Opioid Payments To Physicians Plunge As Medical Marijuana Legalization Grows: Study

Direct payments from opioid manufacturers to physicians have significantly decreased following the legalization of medical cannabis, according to a new study from the University of Florida, University of Southern California and Purdue University.

The study suggested that the trend is a result of more patients using medical cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs, particularly opioids, reported Marijuana Moment.

Building on the growing body of research on the benefits of medical cannabis for pain management, the new findings can help tackle the current opioid misuse, which led to over 106,000 deaths nationwide from drug-involved overdose in 2021, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We provide evidence that this decrease is due to the availability of medical marijuana as a substitute," the researchers said. “Additionally, physicians in states with an MML are prescribing fewer opioids.”

By utilizing a specially designed model - a novel penalized synthetic control (SC) - the researchers analyzed the payment information for each physician to track direct payments from opioid manufacturers in control states between 2014 and 2017.

In addition, the study found that “the substitution effect is comparatively higher for female physicians and in localities with higher white, less affluent, and more working-age populations.”

Also Read: Controversial Past And Present Surrounding Kentucky's Medical Marijuana Debate

Previous Research

The findings are consistent with numerous other studies documenting that patients frequently use cannabis as an alternative to treat chronic pain and other debilitating conditions.

For example, military veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have either reduced or eliminated prescription opioids and other addictive painkillers once they understand and experience the benefits of cannabis.

To that end, an earlier analysis by a Cornell research team revealed that people afflicted with anxiety, sleep, pain, or seizures who also have access to legal recreational cannabis could and do reduce their use of prescription drugs.

Moreover, two studies presented at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons last year showed that providing patients with chronic back pain and osteoarthritis access to medical cannabis can reduce or even eliminate the use of opioids for pain management.

Now Read: Allen Iverson: 'Cannabis Changed My Thought Process, I Believe In Plant Medicine'

Photo: Courtesy of Roxana Gonzalez on Shutterstock

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