Study finds medical marijuana may reduce opiate-based narcotic deaths

States that have legalized medical marijuana are seeing falling rates of deaths due to opiate-based narcotics

States that have legalized medical marijuana and provide it through dispensaries to patients in need are seeing falling rates of deaths due to opiate-based narcotics, according to a study reported on by the website Vox.

The study’s key finding is that in states that have actual medical marijuana dispensaries are seeing the decrease — not the states such as California that legalize medical marijuana and don’t control its distribution. It also found that states that don’t have legal medical marijuana aren’t seeing the decreases in opiate-based narcotic overdoses that states with dispensaries are experiencing.

The study is by David Powell and Rosalie Pacula of the RAND Corporation. It’s considered a “working paper,” meaning researchers are saying they need more data to confirm the early indications they’ve found.

The results of the study could bode well for Louisiana, which earlier this year finally provided a framework for both producing medical marijuana and dispensing it to patients in need. Like many states, the share of opiate-based narcotic overdose deaths among all drug overdose drugs is largest, and it’s expected to grow as the number of prescription painkillers being prescribed goes up.

There’s also concern that


Opioid painkiller users are turning to a more accessible but deadlier opioid, heroin.


But the Rand study suggests that when states like Louisiana provide access to medical marijuana, patients with debilitating pain are more likely to manage their pain with marijuana.


If marijuana can relieve pain, it can substitute opioid painkillers with none of these problems. No one has ever reportedly died from a marijuana overdose. And pot isn’t an opioid, so dependence — which does happen with marijuana, but at much lower rates than opioid addiction — can’t lead to an addiction to heroin.



You can read the full Vox report here.


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