Among veterans, opioid prescription requests down in step with rise in medical pot

published on June 6, 2016 by Mike Hager in The Globe and Mail

Fewer Canadian veterans have sought prescription opioids and tranquillizers in recent years, while at the same time prescriptions for medical marijuana have skyrocketed.

It is not clear whether the two are related, but the trend echoes what researchers have found in U.S. states with medical-cannabis laws.

This set of statistics is too small and unrefined to prove any concrete links between the use of the three drugs. But American research showing significant declines in opioid overdoses where medical marijuana has been legalized suggests that people may be substituting these oft-abused medicines with cannabis, according to Thomas Kerr, a researcher with the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

“This isn’t surprising and we’re seeing the same effect all over the place measured in different ways,” Dr. Kerr said. (Earlier this year, Dr. Kerr and his colleagues at the centre urged the Canadian medical establishment to embrace giving medical marijuana to pain patients instead of frequently abused opioids.)

The groups organizing hundreds of veterans in Atlantic Canada to take advantage of the country’s most robust medical-marijuana coverage have long argued that the drug was replacing other – more harmful – pharmaceuticals such as opioids (for pain relief) and benzodiazepines (for anxiety and insomnia).

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