In what could be termed as the real health benefits of medical marijuana, researchers have found that they can act as antidote in treating people with fatal overdoses of prescription pain medication.
A group of researchers carried out a study to determine the health effects of medical marijuana after it was made legal in many states. They found that the states that have legalized cannabis saw remarkably decreased death rates associated with the overdose of opiate drugs.
The researchers said that the 23 states that legalized availability of marijuana for certain patients against those with no formal access saw a steady drop in deaths related to opiate overdoses.
For the study, the researchers referred to the data of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and analysed them to figure out the death rates from narcotic medication overdose between 1999 and 2010 for each state. For contrast results, the researchers also considered the status of each state on a medical marijuana law.
Study lead author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber said, “We think that people with chronic pain may be choosing to treat their pain with marijuana rather than with prescription painkillers, in states where this is legal.”
Bachhuber is a researcher at the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Researchers said although the death rates from drug overdose have increased in all states but the study found that the average number of overdose deaths annually is nearly 25 percent less in states that legalized medical marijuana.
“States with a medical marijuana law had about 1,700 fewer opioid painkiller overdose deaths in the year 2010 than would be expected based on trends before the laws were passed,” Bachhuber noted.
The deaths from drug abuse (mainly the prescription painkillers) have soared as high as 118 percent over the past two decades between 1999 and 2011, a CDC report said.
The findings of study were published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.