New research suggests that marijuana users may be more likely than nonusers to misuse prescription opioids and develop prescription opioid use disorder. The study was conducted by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, and Columbia University.
The investigators analyzed data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, which interviewed more than 43,000 American adults in 2001-2002, and followed up with more than 34,000 of them in 2004-2005. The analysis indicated that respondents who reported past-year marijuana use in their initial interview had 2.2 times higher odds than nonusers of meeting DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for prescription opioid use disorder by the follow-up. They also had 2.6 times greater odds of initiating prescription opioid misuse, defined as using a drug without a prescription, in higher doses, for longer periods, or for other reasons than prescribed.
A number of recent papers suggest that marijuana may reduce prescription opioid addiction and overdoses by providing an alternate or complementary pain relief option. That suggestion is partly based on comparisons of aggregate data from states that legalized marijuana for medical use vs. those that didn’t. In contrast, the current study focuses on individual marijuana users vs. nonusers and their trajectories with regard to opioid misuse and disorders. These findings are in-line with previous research demonstrating that people who use marijuana are more likely than non-users to use other drugs and develop problems with drug use.
For a copy of the paper, go to – "Cannabis Use and Risk of Prescription Opioid Use Disorder in the United States" – published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
For information about the link between marijuana use and increased risk of addiction to other drugs, go to: www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/latest-science/marijuana-use-raises-sud-risk.