25% Drop In Prescription Drug Fatalities Thanks To Medicinal Marijuana

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A new study reveals that states where medical marijuana is legal experience around one-quarter fewer deaths from prescription drug overdoses, signaling perhaps a small victory for proponents of pot’s alleged pain-alleviating powers.

According to the study published in the latest installment of JAMA Internal Medicine, the 13 states in America that have legalized the use of medical marijuana for patients with valid prescriptions see a 24.8 percent lower annual opioid overdose rate that those where weed can’t legally be offered to treat ailments.

Dr. Marcus A. Bachhuber of the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center writes in the study that“States that implemented medical marijuana laws appear to have lower annual opioid analgesic overdoses death rates (both from prescription pain killers and illicit drugs such as heroin) than states without such laws,” but acknowledged that the exact reason isn’t quite clear at this point.

“Prescriptions for opioid painkillers for chronic pain have increased in the United States and so have overdose deaths. However, less attention has been focused on how the availability of alternative nonopioid treatment, such as medical marijuana, may affect overdose rates,” his team wrote.

Now after reviewing overdose rates across the US from 1999 through 2010, Dr. Bachhuber and his colleagues determined that states with legal weed witness fewer overdoses.

“As our awareness of the addiction and overdose risks associated with use of opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin grows, individuals with chronic pain and their medical providers may be opting to treat pain entirely or in part with medical marijuana, in states where this is legal,” Colleen L. Barry, PhD, a senior author of the study, said in a statement.

Despite identifying what could be a trend, however, the researchers fell short of attributing lax pot laws on the lack of ODs.

“In summary, although we found a lower mean annual rate of opioid analgesic mortality in states with medical cannabis laws, a direct causal link cannot be established,” the researchers wrote. “If the relationship between medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose mortality is substantiated in further work, enactment of laws to allow for use of medical cannabis may be advocated as part of a comprehensive package of policies to reduce the population risk of opioid analgesics.”

Indeed, a review of the research published alongside the study in JAMA prompted Dr. Marie J. Hayes and Dr. Mark S. Brown to ask questions about how the study may prompt future changes in jurisdictions where weed can’t legally be prescribed.

“If medical marijuana laws afford a protective effect, it is not clear why. If the decline in opioid analgesic-related overdose deaths is explained, as claimed by the authors, by increased access to medical marijuana as an adjuvant medication for patients taking prescription opioids, does this mean that marijuana provides improved pain control that decreases opioid dosing to safer levels?” the doctors opined. “The potential protective role of medical marijuana in opioid analgesic-associated mortality and its implication for public policy is a fruitful area for future work.”

The latest report was put together with evidence from the 13 states where medical marijuana was legal through 2010, although 10 more have since followed suit, as well as Washington, DC. As of this year, recreational marijuana is legal for adults in the states of Washington and Colorado.

This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license.

  • Rafael Espericueta

    Another way legalizing marijuana would reduce drug fatalities (and less than fatal damage to peoples’ brains and bodies) – stop drug-testing people for cannabinoids.
    So many end up taking truly dangerous and addicting drugs (like alcohol, etc.) instead of harmless cannabis, for fear of drug-test results causing them to lose their jobs. Dangerous drugs leave one’s system so don’t show up on these tests so easily, whereas cannabis shows up weeks after it was used. Cannabis has been shown time and time again to have no effect on traffic accident rates (there’s increasing evidence that it actually lowers accident rates), and when someone uses alcohol instead of cannabis, they are much more prone to hurt others and themselves while drunk. There is so much false propaganda about cannabis, and it goes back to about 1913 when Randolph Hearst started publishing his “reefer madness” articles about how marijuana caused Latinos and “Negros” to go criminally insane and commit violent acts (often against white women). This is the basis of our absurd laws against this harmless herb, which far from merely harmless, has more valid medicinal uses than any other plant known to man (or to woman). It’s time for the “reefer madness” nonsense to stop, especially the parts of it that are funded by our hard-earned tax dollars.

    • FREE INDIVIDUAL

      It goes back thousands of years! Please read the book I suggest at the end of my comment. Great post and thank you for speaking out.

  • FREE INDIVIDUAL

    No question this is a huge factor of why ganja has prohibitions against it. Along with that we have a goon-thug force backed by many ignorant people and lots of money that will bust down the door of a peaceful cannabis consumers home shoot/murder their family pet, pistol whip mothers and grandmothers, steal property, CPS peoples children, beat and or murder the man of the house and for sure cost all of the family lots of money and heartbreak many times ending in breaking apart families causing untold heartbreak. That is all fact and no doubt everyone that supports prohibition against cannabis is an ignorant evil, vile person. But let us not forget the other industries that would along with big deadly Pharma crumble over night if the male version of cannabis “hemp” was cultivated. Timber, cotton, corn, soy, oil, ect. Cannabis really is the “Tree of Life”. The plant is far more profound than many realize. This knowledge and much, much more illumination is why I calmly pray and meditate many times daily for the death of everyone that supports the terrorizing of peaceful cannabis consumers. And lets face it part of the reason the so-called laws are changing is many of these die hard prohibitionists are dying off from old age. The funny thing is they are dying from disease in part caused by pollution because of using the wrong resources rather than the male hemp plant AND their final days they could have a better quality of life if they consumed female cannabis flowers! For another, maybe the most important part of the history of cannabis prohibition please read the book “Cannabis and the Soma Solution” by Chris Bennett *Forbidden Fruit Publishing.

    • granny’s little helper

      While I agree with much of what you wrote, I implore you to pray and meditate for positive conversions and outcomes rather than negative.

      Also hemp can be male or female cannabis plants bred for maximum production of fiberous stalk or seed. Fiber hemp is sown extremely dense to force maximum growth from the main stalk. It is cut when male pollen flies and then retted and further processed for fiber and hurd. Oil/seed hemp is sown with greater distance between the plants, similar to medicinal/drug cannabis. Harvest occurs when the seeds are mature.

      The differences between hemp and prohibited cannabis is not based on gender of the plant, but on THC content of the plant. Many if not most male plants from medicinal cultivars would have too high of a THC content to qualify as hemp, particularly if sampled near the growth tips of the plant. Some high CBD medicinal cultivars are attempting to gain approval as hemp. This would open the market for CBD concentrates not refined from Chineese hemp sludge.

      Lets all pray for sanity, compassion, and reason to rule future policies regarding this wonderful plant.

      • FREE INDIVIDUAL

        Yes I do pray for peace, love and understanding over all yet I understand human nature and that is tribal. I’m a mirror, wish me and my tribe (family) harm and I want that tribe “gone”. Thank you for bringing the love vibe just for the sake of love with no divisive tribal human nature in the way. The folks in Colorado that grow the CBD strain Charoletts Web that helps children (and adults) with seizures is considered hemp by low THC content however I’m not sure they have got it classified as such so they could grow more to help more people. I’m sure the “caring” tribe at the big Pharma Co’s do not want that….. keep pushing!