In states where medical marijuana is legal, prescriptions for drugs for conditions where pot could serve as an alternative have dropped significantly, according to a recent report published in the journal Health Affairs
One of the most stunning drops in the report was in prescriptions of painkillers, which are currently in the spotlight due to a nationwide epidemic of opioid addiction. The researchers found that doctors in a state where marijuana is legal ended up prescribing an average of 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers per year.
To reach these findings, the study authors looked at data on all prescriptions filled by Medicare Part D enrollees from 2010 to 2013. They also saw a link between legalized medical marijuana laws and a drop in prescriptions for antidepressants, seizure medication, sleeping pills, anxiety medication and anti-nausea drugs.
So far, 24 states and the District of Columbia have passed a medical marijuana law, though not all of the states have fully implemented those laws.
As the Washington Post reported, drug companies often lobby federal groups to prevent medical marijuana laws.
“At a time when Medicare is under increased fiscal pressure, our research suggests that more widespread state approval of medical marijuana could provide modest budgetary relief,” the study authors write. More research is needed to understand the link, but the researchers also argue that their findings suggest that people are truly using marijuana for medical reasons.