What if I tell you that there is no good evidence that marijuana does any good for treating glaucoma, anxiety, or Parkinson’s disease. Despite this, it is often prescribed to treat these aliments in states that have legalized marijuana. According to a large meta analysis of 79 studies published in Journal of the American Medical Association marijuana does nothing to improve these diseases.
However, this analysis did show that there is excellent evidence that marijuana is highly effective in controlling chronic pain. A JAMA review found a “30% or greater improvement in pain with cannabinoid compared with placebo,” across the 79 studies it surveyed.
Now, couple this fact with the fact that there’s a body of research showing that painkiller abuse and overdose are lower in states with medical marijuana laws. There has been a long time assumption that when medical marijuana is available, pain patients choose marijuana over the prescription narcotics. But, until now that has just been an assumption.
A study from the Journal of Health Affairs clearly demonstrates the relationship between the use of medical marijuana to falling overdoses of opiates.
Ashley and W. David Bradford, researchers at the University of Georgia, evaluated the database of all prescription drugs paid for under Medicare Part D from 2010 to 2013. They found that, in the 17 states with a medical-marijuana law in place by 2013, prescriptions for painkillers and other classes of drugs fell sharply compared with states that did not have a medical-marijuana law.
In the medical-marijuana states the average doctor prescribed 265 fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication. They also found that in a medical-marijuana state doctors prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a given year. These differences are stunning and very significant.
The Bradford’s have written that, “The results suggest people are really using marijuana as medicine and not just using it for recreational purposes.”
The United States Department of Health and Human Services has recommended that naturally derived THC, the main psychoactive component of marijuana, be moved from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3 of the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule 3 is a less restrictive category that would acknowledge the drug’s medical use and make it easier to research and for doctors to prescribe.
The DEA, without explanation simply rejected the HHS recommendation. Many people in the know feel that the pharmaceutical companies are behind the DEA’s rejection of the HHS recommendation.
This theory is supported by the Bradford’s analysis showing that in the 17 states with medical marijuana laws the cost savings to Medicare from the decreased prescribing saved about $165 million in 2013. This could translate, on a national level, to an estimated annual Medicare prescription savings of nearly half a billion dollars if all 50 states were to implement similar program.
Their analysis did not calculate the additional saving that would be gained by the Medicaid system or by private insurers.
Advanced prostate cancer brings us chronic, severe pain. Prescription opiates come with addition and many unpleasant side effects. They also come with an unnecessarily high financial burden to our society. Why are we still waiting?
Could some of these drug companies be behind the plot?