A new study by researchers from Cornell University, University of Pittsburgh, University of Georgia and George Mason University has found that US states that have legalized cannabis are seeing a reduction in demand prescription codeine.
The study, published in the journal Health Economicsreports a 26% reduction in codeine dispensing in pharmacies and a reduction of up to 37% after adult cannabis laws were in place for four years.
The researchers note that adult cannabis laws have had minimal impact on the dispensing of codeine by hospitals, which often have less permissive policies than pharmacies, and minimal impact on the dispensing of other opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine, regardless of the setting.
Coleman Drake, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health and lead author of the study, called the study results “particularly significant” because “previous studies have focused on more potent opioids “.
“Codeine is a weaker drug with a higher addictive potential. This indicates that people can obtain codeine from pharmacies for misuse, and that recreational cannabis laws reduce this illicit demand. Drake explained.
Johanna Catherine Maclean, of George Mason University and author of the study, said the research suggests that “increasing legal access to cannabis may divert some users from opioids and towards cannabis. »
“While all substances pose some risk,” she said in a statement, “cannabis use is arguably less harmful to health than the non-medical use of prescription opioids. »
Researchers analyzed data from the automation system of reports and consolidation orders of the Drug Enforcement Administrationwhich tracks the flow of controlled substances in the United States.
The study was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health.