Study: Increased Medical Cannabis Access Reduces Prescription Drug Use

Prescription drug use is a big problem in America, and especially in the sports world. The United States accounts for 34 percent of the world market for pharmaceutical drugs, even though America makes up only 5 percent of the world’s population. The rate of use among athletes is even greater.

The high rate of use of opioids in sports often gets the most attention by the media, but high rates of use for all types of pharmaceutical drugs has long been a problem in sports, with athletes taking prescription drugs for all types of ailments. Some of the prescriptions are warranted and effective, but many are not, and are only prescribed to help the athlete deal with the side effects of other medications they are taking.

Anyone who has seen ads for pharmaceutical drugs knows that they come with a laundry list of potential side effects. The listing of the side effects usually takes up a bulk of the ad airing time, with some pretty horrific stuff being mentioned. Those side effect should be avoided if possible. Cannabis has the ability to reduce prescription drug use according to a new study, which is a great thing considering that cannabis is a much safer choice. Below is more information about the study, which builds on previous studies that have arrived at similar conclusions:

In a soon-to-be published article in the *Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, *University of New Mexico researchers, in collaboration with Industrial Rehabilitation Clinics of Albuquerque, followed patients who enrolled voluntarily in the New Mexico state medical cannabis program and found that they significantly reduced their utilization of scheduled prescription medications in the months following enrollment. All prescriptions for scheduled medications must be reported to the New Mexico Prescription Monitoring Program with opiates and benzodiazepines being the two most common. Based on these prescription records, patients enrolled in the medical cannabis program reduced the monthly average number of prescriptions, types of prescriptions (drug classes), number of prescribers, and number of related pharmacy visits. 71% of medical cannabis program enrollees either ceased or reduced their use of scheduled prescriptions within 6 months of enrolling.

While other studies on medical cannabis have looked at similar state-level outcomes, this study is the first to take the approach of examining individual patients throughout their enrollment in the medical cannabis program and comparing those patients to a comparison group of similar patients who did not enroll in the medical cannabis program.

The findings of this study indicate that once a patient enrolls in the medical cannabis program there is an increased likelihood that the patient will decrease their usage of scheduled medications. These medications include many drugs of abuse such as opiates, benzodiazepines, and sleeping medications. Opiates in particular are in the public discourse because of the danger of overdose, addiction and death.

Stith, S. S., et al “Effects of Legal Access to Cannabis on Scheduled II-V Drug Prescriptions.” (in press). Journal of the American Medical Director’s Association.

Source: PR Newswire