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    1 Comment for this article
    Two major medical issues
    Frederick Rivara, MD, MPH | University of Washington
    This study tackles an important question: Whether medical marijuana availability is associated with changes in opioid use. Marijuana and its product have been touted as cure alls for many disorders, including chronic pain. This study however, found little evidence that increasing medical marijuana availability changed prescription opioid use. More studies such as this need to be conducted especially in states with legalization of recreational MJ use.
    CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Editor in Chief, JAMA Network Open.
    Original Investigation
    Substance Use and Addiction
    July 17, 2019

    Association of US Medical Marijuana Laws With Nonmedical Prescription Opioid Use and Prescription Opioid Use Disorder

    Author Affiliations
    • 1Mailman School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology, Columbia University, New York, New York
    • 2Mailman School of Public Health, Department of Biostatistics, Columbia University, New York, New York
    • 3Mailman School of Public Health, Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Columbia University, New York, New York
    JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(7):e197216. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.7216
    Key Points español 中文 (chinese)

    Question  Is enactment of medical marijuana laws in the United States associated with changes in nonmedical prescription opioid use and prescription opioid use disorder among prescription opioid users overall and by age and racial/ethnic group?

    Findings  This cross-sectional study using individual-level restricted data from the 2004 to 2014 US National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed small increases in nonmedical prescription opioid use and no significant change in prescription opioid use disorder among users after medical marijuana law enactment. Similar patterns were observed across age and racial/ethnic groups.

    Meaning  Medical marijuana law enactment was not associated with a reduction in individual-level nonmedical prescription opioid use, contradicting the hypothesis that people would substitute marijuana for prescription opioids.

    Abstract

    Importance  Between 1997 and 2017, the United States saw increases in nonmedical prescription opioid use and its consequences, as well as changes in marijuana policies. Ecological-level research hypothesized that medical marijuana legalization may reduce prescription opioid use by allowing medical marijuana as an alternative.

    Objectives  To investigate the association of state-level medical marijuana law enactment with individual-level nonmedical prescription opioid use and prescription opioid use disorder among prescription opioid users and to determine whether these outcomes varied by age and racial/ethnic groups.

    Design, Setting, and Participants  This cross-sectional study used restricted data on 627 000 individuals aged 12 years and older from the 2004 to 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a population-based survey representative of the civilian population of the United States. Analyses were completed from March 2018 to May 2018.

    Exposures  Time-varying indicator of state-level medical marijuana law enactment (0 = never law enactment, 1 = before law enactment, and 2 = after law enactment).

    Main Outcomes and Measures  Past-year nonmedical prescription opioid use and prescription opioid use disorder among prescription opioid users. Odds ratios of nonmedical prescription opioid use and prescription opioid use disorder comparing the period before and after law enactment were presented overall, by age and racial/ethnic group, and adjusted for individual- and state-level confounders.

    Results  The study sample included 627 000 participants (51.51% female; 9.88% aged 12-17 years, 13.30% aged 18-25 years, 14.30% aged 26-34 years, 25.02% aged 35-49 years, and 37.50% aged ≥50 years; the racial/ethnic distribution was 66.97% non-Hispanic white, 11.83% non-Hispanic black, 14.47% Hispanic, and 6.73% other). Screening and interview response rates were 82% to 91% and 71% to 77%, respectively. Overall, there were small changes in nonmedical prescription opioid use prevalence after medical marijuana law enactment (4.32% to 4.86%; adjusted odds ratio, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.06-1.20). Prescription opioid use disorder prevalence among prescription opioid users decreased slightly after law enactment, but the change was not statistically significant (15.41% to 14.76%; adjusted odds ratio, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.81-1.11). Outcomes were similar when stratified by age and race/ethnicity.

    Conclusions and Relevance  This study found little evidence of an association between medical marijuana law enactment and nonmedical prescription opioid use or prescription opioid use disorder among prescription opioid users. Further research should disentangle the potential mechanisms through which medical marijuana laws may reduce opioid-related harm.

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