Medical marijuana is used by those who suffer from a wide variety of ailments. However, it is most commonly used for anxiety, depression and pain. Traditionally, these are issues that are treated by pharmaceuticals. While medical marijuana and pharmaceuticals share this similarity, there are big differences between the two.
Medical marijuana is a natural organic alternative medicine. It has few known side effects and the side effects that do exist haven’t impeded consumers’ quality of life. Also, medical marijuana can provide the same relief offered by pharmaceuticals without addicting consumers.
In states where medical marijuana has been legalized, there is evidence to suggest that pharmaceutical drug use is decreasing. A study, published by the Journal of Pain Research, surveyed users of marijuana to learn whether if this change from using prescription drugs to medical marijuana was intentional.


Pharmaceuticals are products created in a lab. They’re known for having long lists of side effects which can be extremely harmful to users. Painkillers and anti-anxiety medication, specifically, can be highly addictive, as well.
The prevalence of opioids has been an important, fast-growing issue that has developed into an epidemic in America. Five times more Americans died from prescription opioid overdoses in 2016 than in 1999. The most common opioids nationwide are hydrocodone, oxycodone and methadone.1
The state of Oklahoma, specifically, has been hit hard by the prescription and effects of opioids. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that 101.7 opioid prescriptions were written by medical providers per 100 people in Oklahoma during 2015. That’s 31.7 more prescriptions than the national average in 2015. Statista reported that 88 prescriptions for opioids were prescribed per 100 Oklahomans in 2017. In Oklahoma, the most common opioids are fentanyl, hydrocodone and oxycodone.1


2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 Prescribing rate per 100 persons Weeks 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0

All opioids / Overall High-dosage

Misuse and abuse of painkillers and anti-anxiety medication can be very harmful. Patients can take their medication sporadically, not using it on days they believe they’re feeling better and then overcorrect on days they’re feeling worse by doubling up their dosage. Patients can also use painkillers to help cope with stress or their mood rather than using appropriate medication to treat these issues.2
Opioids, specifically, can cause nausea and vomiting. They also have been known to cause a symptom known as pruritus, which is severely itchy skin. The highest rate of unintentional deaths due to prescriptions are from Opioids. 2

Oklahoma, 2012-2016

Substances involved in unintentional poisoning deaths

Prescriptions Drugs
Illicit opiates
Other / Unknown
67% 16% 8% 3% 3% 4%

Learn more about medical marijuana studies below.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioid Overdose. August 30, 2017; Accessed October 8, 2018
Pergolizzi JV, LeQuang JA, Berger GK, et al. The Basic Pharmacology of Opioids Informs the Opioid Discourse and Misuse and Abuse: A Review. Pain Ther. 2017;6:1-16