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Medical Marijuana: Fewer Deaths as Painkillers Replaced?

Image: Medical Marijuana: Fewer Deaths as Painkillers Replaced?
Medical marijuana is placed on a scale as card-carrying medical marijuana. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 27 Aug 2014 12:15 PM

Access to medical marijuana may lead to fewer deaths at the hands of painkillers like OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin, a new study found.

ABC News reported that roughly 100 Americans die every day from narcotic painkiller overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control. On Monday, a new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine showed that states with legalized medical marijuana had 25 percent fewer overdose deaths.

Fewer overdose deaths may not be caused by the legalization of medical marijuana, however some are hopeful that it is, as painkiller overdose has been a worsening problem in recent years.

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"Prescription drug abuse and deaths due to overdose have emerged as national public health crises," study author Colleen L. Barry, associate professor in the health policy at Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School, said upon the study's publication.

"As our awareness of the addiction and overdose risks associated with use of opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin grows, individuals with chronic pain and their medical providers may be opting to treat pain entirely or in part with medical marijuana, in states where this is legal."

The study examined the years 1999 to 2010, and found that in absolute terms, the 24.8 percent lower overdose rate found in legalized states theoretically counted for 1,729 fewer overdose deaths in 2010 alone.

According to The Washington Post, "California, Oregon and Washington were the only three states with medical marijuana laws in place before 1999, while ten more joined by 2010."

Kevin Sabet, director of the University of Florida's Drug Policy Institute, criticized the study, saying it only accounted for opiates and opiate-related deaths.

"The study failed to examine the influence of expanded methadone and buprenorphine programs in states, or the possible influence of major law enforcement interventions (e.g. pill mill shut downs and major operations by DEA in states like Florida), or even Naltrexone utilization," Sabet wrote to CNN.

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Access to medical marijuana may lead to fewer deaths at the hands of painkillers like OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin, a new study found.
medical, marijuana, fewer, deaths
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2014-15-27
Wednesday, 27 Aug 2014 12:15 PM
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