Could Medical Marijuana Laws Cut Painkiller Deaths? – Abc News

Jamie Zimmerman States that have legalized medical marijuana may be reaping an unintended benefit from easing up on restrictions: They appear to have nearly 25 percent fewer deaths from overdoses involving prescription painkillers, a new study found. The study, published today in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, comes at a time when the United States finds itself in the throes of a growing painkiller abuse crisis. About 100 Americans die every day from narcotic painkiller overdose, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers behind the new study suggest that because legalizing medical marijuana makes it more available to chronic pain patients, it provides a potentially less lethal alternative to pain control on a long-term basis. Three states had medical marijuana laws prior to 1999, and an additional 10 states passed laws providing some legal access to marijuana during the study period. Today, 23 states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing access to medical marijuana. Lead study author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber said that while he and his team expected to find differences in painkiller-associated deaths among states with different medical marijuana laws, they did not anticipate such dramatic differences. We [found] it surprising that the difference is so big, said Bachhuber, who is a physician and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania.
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