Use of Alcohol, Pain Meds, and Sleep Aids Drops Sharply in Legal Marijuana Users, Finds Report

A new research report reveals a significant decrease in the amounts of alcohol, over-the-counter pain medications, and sleep aids consumed in states where recreational marijuana is legal.

Legal recreational marijuana consumers use less beer, spirits, painkillers, and sedatives, according to a new market research report from Chicago-based High Yield Insights.

Adding to a growing body of evidence that legal access to marijuana reduces the use of alcohol and certain medications, The Recreational Cannabis Consumer Report from High Yield Insights found that legal recreational marijuana consumers use 27 percent fewer over-the-counter pain medications, 22 percent fewer sleep aids, 21 percent fewer alcoholic spirits, and 20 percent fewer beer than consumers in states that have not legalized recreational marijuana.

The report also found reductions in prescription anxiety, pain, and depression medications with legalized marijuana use.

“We are just starting to grasp how legalization has impacted consumer behavior, be it spending, usage occasions or shopping habits,” Mike Luce, co-founder of High Yield Insights, said in a news release.

The report from High Yield Insights is meant to assess consumer behavior by recreational users in states where marijuana has been legalized. So far, nine U.S. states have legalized adult use marijuana.

“Understanding these changes will lead to new growth opportunities for cannabis and further disruption for other categories,” said Luce.

Nearly half of all marijuana consumers use cannabis multiple times per week, according to the research, while 16 percent of consumers use cannabis 3-4 times a month and 13 percent use it 1-2 times a month.

Recreational marijuana users aged 21 to 34 were found to more likely use cannabis while at home prior to going to bed, and at casual get-togethers. Most consumers aged 35 to 44 years were found to use marijuana while relaxing at home.

The report also found that senior adults are returning to using cannabis after having tried it when they were younger.

“[M]any older consumers (55+) are re-engaging with marijuana, with 56% reporting a return to marijuana after having tried cannabis products at a younger age,” said Luce.

The report revealed that consumers are interested in more convenient cannabis products, such as edibles and pre-rolled joints, and that in general they actively rely on a cannabis product’s packaging to understand its effects.

The research also found that 65 percent of respondents in the report view marijuana legalization as positive for their communities.

Marijuana Over Alcohol and Meds

The market research report from High Yield Insights is the latest evidence to indicate that greater access to marijuana is associated with a drop in alcohol and painkiller use. In Aspen, Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been legal since 2012, marijuana sales now surpass those of alcohol.

Earlier this year, researchers found the legalization of medical marijuana to be directly associated with falling alcohol sales. This month, medical marijuana was found to reduce opioid use by older adults, while earlier research revealed that cannabis is being used in place of other prescription drugs.

Today nearly all Americans consider marijuana to be safer than alcohol. More than 1 of 4 adults have already substituted beer for cannabis or plan to do so in the future, while 51 percent of millennials now opt for cannabis instead of beer, wine, and spirits.

Learn More about Cannabis

You can keep up with changes to cannabis laws by following our news page, and learn more about which states have legalized marijuana by visiting our education page.