States with Legal Marijuana See Reduction in Painkiller-Related Deaths

By: Timothy Bidon

Could legalized medical marijuana be making a dent in painkiller-related deaths in America? A new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that in states with legalized marijuana, prescription painkiller deaths have reduced, on average, 20%.

According to the study, states with medical marijuana laws on the books had a 24.8% lower average annual opioid overdose mortality rate than states without any legal cannabis laws. The study, which took place over the course of multiple years, has proven a direct causative effect between medical marijuana laws and reduction in painkiller overdoses.

This new study gives further credibility to the growing consensus that medical marijuana should be considered a viable treatment for patients suffering from debilitating prescription painkiller addictions. A study conducted at Columbia University in 2015 found that in their sample of 60 patients who have an opiate dependency, consumption of THC drastically reduced withdrawal symptoms and made the patients more likely to complete the 8-week addiction treatment regimen.

While more federal funding is desperately needed for medical marijuana to gain the traction it deserves in treating opiate addiction, studies like these indicate a continual shift in public opinion and understanding surrounding medical marijuana. Indeed, as many as 20 states are preparing to evaluate marijuana legalization laws in 2016 alone.

This shift in opinion could not be coming at a more critical moment. As of last year, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that, on average, 44 Americans die of prescription painkiller overdoses on a daily basis. In 2013, prescription drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in America. It’s estimated that opioid addiction costs the American economy approximately $55.7 billion annually through lost productivity in the workplace, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and further criminal justice costs, as well.

It’s abundantly clear that prescription opioid addiction and overdose is now too large a public health issue to ignore. The scientific community is beginning to assert that medical marijuana could be among one of the solutions. The question now is whether legislative bodies will see the writing on the walls.

Lead image source: Smart Recovery Australia