pharmacy medical marijuana michigan
Medical Marijuana Policy

Do Medical Marijuana Laws Lower Prescription Painkiller Overdoses?

pharmacy medical marijuana michiganAddiction to painkillers is a nasty thing. I have had many friends start using painkillers after an injury or accident, just to get addicted and have their lives spiral out of control. Sadly, I’ve seen some intelligent, talented people ruin their lives with painkillers. Some of my friends that were top students in college are now on their third stint in rehab trying to shake their addiction. A few of my friends have overdosed on painkillers, ending their lives prematurely.

Anything that lowers painkiller use is a worthwhile thing in my opinion, which is why I have pushed medical marijuana for so long. Pain can be treated very effectively with medical marijuana, without the baggage that comes with painkillers. No one has ever died from medical marijuana, ever. States that have passed medical marijuana laws have seen almost 1/4th less painkiller overdoses than states that have no medical marijuana laws. Per a study from JAMA Internal Medicine:

Objective  To determine the association between the presence of state medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose mortality.

Results Three states (California, Oregon, and Washington) had medical cannabis laws effective prior to 1999. Ten states (Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont) enacted medical cannabis laws between 1999 and 2010. States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate (95% CI, −37.5% to −9.5%; P = .003) compared with states without medical cannabis laws. Examination of the association between medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose mortality in each year after implementation of the law showed that such laws were associated with a lower rate of overdose mortality that generally strengthened over time: year 1 (−19.9%; 95% CI, −30.6% to −7.7%; P = .002), year 2 (−25.2%; 95% CI, −40.6% to −5.9%; P = .01), year 3 (−23.6%; 95% CI, −41.1% to −1.0%; P = .04), year 4 (−20.2%; 95% CI, −33.6% to −4.0%; P = .02), year 5 (−33.7%; 95% CI, −50.9% to −10.4%; P = .008), and year 6 (−33.3%; 95% CI, −44.7% to −19.6%; P < .001). In secondary analyses, the findings remained similar.

Conclusions and Relevance Medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates. Further investigation is required to determine how medical cannabis laws may interact with policies aimed at preventing opioid analgesic overdose.

People like Kevin Sabet want to talk about the social costs of marijuana reform. I would offer up this study as proof that not only are his negative social cost claims unfounded, but there are social benefits to marijuana reform. In the case of painkiller overdoses, they are dramatically lowered due to marijuana reform. Legalized medical marijuana results in more people using marijuana, which is virtually harmless, and less people using painkillers, which can lead to death by overdose.

  • painkills2

    There are a number of reasons why prescription drug overdoses are starting to decrease, and the good news is that medical marijuana is one of them.

    Unfortunately, another reason is the DEA and its now almost total control over the distribution of many prescription medications, leading to short supplies, doctors afraid to prescribe, and pharmacists afraid to fill prescriptions. This has forced many pain patients onto the street to access medication, which has caused an increase in illegal heroin use and abuse, overdoses, and suicides.

    Basically, when patients no longer have access to legal drugs, many turn to whatever they can access illegally — usually to the patient’s detriment.

    And while the prescription drug “epidemic” has generated a lot of media attention, there isn’t much attention paid to the number of suicides in 2010 (38,364) or the number of deaths by firearms (31,672) — both more than the 16,651 deaths attributed to prescription painkillers. (And there were 50,097 deaths due to the flu and pneumonia.)

    • mike1188

      This happend to my brother in laws kid. Addicted to opiates and when he could get them stated smoking heroin and in a short time died with a needle in his arm.

      • painkills2

        I hope this kid and Robin Williams are having a great time up in heaven. :)

  • moses

    Does a bear shit in the woods. On behalf of all the constipated, over druged , misguided and lied to , tried all their recommendations, suffering in pain all the time patients, yes canabis is the answer to lower medication use, duh
    Ps I love it that you give the sabet the stink eye, Johnny

  • mike1188

    Since I know two people who have died from prescription pain pill addiction. I believe that if people used cannabis to treat some pains instead of prescription pain pills. I suffer from back pain and I refuse to take nothing stronger than Motrin. I would use marijuana if it was hassle free. But since it is illegal in MI. I don’t use it. Our medical laws have little protection from job loss. Or arrest. So I suffer.

    • painkills2

      “To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.” Friedrich Nietzsche

      “Punk is musical freedom. It’s saying, doing and playing what you want. In Webster’s terms, ‘nirvana’ means freedom from pain, suffering and the external world, and that’s pretty close to my definition of Punk Rock.” Kurt Cobain

  • wowFAD

    These results are phenomenal. I’d always assumed opioid overdoses would be reduced with medical cannabis, but 24.8% is far more than I’d ever expected. 24.8% is over-the-rainbow incredible.

    To put it into perspective, nothing the ONDCP, NIDA, or DEA have *ever* tried doing (from “just say no” to mass arrests and incarceration) has come anywhere close to reducing opioid overdoses by 24.8%. This is a big deal because drug overdoses have outpaced both gunshot wounds and traffic accidents as the #1 cause of death due to injury in the United States.

    My sincerest hope is that the results of this study become common knowledge in *every* state considering medical cannabis legislation. Rest assured, a copy of this study has been sent to the group of activists most active in my state, the Georgia CARE Project, as our state legislature is currently holding public hearings to discuss viable medical cannabis legislation for next year.

  • Cyndysub

    Kevin Sabet does not know what to do with logic or truth because it is foreign to his thought processes.