Study: ‘Cannabis light’ used in Italy in place of sedatives, antidepressants

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(A version of this story first appeared at Hemp Industry Daily.)

Sales in Italy of so-called “cannabis light” – low-THC and CBD-rich flowers derived from hemp – have been linked to a drop in purchases of different medications, indicating some patients chose to abandon prescription drugs in favor of self-medication with an unregulated CBD-based therapy.

A new study in the Journal of Health Economics found that the availability of “cannabis light” – flowers from high-CBD hemp plants with up to 0.6% THC – in Italy was connected to:
  • An 11.5% decrease in dispensed boxes of anxiolytics (anti-anxiety medications).
  • A 10% reduction of dispensed sedatives.
  • A 4.8% reduction of dispensed antipsychotics.

“The large-scale accessibility to the new product, which was advertised as a relaxant one, induced some patients to abandon traditional medicine to seek relief,” the authors concluded.

The study examined monthly drug sales from an Italian association of pharmacy owners from January 2016 to February 2018. Italian authorities have since cracked down on the products.

The economists who wrote the study suggested that cannabis availability leads some to self-medicate and abandon prescribed medications, even when the prescribed medications are paid for by the government.

More information about the study and the economists’ takeaways are available here.