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Child Psychiatrist /Adult Psychiatrist

No Impact of Legalized Cannabis on Opioid Prescriptions, Mortality


Legalization of recreational and medical cannabis is not associated with a reduction in opioid prescriptions or overall opioid overdose mortality, a new study suggested. However, investigators did find that recreational cannabis laws may be tied to a potential reduction in synthetic opioid deaths.



  • Investigators analyzed state-level data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other databases (2006-2020) on the number of opioid prescriptions (per 100,000 persons).

  • Prescription opioids included buprenorphine (except products to treat opioid use disorder), codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, propoxyphene, tapentadol, and tramadol.

  • Researchers used regression analyses to account for poverty rates and real gross domestic product and a generalized difference-in-differences method that accounted for staggered implementation of cannabis laws.


  • During the full study period, 13 states legalized recreational cannabis and 23 legalized medical cannabis.

  • No statistically significant association was found between recreational cannabis laws and opioid prescriptions (3.08 fewer prescriptions per 100 persons; P = .17) or overall opioid overdose mortality (3.05 fewer deaths per 100,000; P = .24).

  • The changes in outcomes associated with medical cannabis laws were larger in magnitude than those for recreational cannabis laws but also not statistically significant (3.54 additional prescriptions per 100 persons; P = .17 and 3.09 additional deaths per 100,000; P = .07).

  • A potential reduction was found in synthetic opioid deaths associated specifically with states that had recreational cannabis laws (4.9 fewer deaths per 100,000; P = .04), but there were no differences in overdose deaths with other opioids.


"These results contrast with recent studies that suggested that recreational and medical cannabis legalization are associated with reductions in opioid prescriptions and medical cannabis legalization is associated with an increase in opioid mortality," the authors wrote.

Note: This article originally appeared on Medscape

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