Medical marijuana and healthcare issues have been on the US national radar for a while now. Naturally, the attention is quickly turning to where the two aspects overlap – the effects of medical cannabis on healthcare and whether or not it can ease the medical budgeting burden. Many medical marijuana proponents believe that legalizing marijuana and moving its sale from the black market to the average American lifestyle can have positive effects in healthcare costs.
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While it’s true that unregulated marijuana use can cause some people to experience ‘couch-lock’ or become lackadaisical, that behavior often has no detrimental effects. The only cost associated with such behavior is lowered productivity, but that is nothing compared to the detrimental effects of other legal alternatives such as alcohol and tobacco smoking.
How Medical Marijuana Can Ease Medical Budgeting Issues
If marijuana becomes legalized across the nation, more people will probably use it for recreational and medical purposes. However, the true cost saving comes when more people begin to use cannabis in lieu of cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that the economic impact of cigarette smoking for a period of three years — between 2009 and 2012 — summed up to $289 billion. Out of that, medical care costs that emanated from direct tobacco smoking accounted for $133 billion, plus $156 billion in lost productivity. Statistics from 2006 even revealed that there was an additional loss of $5.6 billion from second-hand smoke. Despite these startling numbers, approximately 480,000 lives are lost annually as a result of cigarette smoking.
Another legal intoxicant, alcohol exacts even a higher economic toll on the nation. Time Magazine reported that in the year 2006, the US lost $223.5 billion as a result of alcohol use alone, and the number might have climbed higher by now. Out of that, 11% went into healthcare costs and 8% on fetal alcohol syndrome and other associated disorders.
Now imagine if a considerable portion of those people opted for marijuana or other associated cannabis products instead of cigarettes or alcohol. With no hangover, little chances of an overdose, and minimal evidence of causing chronic diseases, marijuana use can save the nation billions of dollars in medical budgets every year.
Cost Savings for Marijuana Users
Even as more studies are done around medical marijuana and data becomes available to back the health benefits of the herb, things could significantly change over the coming years. It already appears that medical marijuana is a much safer alternative to alcohol and cigarettes, both of which are legal. Even marijuana misuse has not gotten to the levels of prescription drug misuse, something that already worries medical practitioners.
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Several research findings in the medical cannabis arena also indicate that marijuana use has numerous disease-fighting effects. And as the cost of prescription drugs continues to soar, it might be the right time to consider medical marijuana for various treatments.
There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that medical marijuana can actually fight certain cancers and treat a myriad of diseases, including narcolepsy and eating disorders. Right now, a number of pharmaceutical companies make massive profits from selling prescription drugs to manage many of these chronic diseases and disorders. Sadly, the hefty price tags put these drugs out of reach for most patients.
According to most pharmaceutical companies, the high price tag is often associated with the development and research costs, and the only way to recoup the costs and stay in business it to pass down the cost to patients. However, if marijuana, a natural herb that literally grows in ditches across the world, can be professionally synthesized and used to treat such ailments, patients can save an enormous amount of money.
There is doubt that medical marijuana could, and likely will, reduce health care costs in many respects. New research findings now indicate that states that legalized medical marijuana — which is mostly recommended for symptoms such as anxiety, chronic pain, or depression — registered declines in the number of Medicare prescriptions for medications used to treat those conditions. They also recorded a dip in spending by Medicare Part D, which typically covers the cost of prescription medications.
The study examined data from Medicare Part D between the years 2010 and 2013. This is the first study to examine whether medical cannabis legalization can change doctors’ clinical practice and whether it could lower public health costs. As more lawmakers show interest in medical marijuana, states like Ohio and Pennsylvania have already passed laws that allow the use of medical cannabis for therapeutic purposes, legalizing the practice in 25 states, including Washington D.C. A federal agency is now considering reclassifying medical cannabis under national drug policy to make it more widely available.
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