Since the legalization of medical marijuana in many US states, prescription drugs used to treat depression, anxiety, psychosis, sleep disorders, chronic pain and more have seen a drop.
A study showed that prescriptions for drugs like blood-thinners – which medical marijuana cannot help with – carried on at the same rate, supporting the theory that cannabis is the reason for the decline in opioid painkillers and antidepressants.
The researchers also suggest medical marijuana is saving Medicare, a national social insurance programme, millions of dollars. They say that if medical marijuana was available nationwide Medicare would have saved $470 million (£358 million) in 2013 – half a percent of their annual expenditures but still something.
Medical marijuana is now legal in 25 US states but is still classified as a Schedule I drug by the federal government and because of this doctors are unable to prescribe marijuana to patients. Instead they write them a note and send them to a dispensary.
Its legal status also means medical marijuana isn’t covered by insurance, causing patients to spend anything up to $400 a month to feel better, according to some estimates.
A decision is expected to be made this summer on whether to classify cannabis as a Schedule II drug, making it the same as morphine and oxycodone, and more likely to be prescribed and covered by insurance.
The research was published in the journal Health Affairs.