Recreational cannabis legalization and opioid-related deaths in Colorado, 2000-2015

Melvin D. Livingston, Tracey E. Barnett, Chris Delcher, Alexander C. Wagenaar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Objectives.To examine the association between Colorado's legalization of recreational cannabis use and opioid-related deaths. Methods.Weused an interrupted time-series design (2000-2015) to compare changes in level and slope of monthly opioid-related deaths before and after Colorado stores began selling recreational cannabis.We also describe the percent change in opioid-related deaths by comparing the unadjusted model-smoothed number of deaths at the end of follow-up with the number of deaths just prior to legalization. Results. Colorado's legalization of recreational cannabis sales and use resulted in a 0.7 deaths per month (b = -0.68; 95% confidence interval = -1.34, -0.03) reduction in opioid-related deaths. This reduction represents a reversal of the upward trend in opioid-related deaths in Colorado. Conclusions. Legalization of cannabis in Colorado was associated with short-term reductions in opioid-related deaths. As additional data become available, research should replicate these analyses in other states with legal recreational cannabis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1827-1829
Number of pages3
JournalAmerican Journal of Public Health
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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