This should come as no surprise to anyone. States with legal medical marijuana have seen a 25% drop in deaths from opioid overdoses in comparison to states without medical marijuana, according to a new, 10-year study.
As ABC News reports, the researchers conducting the study found that because “legalizing medical marijuana makes it more available to chronic pain patients, it provides a potentially less lethal alternative to pain control on a long-term basis.”
Drugs like Percocet, Vicodin, and the notoriously addictive OxyContin are intended to help patients deal with pain. Data is indicating that as those prescriptions go up in frequency, so do the deaths from them. Opioid deaths are sometimes as low as 25% lower in states that allow medical marijuana than in states that don’t.
13 states that allowed medical marijuana were looked at from 1999-2010, and those thirteen states had a lower rate of opioid mortality. The hypothesis is that patients have switched to marijuana, but it’s not entirely clear yet. “Among people who use opioids illicitly, a relatively high proportion of them also use marijuana,” says study author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber.
“I know many doctors struggle with the issue of who would be best to treat medical marijuana. There are some doctors who say that there is no valid medical use. I think that leaves a tremendous opportunity for future studies to help guide use to look at the risk and benefits and in clinical practice.” says Bachhuber.
These are interesting results for sure, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that marijuana is the cause for the decline. The findings warrant more research, especially with New York and Minnesota recently joining the other 13 states. One thing for sure is that if this is proven, it will be some serious talking-point ammunition for pro-marijuana initiatives.
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