A recent study investigating the impact of CBD availability on opioid prescriptions has revealed that although legalizing CBD alone does not automatically reduce the rate of opioid prescriptions, making legal CBD products readily available and affordable has significantly reduced the number of opioid prescriptions by approximately 8.1%.
The study, which was recently published in the “Journal of Southern Economics,” suggests that three key factors impact the opioid crisis: prescription CBD legalization, regulations that limit CBD purchases and access through CBD dispensaries.
To conduct the study, the authors scrutinized state laws concerning restricted-access, CBD-only regulations in states such as Texas, Iowa and Tennessee from 2010 to 2019, which allowed the prescription of CBD products to patients with specific medical conditions. The study acknowledges that during this period, the CBD market was expanding rapidly, with over-the-counter (OTC) use growing at the fastest rate. However, in the early stages of the study, OTC CBD products were not generally accessible because the majority of states had not yet created industrial hemp programs until 2016.
While the presence of CBD dispensaries appeared to have a meaningful impact on reducing opioid prescriptions, this benefit was nullified when strict rules governing CBD access were in place. Additional regulations, such as ID requirements and patient registries, almost entirely negated the positive effects of CBD dispensaries on opioid reduction.
The study indicates that legalizing CBD alone decreased the number of opioid prescriptions, although not as significantly as comprehensive recreational and medical laws. States that had legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes tended to prescribe fewer opioids per 100 residents than states that did not. However, these regions also tended to have healthier populations and higher concentrations of medical professionals, indicating that the variations in opioid use could not be exclusively related to the legalization of cannabis.
Prescription rates for opioids generally decreased during the research period, most likely as a result of the rise in overdose deaths involving opioids. Between 2010 and 2018, states with medical cannabis laws saw a 35% decline in the number of opioid prescriptions, while states without any kind of cannabis legalization saw a 33% decrease.
The findings of the study indicate that the imposition of ID checks or patient registries for CBD purchases did not significantly affect the rates of opioid prescriptions, even in states where CBD dispensaries are present. This, according to the study, underscores the notion that regulatory barriers may impede the potential advantages of legalizing CBD for tackling the opioid problem.
The study concludes by highlighting the need for legislators to carefully weigh the trade-offs between limiting access and regulating CBD for quality since strong regulations impede CBD’s significant influence on the rates of opioid prescriptions.
The evolving laws around CBD and marijuana permitting enterprises such as Cronos Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CRON) (TSX: CRON) to bring innovative products onto the market could help patients find alternatives to opioids and thereby put the brakes on the escalating opioid crisis.
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