Study: States That Allow Medical Marijuana Have 33% Fewer Deaths From Prescription Opiates

Fewer people are overdosing on opioid painkillers in states that allow medical marijuana

In the past twenty years, addiction to prescription opioid painkillers has reached “epidemic” proportions, according to the CDC.

There are now more overdose deaths from prescription drugs than illegal drugs. 75% of those involve opiate painkillers like hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine.

Medical marijuana is helping change those numbers in states where it has been legalized, according to a new study published last week in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania looked at 10 years worth of death certificate data between 1999 and 2010 and found death by prescription painkillers were on average 25% less likely in the 13 states that allowed medical marijuana during that time period.

More specifically, deaths by opioid painkillers were 33% lower, saving around 1700 lives per year.

No one has ever died from a marijuana overdose.

“The striking implication is that  marijuana laws, when implemented, may represent a promising approach for stemming runaway rates of nonintentional opioid-analgesic-related deaths,” wrote opiate abuse researchers Dr. Mark S. Brown and Marie J. Hayes in a commentary published alongside the study.

“Opioid medications are problematic as a treatment for chronic pain,” they added. “Opioid pharmaceuticals cause other adverse effects when used for long periods, such as tolerance, hyperalgesia, and gastrointestinal complications, making this class of drugs a poor choice for long-term use.”

Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states as of this year.