A new study shows something very interesting about the presence of medical marijuana and the abuse of opiate painkillers. States where medical marijuana is legal (on the state level) have seen a drop in opioid overdoses by 25 percent, leading supporters to point to it as yet another reason to end the prohibition of marijuana.
Colleen Barry is a health policy researcher at John Hopkins Bloomberg Shool of Public Health and the co-author of the study.
“The difference is quite striking,” she said.
In the study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine, the researchers hypothesize that where medical marijuana is available, patients could be using the herb to treat their pain. This could result in a lower dosage of opiate based painkillers like Percocet, which in turn lowers the likelihood of addiction and deaths related to it.
The probable reason? It’s a lot harder to accidentally kill yourself on pot than it is on illegally obtained painkillers:
The Rand/UCI study found that there was no decline in the distribution of legal opioid painkillers in states with dispensaries. Thus, the researchers suggest that the reduction in painkiller abuse in these states comes less from patients switching their prescriptions, than from people who were taking illegally obtained opioids replacing the drugs with legal weed. In other words — the findings suggest that dispensaries may have saved the lives of some recreational pill-poppers, who quit hard drugs once they got a pot prescription.
Of course, legalized pot wouldn’t be quite so necessary is the FDA didn’t scare doctors into under prescribing pain medication, even for those who desperately need it.