Chronic pain is a strong indication for medical cannabis and represents a significant reason patients seek out doctors in Colorado Springs who prescribe medical marijuana. As rates of people suffering from chronic pain continue to grow in the United States, so does the reliance on prescriptions to treat the symptoms. The number of patients suffering from non-cancer pain receiving prescription opioids has nearly doubled since 2004. Simultaneously, there has been a dramatic rise in the rate of opioid abuse and overdose deaths. Could medical marijuana help reduce opioid mortality?
A recent study, published in the JAMA Internal Medicine Online, Aug. 25, 2014, attempted to determine the association between the presence of medical marijuana laws and opioid overdose mortality. The Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1999-2010 http://cdn3.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/671056/Medical_Cannabis_JAMA_Proof.0.pdf
Study found that states with medical marijuana laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate when compared to states without such laws. The findings held true when intentional overdose deaths or suicides were excluded. This may help support the idea that medical marijuana can help reduce death from accidental opioid overdose.
Credit: JAMA Internal Medicine Online
However, this study only shows correlations. Further study would be required to show a causal relationship. Other factors could have pushed down the numbers. Researchers were able to show that state-level rates of heart disease and septicemia did not explain the differences in opioid mortality.
The study was a time-series analysis of medical cannabis laws and state-level death certificate data in the US from 1999-2010 in all 50 states.
Source: Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1999-2010
Marcus A. Bachhuber, MD; Brendan Saloner, PhD; Chinazo O. Cunningham, MD, MS; Colleen L. Barry, PhD, MPP
Published in the JAMA Internal Medicine online August 25, 2014