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Medical Marijuana Laws Tied to Lower Opioid Overdose Rates — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
August 26, 2014

Medical Marijuana Laws Tied to Lower Opioid Overdose Rates

By Amy Orciari Herman

Edited by David G. Fairchild, MD, MPH

States that have legalized medical marijuana have lower rates of death from opioid analgesic overdose than states without such laws, according to a JAMA Internal Medicine study.

U.S. researchers examined overdose death rates across all 50 states from 1999 to 2010, including 13 states that legalized medical marijuana by 2010. After adjustment for confounders such as state-level prescription monitoring programs and unemployment rates, states with medical marijuana laws had a 25% lower average annual opioid overdose death rate than states without legal medical marijuana. In general, the longer the time the laws had been in place, the lower the overdose death rate.

The authors suggest that patients with chronic pain might choose medical marijuana over opioid analgesics, or they might reduce their opioid dose if they get relief from adjuvant marijuana. Nonetheless, they caution that "a direct causal link cannot be established."

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