A Tennessee Doctor on Medical Cannabis, Big Pharma & Alcohol

Photo courtesy of Matthew Hine, M.D. MHP

Medical cannabis for pain and anxiety – Big Pharma and Big Booze are worried.

There’s no argument. Many studies show marijuana (cannabis) cuts the unbearable neuropathic pain of diabetes.

But the benefits of medical cannabis extend to many other areas… and now threaten some very large campaign contributors, namely manufacturers of opioids, benzodiazepines and alcohol.


An early warning sign was the the 2014 survey by the National Pain Foundation that asked over 1300 fibromyalgia patients to rate the effectiveness of the 3 FDA approved drugs. They also asked about medical marijuana.

The results were not encouraging for Big Pharma.

Although the FDA approved fibromyalgia drugs generate huge sales for Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Forest Laboratories, more than half the patients who tried their drugs found them totally worthless…. no help at all. In contrast, more than 50% of the patients who tried cannabis found it “very effective”.

Another 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that opioid overdoses and deaths declined an average of 25% in states that had instituted medical cannabis programs. In addition, the longer medical cannabis was legal, the stronger the impact on reducing opioid overdose deaths. It was suggested that patients might be substituting cannabis for the opioid pain medication.

Were they?

Jump ahead to this year, and the question is answered.

A study published this April in the International Journal of Drug Policy finds 63% of medical cannabis users substituted cannabis for prescription drugs, mostly opioids and anxiety medication, and 25% had cut drinking alcohol.

Then in May, a study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology revealed over 75% of regular opioids users cut their dose once they started cannabis. 72% decreased the use of anti-anxiety medication, 65%cut back on sleep medication, and 42% reduced their use of alcohol.

This was followed by a September article in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine explaining patients with chronic medical conditions used medical cannabis as an alternative to prescription medications, or used it to wean off their prescription meds for pain.

Now, a study just published in the American Journal of Public Health shows what happens to opioid deaths after recreational (non-medical) cannabis was allowed for all adults of the state of Colorado.

Researchers looked at the 14 year trend prior to the law that regulates cannabis like alcohol.

During those 14 years there was a big increase in opioid-related deaths in Colorado. But following theapproval of recreational cannabis, there was a 6.5% decrease in opioid-related deaths.

Although researchers can’t definitively say legal access to cannabis for all adults caused the decline in opioid-related deaths, they did control for factors that might have influenced the results.

Since patients in a medical cannabis program cut their use of opioids, it’s no shock that adults with access to recreational cannabis do the same.

It should also come as no surprise that some of the largest contributors to defeat recreational cannabis initiatives are the pharmaceutical and alcohol lobbies.

Matthew Hine, M.D., M.P.H.

One Response to A Tennessee Doctor on Medical Cannabis, Big Pharma & Alcohol

  • “following theapproval of recreational cannabis, there was a 6.5% decrease in opioid-related deaths”

    TN just wants a few more tens of thousands of deaths and then they’ll approve it. Apparently traffic congestion is a thing.

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