physicians’ prescribing patterns in 17 states over a three-year period (2010 to 2013). Specifically, researchers assessed patients’ consumption of and spending on prescription drugs approved under Medicare Part D in nine domains: anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders, and spasticity.

    Authors reported that prescription drug use fell significantly in seven of the nine domains assessed.

    “Generally, we found that when a medical marijuana law went into effect, prescribing for FDA-approved prescription drugs under Medicare Part D fell substantially,” investigators reported. “Ultimately, we estimated that nationally the Medicare program and its enrollers spent around $165.2 million less in 2013 as a result of changed prescribing behaviors induced by … jurisdictions that had legalized medical marijuana.”
    Investigators estimated that prescription drug savings would total more than $468 million annually were cannabis therapy to be accessible in all 50 states.

    They concluded, “Our findings and existing clinical literature imply that patients respond to medical marijuana legislation as if there are clinical benefits to the drug, which adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that the Schedule I status of marijuana is outdated.”

    An abstract of the study, “Medical marijuana laws reduce prescription medication use in Medicare Part D,” is available online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 13, 2016

    no_marijuanaThe passage of statewide laws regulating the consumption of cannabis by adults and/or qualified patients is not associated with increased rates of teen marijuana use, according to a statistical analysis of results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

    CDC data reports that the percentage of high-schoolers ever reporting having used cannabis fell from an estimated 43 percent in 1995 to just under 39 percent in 2015. The percentage of teens currently using cannabis (defined as having used marijuana at least once in the past 30 days) also declined during this same period, from 25 percent in 1995 to just under 22 percent in 2015.

    During this time period, two-dozen states enacted statutes permitting qualified patients to consume cannabis, and four states enacted laws permitting the commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to adults.

    The Youth Risk Behavior Survey results are consistent with those of numerous other studies — such as those here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here — finding that changes in cannabis’ legal status are not associated with increased use among adolescents.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director June 7, 2016

    thumbs_upMore than nine in ten pediatric oncology providers with opinions favor patients’ access to cannabis therapy, according to survey data provided this week at the 2016 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

    Investigators from various US cancer treatment centers surveyed 654 pediatric oncology providers, including physicians and nurses, at three National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington. Over 300 providers (46 percent) completed the survey.

    Of those, 92 percent said that they were “willing to help pediatric cancer patients access medical marijuana,” and just over one-third (34 percent) acknowledged that cannabis therapy “is appropriate in the early stages of cancer treatment.”

    Thirty percent of respondents reported receiving requests from patients or their families to access medical marijuana therapy at least once per month.

    Overall, pediatric oncology providers hold “predominantly favorable attitudes toward medical marijuana use in pediatric cancer patients,” authors concluded.

    Previous surveys of physicians and health care providers report similar attitudes. Survey results published in 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that 76 percent of respondents supported the use of cannabis therapy in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. A 2014 poll of over 1,500 physicians commissioned by Web MD similarly reported that 82 percent of oncologists believed that marijuana treatment provides legitimate therapeutic benefits.

    An abstract of the survey data, “Pediatric oncology providers and use of medical marijuana in children with cancer,” appears online here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director May 26, 2016

    no_marijuanaFewer adolescents are consuming cannabis; among those who do, fewer are engaging in problematic use of the plant, according to newly published data in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

    Investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis evaluated government survey data on adolescents’ self-reported drug use during the years 2002 to 2013. Over 216,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 participated in the federally commissioned surveys.

    Researchers reported that the percentage of respondents who said that they had used cannabis over the past year fell by ten percent during the study period. The number of adolescents reporting problems related to marijuana, such as engaging in habitual use of the plant, declined by 24 percent from 2002 to 2013.

    The study’s lead author acknowledged that the declines in marijuana use and abuse were “substantial.”

    The study’s findings are consistent with previous evaluations reporting decreased marijuana use and abuse by young people over the past decade and a half — a period of time during which numerous states have liberalized their marijuana policies.

    An abstract of the new study, “Declining prevalence of marijuana use disorders among adolescents in the United States, 2002 to 2013,” appears online here.

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