Researchers have found that states with legal medical marijuana laws show a drop of 25 percent in opiate painkiller overdoses during 2009-2010, and states that do not allow medical marijuana had actually risen during that same time period.
The researchers stated that where medical marijuana is approved for treating pain conditions, people have another option in addition to or instead of prescription painkillers.
“Most of the discussion on medical marijuana has been about its effect on individuals in terms of reducing pain or other symptoms,” said lead author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber in an email to Reuters Health. “The unique contribution of our study is the finding that medical marijuana laws and policies may have a broader impact on public health.”
A 2009 study of 350 pain patients found that nearly three-quarters of them reported using marijuana as a substitute for prescription drugs, with better symptom management and less risk of withdrawal as the primary reasons.
Approximately 100 million people suffer from chronic pain in the United States. With millions of people in pain, and easy access to pain medications, a painkiller overdose epidemic in wreaking havoc on the country.
Since 1999, the amount of prescription painkillers prescribed and sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every day, 44 people in the U.S. die from overdose of prescription painkillers, and many more become addicted. Prescription drug overdoses are now the number one cause of accidental death here in the states.
Earlier this month, Massachusetts Senator, Elizabeth Warren wrote the director for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) this week urging them to investigate whether medical marijuana can help turn around the nation’s disastrous prescription painkiller epidemic.
She is also asking the agency to finalize its guidance to physicians on the dos and don’ts of prescribing pain drugs.