Study: Medical Cannabis Access Associated With Reduced Opioid Abuse

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 14, 2015

    Study: Medical Cannabis Access Associated With Reduced Opioid AbuseStates that permit qualified patients to access medical marijuana via dispensaries possess lower rates of opioid addiction and overdose deaths, according to a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a non-partisan think-tank.

    Researchers from the RAND Corporation and the University of California, Irvine assessed the impact of medical marijuana laws on problematic opioid use, as measured by treatment admissions for opioid pain reliever addiction (compiled from the years 1992 to 2012) and by state-level opioid overdose deaths (compiled from the years 1999 to 2013).

    “[S]tates permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not,” authors reported. They found that women over the age of 40 showed the most significant decrease in problematic opioid use.

    Data published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine reported that the enactment of statewide medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates. “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws,” investigators reported.

    Overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics have increased dramatically over the past decade. While fewer than 4,100 opiate-induced fatalities were reported for the year 1999, by 2010 this figure rose to over 16,600 according to an analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control.

    An abstract of the study, “Do Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Addictions and Deaths Related to Pain Killers?”, is available online here.

    15 responses to “Study: Medical Cannabis Access Associated With Reduced Opioid Abuse”

    1. TheOracle says:

      Cannabis to manage pain and discomfort rather than opioids. Cannabis used to treat withdrawal from opioid dependence.

      It would be a major step forward if Great Britain decriminalized cannabis and allowed its medical use. House of Lords at Report Stage July 14.



    2. PhDScientist says:

      There’s an excellent case to be made that with the publication of the JAMA meta-analysis, the benefit of using Medical Marijuana for pain management is now “accepted science” and therefore, it is no longer possible to leave it on schedule 1. In that case, it must be immediately de-scheduled or rescheduled. Once it is moved to a schedule where it can be prescribed by Physicians, they would then have the same right they have with every other medication to prescribe it for off-label applications. I hope NORML or one of the other groups advocating for Medical Marijuana patients rights immediately files suit on that basis — it seems like an irrefutable legal argument.

    3. Galileo Galilei says:

      “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws,”

      This is huge. Maybe I’ll send this info to Representative Andy Harris, MD.

    4. mmmmm says:

      Being arrested is deprivation of liberty. The seizure of marijuana is deprivation of property. The right of property, liberty and security against unreasonable laws are fundamental rights. Deprivation of a fundamental right must be justified by a compelling state interest. Because there is no victim of a crime, criminalizing marijuana is unreasonable and unnecessary use of police power violating the 4th, 5th, and 14th Amendments of the Constitution of the United States. Now get a NORML lawyer to say that in a Motion to Dismiss in one of the hundreds of thousands of marijuana cases.

      [Editor’s note: If you think that making such pleadings in a criminal case regarding cannabis to be helpful, you hardly need a NORML lawyer to have the judge summarily reject such broad claims…and then, if appealed, have the appellate judges concur with the trial judge.

      Courts, they are about the last place cannabis reformers should look for policy reform relief. Those long-sought policy reforms have come about largely through legislation and binding voter initiatives, not at all through court rulings (as courts strongly defer to…the will and intent of legislators).]

    5. bobwv says:

      I’ve had 8-10 level 24/7 pain for 35 years and opiates won’t touch it. Cannabis keeps it at a 1 or 2.

      Let the war crime trials begin.

      Cannabis the Trillion dollar crop.

    6. Mark I. says:

      If physicians could prescribe and profit from cannabis medications, they would happily help their patients obtain and properly use medical cannabis. Our nation’s older nurses still remember receiving continuing education credits learning about cannabis medications and their prescribed therapies.

    7. Mark I. says:

      End the institutionalized disrespect for patient/provider interactions. Doctors may not be perfect, but they are much more qualified to help patients with their healthcare decisions than the bean counters released by the indifferent to limit patient access to safe medications that are not based on petro-chemical byproducts.

