Study: Opioid use dropped in medical cannabis states

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States with medical cannabis programs saw a dramatic reduction in opioid abuse, according to a study done by University of Georgia researchers. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study focused on opioid prescriptions filled between 2010 and 2015 for patients using Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit plan. States with medical cannabis dispensaries saw a 14.4 drop in opioid use and almost a 7 percent reduction prescriptions filled.

Researchers took into account the use of hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, methadone, and fentanyl, but not heroin as it is not legally available. The study also noted that non-opioid prescriptions remained unchanged.

Since 1996, 29 states and Washington, D.C. have approved some form of medical cannabis use.

From 2005 to 2011, opioid use skyrocketed by about 148 million prescriptions yearly, and according to the study, it held a consistent growth rate with the number of opioid-related deaths.

The study noted there were still many medical questions surrounding medical cannabis as to understanding the chemical compound's full effect on the body and how an effective dose would be defined.