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WIRE: Recreational cannabis consumers frequently substitute cannabis for opioids, other prescription drugs

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Adult consumers who purchase retail cannabis often report using it to mitigate pain and to improve sleep, and often use it in place of conventional medications, according to data published online today in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

A team of investigators from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and the University of Miami assessed marijuana use trends among 1,000 adult use customers in Colorado.

Seventy-four percent of those surveyed said that they consumed cannabis to promote sleep, while 65 percent reported using cannabis to alleviate pain. Among those respondents with a history of taking prescription sleep aids, 83 percent reported either reducing or ceasing their use of those medicines. Among those respondents with a history of consuming prescription opioids, 88 percent reported mitigating or stopping their use.

“Our findings suggest that de facto medical use may be highly prevalent among adult use customers, and that access to an adult use cannabis market may influence individuals’ use of other medications,” authors concluded. “Our findings … suggest that adult use customers may be similar to medical cannabis patients in their use of cannabis as a substitute for prescription analgesics and sleep aids. … While adult use laws are frequently called ‘recreational,’ … our findings suggest that many customers use cannabis for symptom relief.”

NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said that the study’s findings are significant, though not altogether surprising. “Several prior studies similarly show that the use of cannabis by qualified patients is associated with the reduction, or even the elimination, of certain other prescription drugs — specifically opioids — over time,” he said. “These findings speak not only to the therapeutic efficacy of cannabis as an alternative analgesic option, but also to its potential role as a harm reduction agent.”

Longitudinal studies assessing the use of prescription drugs following patients’ enrollment in state-sanctioned medical cannabis access programs frequently report a decline in the use of conventional medicines, specifically opioidsanti-anxiety drugs, and sleep aids.

The abstract of the study, “Use of cannabis to relieve pain and promote sleep by customers at an adult use dispensary,” appears online here.

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NORML’s mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to legalize the responsible use of marijuana by adults, and to serve as an advocate for consumers to assure they have access to high-quality marijuana that is safe, convenient, and affordable.

Find out more at www.norml.org and read our factsheets on the most common misconceptions and myths regarding reform efforts around the country at www.norml.org/marijuana/fact-sheets

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