    8. TheOracle says:

      Separating the cannabis market from the hard drugs market by legalizing means that people looking only for cannabis are not going to buy it from someone dealing weed out of one pocket and heroin or meth out of the others.

      Separation of markets removes the consumer from the situation in which they can be offered hard drugs because the dealer’s out of weed or can be offered hard drugs instead of just weed. Supply side, it may be there but fewer people get exposed to the sales pitch, as it reduces the frequency of contact for consumers looking only for cannabis. Separation means the government finally acknowledges cannabis is not as pernicious as hard drugs, which carries the subtext that just because you can buy weed and hard drugs off a street dealer doesn’t mean that since cannabis is drastically less harmful, less harmful than nicotine or alcohol, don’t think that heroin and meth are less harmful than alcohol or nicotine, because heroin and meth are not.

      The average age of a heroin or meth addict should rise, unless I guess a lot of them overdose at a young age, average age of someone in a maintenance, safe injection room facility’s treatment or some other treatment program.

      I get a kick out of the semiotic subtext of this SAP advertisement. Every time I see it on television I chuckle inside. “Can a business” sounds so much like “cannabusiness” and they’ve got a male voiceover that sounds British. The morphemes are so close.

      How many times do they have “can a business” (cannabusiness)?

      Cannabusiness have a mind…
      Cannabusiness have a spirit
      Cannabusiness have a soul
      Cannabusiness be alive

      The answer is simple.


      Yeah, the answer is simple. Legalize cannabusiness at the federal level. Remove cannabis from the schedule altogether. Remove the banking restrictions preventing legal cannabis banking. Remove the IRS tax deduction restrictions.

      You prohibitionists have had it your way for too many decades by obscuring the science. Well, the cat’s out of the bag. You prohibitionists created a monster in the form of Spice, Spike, K2 and all the other so-called synthetic marijuana because your tests for cannabis didn’t test for impairment within a reasonable time of test for it to turn positive. Current piss tests are cheap compared to time of test impairment tests, but it’s time for legislation that mandates impairment tests must be reliable for time of test impairment. Coates would still be at his job with DICK-Network (DISH) if they would’ve used such a test as he said he was not high or using on employer time.

      Marijuana.com has an article about The White House admitting that marijuana prohibition is racist. Is Barry going to direct the people in his administration to remove cannabis from the schedule altogether. In its hemp form cannabis doesn’t belong in any schedule, and in its medical form there’s talk of making a Schedule I-R, better read as Schedule One – Research, yet schedule I terminology insists there is no medical value and a high potential for abuse. I mean, why create a special schedule within a schedule just so you can streamline research into cannabis when you could just move it into a different number category. Problem is people will not be able to agree on which schedule # because some want to move it to III or something and prohibitionists insist it stays in I and that’s why the schedule R within schedule 1, I guess. De-scheduling saves a lot of problems, as it ought to be considered as having removed cannabis from the CSA once it’s no longer in any kind of a schedule.


    9. Dave Evans says:

      “Courts, they are about the last place cannabis reformers should look for policy reform relief. Those long-sought policy reforms have come about largely through legislation and binding voter initiatives, not at all through court rulings (as courts strongly defer to…the will and intent of legislators).”

      So the courts are saying that (A) increasing organized crime, (b)making marijuana available to every 12 year old in the country, (C) teaching police to ignore the Constitution and (D) terrorizing Mexico are the intentions of Legislators??????????????? All you lawyers are mental. Seriously fucking mental. How are people so highly educated so damn dumb (dumb to the point of dysfunction) at the same time?

    10. Julian says:

      17 U.S. Soldiers continue to commit suicide per day, struggling with PTSD from fighting a war in Afghanistan where more opium and heroin are being exported than when the war began a decade and a half ago, opiates continue to overdose soldiers inside of VA hospitals while begging for help to end the addiction and suffering, and its all on display within Congress leading up to next years elections.
      Call your Congressman and let them know this.