Medical Marijuana Patients Reduce Their Prescription Drug Use, Study Finds

CHICAGO, IL — Patients enrolled in a statewide medical cannabis program are likely to reduce their use of conventional prescription drugs over time, according to data published online ahead of print in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Care.

Investigators from DePaul University and Rush University, College of Nursing assessed prescription drug use patterns in 34 patients registered to use cannabis therapy under Illinois law.

Respondents frequently reported using medical cannabis “as an alternative to other medications – most commonly opioids, but also anticonvulsants, anti-inflammatories, and over-the-counter analgesics.” Subjects reported that they believed cannabis is faster acting than conventional prescription drugs and that it possesses fewer adverse side effects.

Authors concluded: “[O]ur results indicate that MC (medical cannabis) may be used intentionally to taper off prescription medications. These findings align with previous research that has reported substitution or alternative use of cannabis for prescription pain medications due to concerns regarding addiction and better side-effect and symptom management, as well as complementary use to help manage side-effects of prescription medication.”

The findings are similar to those of numerous others similarly reporting that legal cannabis access is associated with lower rates of prescription drug usespendingabuse, and mortality.

Full text of the study, “Preferences for medical marijuana over prescription medications among persons living with chronic conditions,” appears in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Care.

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