So check this out: I have known many people in my life who have in the past had problems with addiction to opioids. I’m sure you have, too! We also know that some, unfortunately, are still suffering. We activists (and people who know a lot more about this plant than I) have known for some time that cannabis is an exit plant, so its always nice to see yet another study that supports this.
Researchers from the University of Texas investigated prescription opioid use among people with private insurance (as opposed to those on publicly funded Medicare or Medicaid), and compared those rates in states with and without medical cannabis.
“When results were examined within each individual age cohort, opioid prescription rate varied depending on the stringency of state cannabis laws,” the study states. “In particular, in states which implemented medical cannabis use laws (but not other categories of cannabis liberalization laws), lower rates of opioid prescription were seen in the younger age cohorts (18 to 25, 26 to 35, 36 to 45 and 46 to 54 years).”
The findings were published in May 2019 in the journal, Preventive Medicine.
Building on previous studies that included one that found opioid-related overdose deaths fell in states with legal cannabis dispensaries, the researchers used information from the database of one of the largest private health insurance providers in the country.
The study’s authors write that this was important because this subset of people “may exhibit different behaviors from Medicare and Medicaid subpopulations with regards to cannabis use.”
Past research had already shown that states with medical cannabis laws had issued fewer opioid prescriptions to people with government-funded health coverage.
The study population spanned more than four million individuals, which researchers broke down by age group in their analysis.
In 2016, when the research was being conducted, five states had already fully legalized cannabis, 21 states had approved only medical cannabis, and four other states had simply decriminalized possession. At the time, 1,770,081 people were enrolled in private insurance in states with legal medical cannabis access.
According to the study’s results, the states that had lowest prescription rates were those that had approved access to medical cannabis. When the results were examined by age group, researchers found that these lower rates were only seen in people ages 18 to 54.
“Overall, age-stratified adjusted analysis showed lowest rate of opioid prescription in states that allowed for medical cannabis use,” according to the study.
While the authors admit there may be “a public health benefit associated with medical cannabis laws,” they point out this decrease in opioid prescriptions may also have to do with the fact that many states have implemented monitoring programs and other legislation designed to restrict access to opioids.
But, as the study states, “These findings suggest a difference between the privately insured versus Medicaid or Medicare insured populations, especially those who are older adults. Research has shown that Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries generally have greater disability than those with commercial insurance, perhaps because a proportion of beneficiaries qualify for Medicare coverage based on a disability.”
As a result, it’s possible that more patients with public insurance have been prescribed opioids compared to the privately insured.
Also, as the authors note, it’s not surprising that older people have more prescriptions — that just comes with age. They do wonder, however, if “these patients are more likely to use cannabis as an adjunct therapeutic agent for pain control.”
I tend to think that is a high probability.
“Baby boomers who are now in their mid-fifties and sixties represent demographic cohort who experienced illicit drug use, including cannabis, as a societal norm, resulting from societal pressures and stresses in their youth,” the study states. “While younger adults appear to use cannabis with greater frequency than older adults (aged 50 and above), studies reveal that cannabis use among older adults may be increasing.
In fact, one recent study found that three percent of adults 65 and older reported using cannabis in the past year. That’s seven times the rate of baby boomers that reported use a decade ago!
I am inclined to believe that when society realizes that we all have in our bodies an endocannabinoid system and it is responsible for regulating our bodies in every way, perhaps more and more people of all ages will recognize it is better for us than any pharmaceutical pill or medication that big pharma can fabricate.
Remember, cannabis has still never caused one single death!