Medical Marijuana Legalization Causes Drop In Prescription Medication – Medicare, Medicaid Prescriptions For Psychoactive Drugs Decline

Legalization of medical marijuana has caused a substantial drop in Medicare prescriptions. A new research suggests states that have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes have been experiencing a decline in the number of prescription of synthetic psychoactive and pain management drugs. A similar but unfinished study on Medicaid has indicated the same trend.

The usage of prescription drugs has been steadily climbing for the past several years and straining the budget of American families. However, it appears many in the United States are now actively considering alternative and organic medications, that, fortunately, have become easier to access owing to their legalization in many parts of the country.

According to new research published Wednesday by Health Affairs, legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, saw a considerable decline in the number of Medicare prescriptions for powerful synthetic drugs used to treat conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, or depression. Evidently, the dip was observed in spending by Medicare Part D, which covers the cost of prescription medications, reported AOL.

The study looked at data from Medicare Part D from 2010 to 2013. It is the first study to examine whether legalization of marijuana changes doctors’ clinical practice and whether it could curb public health costs, reported NPR.

Researchers compared two aspects: states that had clearly defined medical marijuana laws on the books, and the number of prescriptions handed out for drugs that treated commonly occurring medical conditions like anxiety, depression, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders, and spasticity. They noted marijuana that has been actively recommended for all of these conditions. Moreover, patients who have shifted to medicinal weed have only good tales of rapid recovery and fewer to no side effects.

Incidentally, besides Medicare, researchers have already begun to dig through data about prescriptions covered by Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income people. While the research hasn’t completed, researchers have already found a substantial decline in prescription drug payments there as well.

Is marijuana really causing a dip in Medicare drug prescriptions? Researchers insist that Medicare prescriptions for opioid painkillers and antidepressants fell notably in the states where cannabis is now legally administrable by medical professionals. This simply means that in states where marijuana could feasibly be used as a legally permissible replacement, there was a drop in prescriptions. They point out that prescriptions for other medicines meant for other conditions didn’t fall.

Researchers cite the example of blood-thinning medication and point out that marijuana was never considered an alternative in that case and the number of prescriptions was not affected by the legalization of medical marijuana.

From a purely financial perspective, the cheaper and organic alternative to synthetic pain and anxiety management medicines has saved Medicare about $165 million in 2013 alone, noted researchers. Many states have already legalized the use of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. However, if the legalization of weed or pot was to happen across the United States, the country could have saved nearly $500 million. Moreover, the savings would go on increasing on a yearly basis.

Medicare collectively costs about $100 billion. Hence, the savings accumulated by legalizing medical marijuana across the U.S. aren’t much. However, experts argue that saving money on prescription drugs isn’t the end goal, and the focus should be maintained on cutting down on their usage, which they caution is skyrocketing.

From a statistical and medical perspective, states that have legalized medical marijuana registered a drop of 1,800 daily doses of prescription medicines filled out by doctors in a single year. Another study on the same subject matter had very similar findings.

Despite the drop in usage of powerful psychoactive and pain management medicines, doctors aren’t jumping on the bandwagon, reported Kaiser Health News. Many medical professionals point out that just because marijuana doesn’t have the same side-effects as their synthetic counterparts, it doesn’t mean there are no pitfalls at all. Moreover, insurance companies still haven’t started to cover prescriptions for the organic drug. Hence, medical marijuana is still financially prohibitive for patients looking to ditch opioid painkillers and antidepressants.

[Photo by David McNew/Getty Images]