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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia: Prescription Opioid Misuse –What Do Medical Marijuana Laws Have to Do With It?

Researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health report almost no change in nonmedical prescription opioid use or opioid use disorder after states enacted medical marijuana laws. Overall, opioid use disorder among prescription opioid users decreased slightly. Until now, there was little research on medical marijuana laws’ effects on using other substances — particularly, prescription opioid use misuse, and opioid use disorder. Findings are online in JAMA Network Open.

“Studies on medical marijuana laws and their effects on prescription opioid use are scarce and limited by measuring opioid use indirectly and among groups, not individuals,” said Dr. Luis Segura, a doctoral student in epidemiology at Columbia Mailman, and first author. “We found small increases in nonmedical use of prescription opioids and slight decreases or no change in prescription opioid use disorder among nonmedical users of prescription opioids — even for states that allowed dispensaries.”

The researchers used the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2004 to 2014 to investigate a link between living in a state with laws and individual-level opioid use and prescription opioid use disorder among nonmedical prescription opioid users. They also analyzed outcomes by age and racial or ethnic groups.

“Other studies that found an inverse association between medical marijuana enactment and opioid-outcomes did not measure opioid-outcomes for individuals,” observed Dr. Silvia Martins, associate professor of epidemiology, and senior author.

“Our findings may suggest that medical marijuana policies could be insufficient to reduce individual-level opioid outcomes and opioid-specific approaches and policy interventions are needed.”

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