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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Substitution of marijuana for opioids in a national survey of US adults.

  • Author(s): Ishida, Julie H
  • Wong, Peggy O
  • Cohen, Beth E
  • Vali, Marzieh
  • Steigerwald, Stacey
  • Keyhani, Salomeh
  • et al.

Opioid prescriptions for chronic pain and subsequent opioid-related complications have risen dramatically in the US. Recent data suggest that medical marijuana laws have been associated with lower state-level opioid overdose mortality. In a national survey, we examined the prevalence of substitution of marijuana for opioids among US adults taking opioids for pain.Using GfK's KnowledgePanel, we conducted an Internet-based survey of a nationally representative sample of 16,280 adults in 2017 about individual perceptions and use of marijuana. We developed questions designed to assess the extent and reasons for substitution of marijuana for opioids. We examined opioid substitution among respondents with a history of ever using marijuana who used opioids in the past 12 months. There were 9,003 respondents, corresponding to a 55.3% response rate. The mean age was 48 years. Among the 5% (n = 486) who reported ever using marijuana and using opioids in the past year, 43% used opioids daily, and 23% reported current (past 30 day) marijuana use. Forty-one percent reported a decrease or cessation of opioid use due to marijuana use; 46% reported no change in opioid use; and 8% reported an increase in opioid use. We found that a substantial number of US adults reported that they substituted marijuana for opioids.

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