Do Medical Pot Laws Curb Fatal Opiate Overdoses?

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This photo shows marijuana that has been designated for medical use. The picture was taken by Heather Fazio, political director for the Marijuana Policy Project in Texas, at Medicine Man, a marijuana store in Colorado.

A new study reveals that there are almost 25 percent fewer opiate overdoses in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without them.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine last week, looked at death certificate data in all 50 states, 13 of which had medical marijuana laws on the books, between 1999 and 2010.

“States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate

compared with states without medical cannabis laws. Examination of the association between medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose mortality in each year after implementation of the law showed that such laws were associated with a lower rate of overdose mortality that generally strengthened over time,” the authors wrote.

According to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention fact sheet, 55 percent, or 22,810, of the 41,340 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2011 were related to pharmaceuticals. Of those 22,810 deaths, 74 percent of the cases involved opioid analgesics, or painkillers. Additionally, in 2011, there were 1.4 million emergency room visits because of nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals, 420,040 of which were related to opioids.

Because of the study’s results, its authors think a look at “further investigation” to figure our how medical marijuana interacts with policies aimed at preventing opioid analgesic overdose.

 

 

 

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