About 25 percent fewer deaths from opioid overdoses are being reported in states that have medical marijuana laws, a study has found. Researchers have connected marijuana legalization to prescription painkillers.
"We examined prescription rates for non-opioid drugs such as blood thinners, flu medications and phosphorus stimulants, and we saw no change," Ashley Bradford, lead author of the study, explained. "Medical cannabis wouldn't be an effective treatment for flu or for anemia, so we feel pretty confident that the changes we see in opioids are because of cannabis because there is a legitimate medical use."
U.S. states with marijuana dispensaries saw the greatest decrease in opioid prescriptions, while states without active dispensaries saw a far less dramatic decline – about 7 percent versus 14 percent.
“Some of the states we analyzed had medical cannabis laws throughout the five-year study period, some never had medical cannabis, and some enacted medical cannabis laws during those five years,” study co-author, W. David Bradford, said. "Regardless, our findings suggest quite clearly that medical cannabis could be one useful tool in the policy arsenal that can be used to diminish the harm of prescription opioids, and that's worthy of serious consideration."
People on Medicare filled 14 percent fewer prescriptions for opioids after medical marijuana laws were passed in their states. While, Medicaid enrollees filled nearly 40 fewer opioid prescriptions per 1,000 people each year after cannabis became accessible.
There are even more significant decreases in states where both medical and recreational marijuana use is legal.
States that allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes had 2.21 million fewer daily doses of opioids prescribed annually. A Pew survey found that 61 percent of Americans favor legalizing pot.
More than 90 Americans die daily from opioid overdoses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Opioid overdose recently surpassed vehicular accidents and shooting deaths as the most common cause of accidental death in the United States, the CDC says.