|People Who Use Medical Marijuana More Likely to Use and Misuse Other Prescription Drugs—Including Pain Relievers
A roiling debate among scientists has to do with whether ecological studies – studies based on population data – can tell us anything about whether states that have legalized marijuana have lower rates of opioid use, overdoses, and deaths.
The population data scientists say yes; their counterparts say no because population data are based on ecological fallacies. The only way to answer the question is with individual data, they say.
In this study researchers analyzed more than 57,000 responses to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. People were asked about medical and nonmedical use of prescription drugs and were also asked about marijuana use and whether the latter was recommended by a physician. The effort identified 776 people who used medical marijuana.
These people were some 60 percent more likely to report any prescription drug use compared to those who don’t use marijuana for medical use and more than twice as likely to report nonmedical use of prescription drugs, including pain relievers, stimulants, and tranquilizers.
“Previous studies have reported that states where medical marijuana is legal have lower rates of medical and non-medical prescription drug use and related harms — including opioid overdose. ‘These reports have led many to believe that use of medical marijuana is a protective factor against non-medical prescription drug use,’ Theodore L. Caputi, one of the researchers, comments. ‘However, individual-level inferences cannot be made using the ecological studies cited frequently in the debate over medical marijuana.’”
Read Science Daily summary here. Read study abstract here.