Medical Marijuana Could Save Medicaid Dollars: Study

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A study last year by a father-daughter pair of researchers found that Medicare prescriptions for things like painkillers, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications dropped sharply in states that introduced a medical marijuana program. The implication was that offered the choice between taking medication prescribed by a doctor and self-medicating with pot, many older patients opted for the latter. Because the University of Georgia’s Ashley Bradford and W. David Bradford looked only at Medicare data, they couldn’t say for sure whether the findings held for younger patients too.

This week, the Bradfords are back with a new study applying the same analysis to prescriptions under Medicaid, which covers low-income people of all ages. The results largely validate their previous work: Medicaid prescriptions for certain drugs fell significantly in states that adopted a medical marijuana law, the Washington Post reports. Anti-nausea drug prescriptions fell by 17 percent. Antidepressant prescriptions fell 13 percent, while prescriptions for seizure and psychosis drugs fell 12 percent. Perhaps most significantly from a public health standpoint, prescriptions for painkillers fell by 11 percent. Opiate painkillers are behind much of the current drug overdose epidemic.

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