Marijuana and Opioids

A review of the scientific evidence showing the benefits of marijuana in combatting opioid addiction.

Marijuana Works for Treating Chronic Pain

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine:Cannabis is effective for the treatment for chronic pain in adults.”

University of California’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research: Marijuana should be “a first line treatment” for patients with painful neuropathy.

Journal of the American Medical Association: A literature review of 38 studies evaluating medical marijuana’s efficacy for treating pain found that “71 percent concluded that cannabinoids had empirically demonstrable and statistically significant pain relieving effects.

Marijuana Improves Results of Prescribed Opioids

Journal of Alcohol & Drug Dependence, Pain and Opioids in Treatment Study: Used in combination with opioid pain medications, marijuana can lower opioid side effects, cravings, and the severity of withdrawal symptoms, all while enhancing the analgesic effects of opioids, allowing for lower doses and less risk of overdose.

Marijuana Gives Patients a Substitute for Opioids

Journal of Drug and Alcohol Review: Research published last year found 80 percent of medical marijuana patients reported substituting marijuana for prescribed medications, particularly among patients with pain-related conditions.

Journal of the American Medical Association—Internal Medicine: Two studies published in 2018 compared opioid prescription patterns in states which have medical marijuana laws to states which do not. They found that states with medical marijuana laws experience significant reductions in the use of prescription opioids.

Journal of the American Medical Association—Internal Medicine: States with medical marijuana dispensaries saw 3.7 million fewer daily doses of prescription opioids.

Marijuana Reduces Opioid Prescription Use

Journal of Pain Medicine: Daily opioid use “went from 152mg morphine milligram equivalent (MME) at baseline to 32.2mg MME at six months, a 78 percent reduction in mean opioid dosage.”

Harvard Medical School: “[T]he implementation of medical marijuana laws (MMLs) and recreational marijuana laws (RMLs) reduced morphine milligram equivalents per enrollee by seven percent and 13 percent, respectively.”

Marijuana Reduces Opioid Dependence and Death

British Medical Journal: “Higher medical and recreational storefront dispensary counts are associated with reduced opioid related death rates, particularly deaths associated with synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.”

Journal of the American Medical Association—Internal Medicine: In states with medical marijuana access, it appears that overdose mortality rates are almost 25 percent lower than in states with no legal access to marijuana, and the reductions in mortality rates strengthened over time.

Journal of Drug & Alcohol Dependence: Legal access to medical marijuana has been associated with a 23 percent reduction in opioid dependence or abuse-related hospitalizations and 15 percent fewer opioid treatment admissions.

Journal of the American Pain Society: Using medical marijuana was ultimately associated with a 64 percent reduction in prescription opioid use among members of the sample.

Only Idaho Condemns Pain Patients to Opioids Alone

97.4 percent of Americans already live in states with some form of legal access to marijuana—21 percent with both medical and adult use access, 41 percent with medical access only, and 35.4 percent with access to low-THC or limited CBD formulations. The other 2.6 percent live in Idaho.