Medical marijuana has likely saved the lives of several prescription painkiller addicts in states with legal access.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Associationfound that the rate of deaths related to painkillers were 25 percent lower on average in states with legal medical marijuana laws, when compared to states where cannabis is still illegal.
According to study’s lead author and researcher, Marcus Bachhuber, MD:
“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.”
“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.”
The JAMA findings seem to support a 2015 Columbia University study that found smoking cannabis can help painkiller addicts by reducing the severity of withdrawals and health symptoms related to opioid abuse.
A considerable amount of lives could be further saved throughout the U.S., as 20 states have reported marijuana legalization measures for the 2016 election.
Despite the remarkable findings, researchers believe more research must be conducted as more states consider passing marijuana law reform.
“Given the fast pace of policy change, more research is critical to understand how medical marijuana laws might be influencing both overdose deaths and the health trajectories of individuals suffering from chronic pain,” Bachhuber adds.