Researchers Ashley Bradford and W. David Bradford looked at how many prescription drugs were paid for from 2010 to 2013 as part of Medicare Part D. They found that states with legal medical cannabis use far fewer prescription drugs than states without medical marijuana.
Here’s how big the differences are
- Doctors in states with medical marijuana programs prescribed 265 less antidepressants every year than doctors in states without medical cannabis.
- There were also 486 fewer seizure med prescriptions in medical marijuana states.
- Doctors in medical cannabis states wrote 541 fewer anti-nausea prescriptions.
- There were 562 fewer anti-anxiety prescriptions every year in medical marijuana states.
But prescription painkillers were the most dramatic of all. In states with medical marijuana, doctors prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers every year when compared to doctors in states without medical marijuana.
What The Numbers Mean
Those numbers mean a few important things. For one, fewer prescription drugs could mean more cost effective healthcare. The Bradfords estimated that states with medical marijuana saved somewhere around $165.2 million per year. Those savings came from the simple fact that far fewer people were using expensive prescription drugs.
More importantly, all of this could mean a healthier population. One of the biggest concerns facing the U.S. right now when it comes to pharmaceuticals is the danger of addiction and overdose. That’s especially true when it comes to opioids.
Opioids are some of the most commonly prescribed pain meds in the U.S., But they’re also highly addictive and can lead to deadly overdoses. A study published in April found that there are almost 2 million Americans currently abusing prescription opioids. And 16,000 people die ever year from opioid overdoses.
That same study found that states that allow medical cannabis have significantly lower rates of opioid abuse and addiction. Those findings are right in line with what the Bradfords’ research has found.
Big Pharma’s Big Fear
All of this has left big pharma scared. But from the looks of things, the pharmaceutical industry isn’t going down without a fight.
There are numerous reports that many of the most outspoken anti-cannabis scientists and researchers have been paid by pharmaceutical corporations.
Big pharma is also attacking the political side of things. Pharmaceutical companies funnel massive amounts of money into anti-cannabis campaigns.
One possible way to interpret big pharma’s anti-cannabis efforts is more proof that medical cannabis could be a better alternative to prescription pills. That seems to be what the Bradfords’ study is saying. “The results suggest people are using marijuana as medicine and not just using it for recreational purposes,” Ashley Bradford said.