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Rates of Alcohol, Nicotine, & Opioid Use Decrease as Cannabis Legalization Expands

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

In a study conducted by the University of Washington, researchers analyzed data pulled from 2014 to 2019 on post-legalization substance-use trends among 12,694 adults using “six annual waves of cross-sectional survey data."

The results of the study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that "people aged 21-25 were less likely to consume the arguably more dangerous drugs post-legalization in the state."

The study's abstract states: "Contrary to concerns about spillover effects, implementation of legalized nonmedical cannabis coincided with decreases in alcohol and cigarette use and pain reliever misuse."

It added that although the association of cannabis use with the use of other substances requires more research, the results of this study indicate the importance of increased research into cannabis as a tool for substance use prevention and treatment efforts.

This is not the first study to identify the association between legalization and reduced substance use:

Another recent study also found that "marijuana legalization is associated with decreased use of prescription drugs for the treatment of conditions such as anxiety, sleep, pain and seizures;"

Last year, an additional research study concluded that medical cannabis use is linked to "significant reductions" in opioid dependence, as well as an increased quality of life;

A 2020 "meta-study" also concluded that cannabis shows promise as an alternative option for chronic pain as opposed to opioid-based painkillers;

And in 2019, a team of researchers determined that states with adult-use or medical programs saw a decrease in opioid prescriptions.

"Real-word data from legalization states disputes longstanding claims that cannabis is some sort of 'gateway' substance," says NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano in a blog post on the subject. "In fact, in many instances, cannabis regulation is associated with the decreased use of other substances, including many prescription medications."


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