States with legalized medical cannabis prescribe 20% less opioids, study finds

Widespread medical cannabis legalization could lead to reduced opioid abuse, according to recent study from New York City-based Columbia University.

The study found that states with medical cannabis legalization experienced a 19.7 percent decrease in Medicare Part D opioid prescriptions written by orthopedic surgeons compared to states without legalization. States with active storefront dispensaries experienced a 13.1 percent decrease in those prescriptions.

"Although our study does not support a direct causal relationship, these population-level findings show that legalization of medical cannabis and patient access to dispensaries may be associated with reductions in opioid prescribing by orthopaedic surgeons," the researchers wrote in The Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

In the study's conclusion, the authors argue that their findings highlight the importance of offering patients alternatives for pain management. 

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