The researchers looked at the prescription records of people using Medicaid and also Medicare Part D – the prescription add-on plan for Medicare recipients.
In the Medicare study, Wen and colleagues found that states with medical marijuana laws had a more than 8 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions compared to states with no such laws.
“We found that overall opioid prescribing in Part D was lower when states permit access to medical cannabis,” they wrote.
“Prescriptions filled for all opioids decreased by 2.11 million daily doses per year from an average of 23.08 million daily doses per year when a state instituted any medical cannabis law,” they added.
“Prescriptions for all opioids decreased by 3.742 million daily doses per year when medical cannabis dispensaries opened.”
State and federal officials are looking for ways to reduce opioid deaths and to reduce the overuse of opioid prescriptions.
The National Center for Health Statistics says 63,600 people died of drug overdoses in 2016.
Opioids killed or helped kill 42,249 people in 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Opioid overdose