Medical Marijuana May Reduce Painkiller Overdose Deaths

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Medical marijuana programs may reduce painkiller overdose deaths

Maryland lawmakers recently voted to expand the state’s medical marijuana program. (Though it will likely take another year before patients can actually access the drug.) As a fight rages over how the program will be carried out, a new study has been released that medical cannabis advocates will no doubt begin touting.

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine find a correlation between medical marijuana programs and lower rates of painkiller overdose deaths. “[T]he 13 states that had legalized medical marijuana prior to 2010 had a 25 percent lower rate of opioid mortality than those that didn’t.”

The implication is that many patients in those states switched from opioids like OxyContin and Vicodin to the less dangerous cannabis to manage their chronic pain.

CityLab‘s Olga Khazan, in discussing the study, is quick to point out that all states have seen an increase in painkiller overdose deaths; the medical marijuana states’ increases were just dramatically smaller. And of course, it’s only a correlation; there may be other factors responsible for the difference in overdose deaths.

So, it’s not time to start ordering our Sonic burgers with weed on the side, but at a time when opioid overdoses kill more Americans than car crashes (!), it’s a heartening study.

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