US States With Medical Cannabis See Drop in Prescription Drugs

A new study from the University of Georgia published in the July issue of Health Affairs has shown the impact of medical cannabis on health care costs.

Researchers found that medical cannabis legalization in 17 states and the District of Columbia accounted for lower prescription drug costs, saving $165.2 million in 2013. The study suggested that medical cannabis access across the entire country could save close to $470 million.

The study looked at prescriptions from 2010–2013 for ailments that could be replaced with medical cannabis, including anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders and spasticity.

Researchers found fewer prescriptions being filled in these categories, with pain prescriptions dropping by 1,826 daily doses, and depression dropping by 265 daily doses.

The study looked closely at glaucoma patients’ use of cannabis.

“It turns out that glaucoma is one of the most Googled searches linked to marijuana, right after pain,” study co-author Dr. David Bradford.

A release from the school said those suffering from the disease can experience a 25 per cent decrease in eye pressure caused by glaucoma using medical cannabis.

Because of the temporary relief offered by cannabis, the researchers expected prescription drugs use to remain high for glaucoma compared to other ailments and “they were not disappointed.”

Daily doses of glaucoma medication increased, suggesting to the team that medical cannabis patients users are basing their decision on medical needs.

“The results suggest people are really using marijuana as medicine and not just using it for recreational purposes,” said the study’s lead author Ashley Bradford.

In 2014, opioids killed more than 28,000 people in the U.S., at least half of those involved a prescription opioid.