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Do Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Addictions and Deaths Related to Pain Killers?

Author

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  • David Powell
  • Rosalie Liccardo Pacula
  • Mireille Jacobson

Abstract

Many medical marijuana patients report using marijuana to alleviate chronic pain from musculoskeletal problems and other sources. If marijuana is used as a substitute for powerful and addictive pain relievers in medical marijuana states, a potential overlooked positive impact of medical marijuana laws may be a reduction in harms associated with opioid pain relievers, a far more addictive and potentially deadly substance. To assess this issue, we study the impact of medical marijuana laws on problematic opioid use. We use two measures of problematic use: treatment admissions for opioid pain reliever addiction from the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) and state-level opioid overdose deaths in the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). Using both standard differences-in-differences models as well as synthetic control models, we find that states permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not. We find no impact of medical marijuana laws more broadly; the mitigating effect of medical marijuana laws is specific to states that permit dispensaries. We evaluate potential mechanisms. Our findings suggest that providing broader access to medical marijuana may have the potential benefit of reducing abuse of highly addictive painkillers.

Suggested Citation

  • David Powell & Rosalie Liccardo Pacula & Mireille Jacobson, 2015. "Do Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Addictions and Deaths Related to Pain Killers?," NBER Working Papers 21345, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21345
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    11. Rosalie Liccardo Pacula & David Powell & Paul Heaton & Eric L. Sevigny, 2013. "Assessing the Effects of Medical Marijuana Laws on Marijuana and Alcohol Use: The Devil is in the Details," NBER Working Papers 19302, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jenny Williams & Rosalie Liccardo Pacula & Rosanna Smart, 2019. "De Facto or De Jure? Ethnic Differences in Quit Responses to Legal Protections of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries," NBER Working Papers 25555, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Johanna Catherine Maclean & Keshar M. Ghimire & Lauren Hersch Nicholas, 2017. "Medical Marijuana Laws and Disability Applications, Receipts, and Terminations," NBER Working Papers 23862, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. repec:wly:jpamgt:v:38:y:2019:i:2:p:455-480 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2018. "Deaths of Despair or Drug Problems?," NBER Working Papers 24188, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. repec:eee:jhecon:v:60:y:2018:i:c:p:177-197 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Hersch Nicholas, Lauren & Maclean, J. Catherine, 2017. "The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on the Labor Supply of Older Adults: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," IZA Discussion Papers 10489, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. repec:wly:jpamgt:v:38:y:2019:i:2:p:366-393 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Pohl, R. Vincent, 2018. "Time Trends Matter: The Case of Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Overdose Mortality," MPRA Paper 87237, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. repec:eee:jeborg:v:159:y:2019:i:c:p:502-525 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Johanna Catherine Maclean & Brendan Saloner, 2019. "The Effect of Public Insurance Expansions on Substance Use Disorder Treatment: Evidence from the Affordable Care Act," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 38(2), pages 366-393, March.
    11. David Powell, 2016. "Synthetic Control Estimation Beyond Case Studies Does the Minimum Wage Reduce Employment?," Working Papers WR-1142, RAND Corporation.
    12. Lauren Hersch Nicholas & Johanna Catherine Maclean, 2019. "The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on the Health and Labor Supply of Older Adults: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 38(2), pages 455-480, March.
    13. Garin, Julio & Pohl, R. Vincent & Smith, Rhet A., 2018. "The Effect of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries on Opioid and Heroin Overdose Mortality," MPRA Paper 89613, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Abby Alpert & David Powell & Rosalie Liccardo Pacula, 2018. "Supply-Side Drug Policy in the Presence of Substitutes: Evidence from the Introduction of Abuse-Deterrent Opioids," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 1-35, November.
    15. Sabia, Joseph J. & Nguyen, Thanh Tam, 2016. "The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on Labor Market Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 9831, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    16. repec:ebl:ecbull:eb-18-00583 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Chu, Yu-Wei Luke & Gershenson, Seth, 2018. "High times: The effect of medical marijuana laws on student time use," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 142-153.
    18. Chu, Yu-Wei Luke & Townsend, Wilbur, 2017. "Joint culpability: The effects of medical marijuana laws on crime," Working Paper Series 6141, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance.
    19. Carrieri,V.; & Madio,L.; & Principe, F.;, 2019. "Do-It-Yourself medicine? The impact of light cannabis liberalization on prescription drugs," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 19/07, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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