Medical marijuana may cut painkiller deaths
A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found there are fewer deaths from painkiller overdoses in states where medical marijuana is legal.
Researchers looked at painkiller overdoses between 1999 and 2010 in 13 states that have legalized medical marijuana. The rate of painkiller overdoses increased across the board during those years, but states where medical marijuana is legal had a decreased rate of painkiller overdoses by 25 percent compared to states that had not legalized medical marijuana. The percentage of painkiller overdoses steadily decreased over the study period. By 2010, there were 1,700 fewer deaths than would be expected.
This study is one of the first to record population-level data that shows the potential benefits of medical marijuana. However, the study is not clear about how medical marijuana could influence opioid user behaviors. It is speculated that people who had prescriptions for painkillers may now be using medical marijuana more often to deal with chronic pain.
The researchers acknowledged that further studies are needed to better understand this potential connection.