Navigation Links
Fewer Painkiller Deaths in States With Medical Marijuana: Study

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Aug. 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- States that have legalized medical marijuana tend to experience an unexpected benefit -- fewer overdose deaths from narcotic painkillers, a new study suggests.

Access to medical marijuana is associated with 25 percent fewer prescription drug overdose deaths each year compared to states where medical pot is illegal, according to findings published Aug. 25 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

What's more, states that pass medical marijuana laws see their overdose death rates decrease dramatically in the years immediately afterward, researchers reported.

The study authors believe that people suffering from chronic pain tend to rely on medical marijuana when they have that option, which reduces the risk of addiction and overdose that accompanies use of narcotic medications.

"We think that people with chronic pain may be choosing to treat their pain with marijuana rather than with prescription painkillers, in states where this is legal," said lead author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber, a researcher with the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

But some experts caution against drawing conclusions from the study.

"I don't know what to make of the paper. I'd be very, very careful saying that medical marijuana laws decrease risk of opiate [narcotic] overdose," said Dr. Bradley Flansbaum, a hospitalist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "It's a very loose association."

The study used data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine the prescription painkiller overdose death rate for each state between 1999 and 2010, and then took into account whether and when each state had passed a medical marijuana law.

Overdose deaths from prescription painkillers have skyrocketed over the past two decades, increasing 118 percent between 1999 and 2011, according to the CDC.

The agency estimates that every day 113 people die from drug overdoses in the United States, and another 6,700 land in the emergency room from an overdose.

Currently, 23 states allow medical marijuana to ease chronic pain and other conditions.

The researchers reviewed death certificates from all states between 1999 and 2010, when 13 states had legalized marijuana.

Since 2010, another 10 states and Washington, D.C., have adopted similar laws, the researchers said.

While overdose deaths have risen in all states, Bachhuber and his colleagues found that the annual average number of deaths caused by painkillers is nearly 25 percent less in states with medical marijuana laws.

"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," Bachhuber said.

States' overdose death rates decline an average 20 percent in the first year following the passage of a medical marijuana law, the researchers found. By the second year, overdose death rates on average decline 25 percent, and as much as 33 percent by five years after legalization of medical pot.

Medical marijuana laws also are associated with a more dramatic decrease in overdose death rates than other means commonly used to tackle prescription drug abuse, the study noted.

For example, prescription drug monitoring programs are associated with an average 3.7 percent increase in overdose deaths, compared with a 24.8 percent decline associated with medical pot legalization, according to the study.

Increased state oversight of pain management clinics is associated with a 7.6 percent decline in overdose deaths, while laws requiring patients to show ID when picking up a prescription are associated with a 5 percent increase in overdose deaths, the study authors found.

Bachhuber cautioned that the exact mechanism underlying these study results is unclear, and that the findings don't prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship between medical marijuana laws and overdose deaths.

Flansbaum agreed. Although he called the paper "provocative" and "stimulating," he said it doesn't prove that medical marijuana reduces drug overdoses.

"There are so many things going on in states, whether it be cultural or through laws, it's hard to say what's the effect of the medical marijuana law versus everything else that's happening," Flansbaum said. "You don't know what causes what. The data is not that clean."

But these findings support previous studies that showed people who receive a prescription for medical marijuana tend to reduce the amount of other pain medications they use, said John Thomas, a health law expert and professor at the Quinnipiac University School of Law in Hamden, Conn.

There are some concerns that those patients might start abusing their medical marijuana, as they would a prescription painkiller, Thomas added.

"The good news about that is that marijuana doesn't tend to kill you, and it isn't as physically addictive as other medication," he said.

More information

For more on prescription drug overdose, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Marcus Bachhuber, M.D., researcher, Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center; John Thomas, J.D., M.P.H., professor, Quinnipiac University School of Law, Hamden, Conn.; Bradley Flansbaum, D.O., M.P.H., hospitalist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Aug. 25, 2014, JAMA Internal Medicine

Copyright©2014 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Higher-spending hospitals have fewer deaths for emergency patients
2. Physician Groups Call for Fewer Medical Tests
3. Pneumococcal disease: More cases but fewer deaths
4. Fewer suicides after antidepressive treatment for schizophrenia
5. Fewer prostate cancer surgery complications found in teaching hospitals with fellowship programs
6. Fewer Young Americans Smoking, Survey Finds
7. Fewer Stillbirths Among Pregnant Women Vaccinated Against Flu
8. Nanomedicines promise fewer side effects in treating cancer
9. American Kids Getting Fewer Prescription Drugs: Study
10. E-Records Linked to Fewer Malpractice Claims
11. Obese appendectomy patients have fewer complications with minimally invasive operations
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Fewer Painkiller Deaths in States With Medical Marijuana: Study
(Date:6/26/2016)... , ... June 26, 2016 , ... Pixel Film Studios ... X. , "Film editors can give their videos a whole new perspective by using ... - CEO of Pixel Film Studios. , ProSlice Levels contains over 30 Different ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... ... Kasmer, a legally blind and certified personal trainer is helping to develop a weight loss ... plans to fix the two major problems leading the fitness industry today:, ... , They don’t eliminate all the reasons people quit their exercise program ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 25, 2016 , ... ... health policy issues and applications at AcademyHealth’s Annual Research Meeting June 26-28, 2016, ... work on several important health care topics including advance care planning, healthcare costs ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... The temporary closing of Bruton Memorial Library on June 21 due ... up a new, often overlooked aspect of head lice: the parasite’s ability to live away ... a common occurrence, but a necessary one in the event that lice have simply gotten ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... June 25, 2016 , ... First Choice Emergency ... named Dr. Sesan Ogunleye, as the Medical Director of its new Mesquite-Samuell Farm facility. ... Director of our new Mesquite location,” said Dr. James M. Muzzarelli, Executive Medical Director ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... , June 24, 2016 ... Market by Type (Standard Pen Needles, Safety Pen Needles), ... (Insulin, GLP-1, Growth Hormone), Mode of Purchase (Retail, Non-Retail) ... MarketsandMarkets, This report studies the market for the forecast ... to reach USD 2.81 Billion by 2021 from USD ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016  MedSource announced today that it ... software solution of choice.  This latest decision demonstrates ... to their clients by offering a state-of-the-art electronic ... establishes nowEDC as the EDC platform of choice ... clients.  "nowEDC has long been a preferred EDC ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Ill. , June 23, 2016  In a startling report ... are failing their residents by lacking a comprehensive, proven plan to ... a definitive ranking of how states are tackling the worst ... to only four states – Kentucky , ... Vermont . Of the 28 failing states, three ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: