Study Finds Medical Marijuana Reduces Need For Pain Medications

A recent study from the University of Georgia has concluded that states that pass medical marijuana laws tend to experience a significant decline in the use of more traditional FDA-approved medication in the treatment of medical conditions—particularly pain. According to the study’s co-author and chair of public policy with the University of Georgia’s Department of Public Administration and Policy, W. David Bradford, “There was a substantial shift away from the use of [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]-approved drugs when states turned their medical marijuana laws on.” Similarly, there was no decline in prescription drugs filled to treat conditions for which marijuana would not be appropriate.

Researchers for this study analyzed all prescriptions filled by Medicare Part D enrollees from 2010 to 2013 and compared states that had legalized marijuana against states that had not. In the jurisdictions where medical marijuana is legal, the study found that, not only had prescription medications to treat pain sharply declined, but this decline saved taxpayer money. Specifically, in 17 states and Washington D.C. with legalized medical marijuana, the study calculated savings of $165 million.

In spite of this study (and numerous others), the United States Drug Enforcement Agency also recently re-affirmed its stance that medical marijuana is a Schedule I drug. According to DEA guidelines, Schedule I substances have “no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and a high potential for abuse.”

Daniel P. Sullivan