New York, NY: The adoption of statewide medical cannabis access laws is associated with lower rates of opioid use and with a reduction in the number of pain-related hospitalizations among newly diagnosed patients with cancer, according to data published in the journal JAMA Oncology.
Investigators affiliated with Cornell University’s Weill Medical College assessed the relationship between medical cannabis legalization and opioid-related and pain-related outcomes for adults receiving cancer treatment.
Authors determined that medical marijuana legalization was “associated with a five percent to 20 percent relative reduction in the rate of opioid dispensing to adults younger than 65 years receiving cancer treatment after a new cancer diagnosis. Medical marijuana legalization with dispensary allowances was associated with a larger reduction in opioid dispensing compared with legalization without dispensary allowances.” Legalization was also associated with reductions in patients’ total number of pain-related hospital events.
Researchers concluded: “This cross-sectional study found that medical marijuana legalization between 2012 and 2017 was associated with reductions in the rate of opioid dispensing and pain-related hospital events in some privately insured patients aged 18 to 64 years receiving anticancer treatment. The findings suggest that medical marijuana could be serving as a substitute for opioids to some extent.”
The findings are consistent with numerous other studies showing reduced rates of opioid consumption and dispensing in jurisdictions where cannabis is legally accessible.
Full text of the study, “Medical marijuana legalization and opioid- and pain-related outcomes among patients newly diagnosed with cancer receiving anticancer treatment,” appears in JAMA Oncology. Additional information is available from NORML’s fact sheet, ‘Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.’