States with Legalized Marijuana Reported Fewer Prescription Overdoses
September 2nd, 2014
Policy, Top News
States that have legalized medical marijuana have lower rates of fatal overdoses from prescription medications, according to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers compared the death rate in 13 U.S. states where medical marijuana has been legalized and found a 25% reduction in prescription drug overdose death each year compared to states where medical marijuana is illegal.
The study’s authors believe that people suffering from chronic pain tend to reply on medical marijuana when they have the option, which reduces the risk of addiction and overdose that’s involved with the use of narcotic medications. However, critics of the study insist that there is a very loose association between the two, saying that they’d take caution in saying that there’s more than a correlation.
Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have skyrocketed over the past two decades, increasing nearly 120% between 1999 and 2011, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The agency believes that more than 100 people die every day from drug overdoses in the U.S., with another 6,700 ending up in the emergency room for treatment from overdoses.
Currently, there are 23 U.S. states that have legalized medical marijuana, including two states that have legalized recreational marijuana. The growing evidence in support of medical marijuana has led to numerous ballot measures in the upcoming November 2014 elections setting the stage for broader acceptance. As a result, these trends could lead to a further decrease in prescription drug abuse and overdose.
“In absolute terms, states with a medical marijuana law had about 1,700 fewer opioid painkiller overdose deaths in 2010 than would be expected based on trends before the laws were passed,” said lead author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber, a researcher with the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
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