A study found that legalizing marijuana lowers demand for pricy prescription drugs, The Hill reports.
Researchers at Cornell University looked at state data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and found a notable decline in the number of prescription drugs that treat pain, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, psychosis, and seizures in states that have legalized recreational cannabis.
“These results have important implications,” Cornell researcher Shyam Raman said in a news release. “The reductions in drug utilization that we find could lead to significant cost savings for state Medicaid programs. The results also indicate an opportunity to reduce the harm that can come with the dangerous side effects associated with some prescription drugs.”
Legalization effort likely to grow:
The research is the latest showing additional benefits of legal marijuana when it comes to health care.
About 40 states have legalized medical marijuana and about 20 states have legalized recreational use. The number is likely to climb as majorities of virtually every demographic back legalization.
The legalization of marijuana had the biggest impact on the number of prescription drugs used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, though it found no significant impact on the demand for drugs used to treat nausea.
The researchers warned that marijuana use is not completely harmless.
Several studies have found that marijuana can trigger anxiety or lead to more serious disorders like schizophrenia.
They also expressed concerns that some patients who use marijuana may visit doctors less often or be less likely to use recommended medication.
“The data used in this study does not capture patient-level wellness and as such, the long run effects of substitution away from pharmaceuticals to cannabis is still unknown. Hopefully, as newer data and more robust econometric methods become available, future researchers will be able to fully decompose the costs and benefits associated with the legalization of cannabis at the state level,” the authors wrote.