States with Recreational Cannabis See a Reduction in Mental Health Treatments Says New Study

August 11, 2023 ·

States With Legal Recreational Weed See A Reduction In Mental Health Treatment

New Study Shows Other Positive Benefits Of Adult Use Laws

Marijuana is not only a safe drug, it benefits society as a whole.

There have been several studies pointing to the societal benefits of cannabis because the truth is that – it is simply not harmful to families and society, the way prohibitionists say it is. In fact, the opposite is true: studies have been showing that legalizing cannabis makes cities safer in more ways than one.

recent study even shows that states with legalized recreational cannabis have seen a drop in mental health treatment. The study, which was published in Health Economics, analyzed data taken from 10 states with recreational weed. “Recreational marijuana laws (RMLs) continue to grow in popularity, but the effects on mental health treatment are unclear,” says study author Alberto Ortega, who is also a professor at Indiana University’s O’Neill School of Public Health.

Ortega further discusses the study’s framework, which he says utilizes event study techniques so that the researchers could have a better understanding of the short-term effects of recreational cannabis laws on admissions in mental health treatment centers. “The results indicate that shortly after a state adopts an RML, they experience a decrease in the average number of mental health treatment admissions,” writes Ortega. “The findings are driven by white, Black, and Medicaid-funded admissions and are consistent for both male and female admissions. The results are robust to alternative specifications and sensitive analysis,” he says.

Furthermore, he says they observed a 37% reduction in admission to mental health facilities, which translates to around 92 fewer out of 10,000 people in the state.

Ortega acknowledged data limitations, but he does suggest that legal recreational marijuana laws increase cannabis consumption, which has positive benefits for mental health. He also says that those people who do need mental health treatment can make use of legal cannabis to substitute treatment, thanks to the law.

It’s also not surprising to see a correlation between states seeing a drop in psychiatric drugs when cannabis is available. For instance, a study conducted by researchers from the University of Florida over the course of three months on middle-aged patients with chronic pain found that not only was cannabis beneficial for chronic pain; it also helped reduce the need for psychiatric as well as pain medications.

Mental Health Benefits Of Cannabis Are Well-Known

There are many studies – including anecdotal evidence, that cannabis supports and helps mental health problems. Anxiety and depression are among the most common reasons people use cannabis, but it has also been shown to provide tremendous benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, and much more. So it isn’t surprising that legalizing cannabis will indeed reduce the pressure on mental health institutions.

Case in point: a new study which was published in Psychopharmacology found that cannabis-based medications were beneficial for improving quality of life, sleep, and symptom severity among people who were struggling with anxiety. Given how common anxiety disorders are, providing safe options for individuals is essential in order to help them restore their quality of life.

The study, which was conducted in the United Kingdom, involved analyzing selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), as well as other pharmaceutical drugs which are widely prescribed to treat generalized anxiety disorders. The need for finding other alternatives is emphasized by the fact that many people don’t respond well to these treatments, plus they take several weeks to be effective and even when they do work, come with a host of unwanted side effects.

“Since medical cannabis first became available in the UK for specialist doctors to prescribe to eligible patients in 2018, it has been clear to us that it is important to grow the evidence base on the efficacy and safety of these products,” says Simon Erridge, author of the study and research head for Sapphire Medical Clinics, which houses patient data for those who have been prescribed cannabis-based medicines.

For the study, they pored through information taken from 302 patients. They specifically sought to analyze anxiety symptoms as well as health outcomes using standardized questions.

They found that the patients who were treated with cannabis-based medications saw great improvements in all metrics including anxiety symptoms, sleep, and health-related quality of life. These improvements were observed at a month, 3 months, and up to 6 months following their cannabis prescriptions. Half of the patients experienced clinically significant decreases in their anxiety symptoms.

There are several older studies as well. In 2018, a first-of-its-kind study found that marijuana smoking is effective in reducing stress, depression, and anxiety even in the short term. What made this study different was that the authors analyzed the effects of inhaled marijuana, which was consumed by the participants in the comfort of their homes as opposed to a laboratory administration of cannabis pills, which is commonly used in studies.


The growing consumer interest in marijuana products for helping to treat a wide range of mental health conditions is strongly backed up by science. Not only do THC, CBD, or a combination of these cannabinoids help us cope with everyday anxiety and stress, but they are also beneficial for treatment-resistant conditions including PTSD, OCDC, addictions, and so much more. Access to legal cannabis through recreational or medical consumption laws provide us consumers with a broader range of alternative medications, as opposed to harmful prescription drugs that often do not work and have horrible side effects.

We will likely see even more studies proving the benefits of cannabis for mental health, and the more states continue to legalize it, the more it can positively impact communities it’s legal in. (Full Story)

In category:Research
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