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Unseen Benefit?…Marijuana Use Is Leading To A Decline In Painkiller Overdoses

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According to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, states that have legalized marijuana for managing chronic pain have seen significantly fewer deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses.

Researchers looked at medical marijuana laws and death certificate data in all 50 states between 1999 and 2010. During that time, just 13 states had medical marijuana laws in place. There was about a 25{f1d755e3d686d84b3fba3fb9da3bc25d6eb08724c18385fd50146d58c836a6dd} lower rate of prescription painkiller overdose deaths on average after the implementation of a medical marijuana law. In 2010 alone, states with medical marijuana laws had approximately 1,700 fewer overdose deaths.

Opioid analgesics are a class of drug that includes painkillers like morphine, oxycodone and methadone. According to the study, the number of patients in the United States with chronic pain who get prescriptions for one of these drugs has nearly doubled over the last 10 years and overdose rates have gone up dramatically. Deaths from drug overdose have been rising steadily over the past two decades and have become the leading cause of injury death in the United States. In 2011, 55{f1d755e3d686d84b3fba3fb9da3bc25d6eb08724c18385fd50146d58c836a6dd} of drug overdose deaths were related to prescription medications; 75{f1d755e3d686d84b3fba3fb9da3bc25d6eb08724c18385fd50146d58c836a6dd} of those involved opioid analgesics.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have medical marijuana laws on the books. They address a multitude of conditions, including cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and more. In most states, chronic or severe pain is the primary reason. According to the American Academy Of Pain Medicine, more than 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from chronic pain, including 100 million Americans. The AAPM believes that they need to do research on cannabinoids to determine its safety and efficacy. They feel the problem with medical marijuana is that we never know using marijuana what chemicals are being ingested. That makes it unpredictable, but the use of cannabinoids may well have a place in the treatment of pain and other diseases. The AAPM believes that the DEA should reschedule cannabinoids from Schedule I to Schedule II so that it will make it easier for research to be conducted.

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Richard Lowe

Richard Lowe is a 14-year veteran of the financial sector with licenses as a commodity broker (Series 3) and investment advisor representative (IAR Series 65). Along with a focus on raising capital for the firms he was employed with, he also wrote and edited much of the content published by them. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts. He has been a longtime advocate for marijuana legalization due to the social injustices associated with marijuana prohibition and the strong potential for the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

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