Opioid Prescriptions Decline in Canada Following Cannabis Legalization

Author: Ali Khan |

The legalization of cannabis in Canada, a groundbreaking move for the country, led the way for a decline in opioid prescriptions across the nation, according to a recent study from the University of Toronto and published in Applied Health Economics and Health Policy regarding opiate prescription rates.

“On 17 October 2018 recreational cannabis became legal in Canada, thereby increasing access and reducing the stigma associated with its use for pain management,” the study’s abstract explains in an overview of the findings. “This study assessed total opioid prescribing volumes and expenditures prior to and following cannabis legalization.”

Opioid Prescriptions Before And After Cannabis Legalization

The study specifically looked at how many opioids were prescribed in Canada before and after legalization, as well as money spent on opioids. The period observed was January 2016 to June 2019, and all data is taken from that span of time. 

“Total monthly opioid spending was also reduced to a greater extent post legalization ($267,000 vs. $95,000 per month),” the study explained regarding the connection the study noticed.. “The findings were similar for private drug plans; however, the absolute drop in opioid use was more pronounced (76.9 vs. 30.8 mg/claim). Over the 42-month period, gabapentin and pregabalin usage also declined.”

“Consistent with the findings of other ecological studies, researchers determined, ‘The legalization of cannabis coincided with a marked drop in opioid volumes prescribed in Canada.’” the official report on the study’s findings concluded.