Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Increased marijuana use for chronic pain reduces addictions and deaths related to opioid pain killers

From Mark Perry.
"Some interesting findings from a new NBER working paper “Do Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Addictions and Deaths Related to Pain Killers?” by three researchers associated with the RAND Corporation, NBER and UC-Irvine. The answer to the question posed in the paper’s title appears to be “Yes” based on empirical evidence, here are excerpts from the article’s abstract, introduction and conclusion:
ABSTRACT: Many medical marijuana patients report using marijuana to alleviate chronic pain from musculoskeletal problems and other sources. If marijuana is used as a substitute for powerful and addictive pain relievers in medical marijuana states, a potential overlooked positive impact of medical marijuana laws may be a reduction in harms associated with opioid pain relievers, a far more addictive and potentially deadly substance. To assess this issue, we study the impact of medical marijuana laws on problematic opioid use.
We find that states permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not. Our findings suggest that providing broader access to medical marijuana may have the potential benefit of reducing abuse of highly addictive painkillers.
INTRODUCTION: Drug overdoses are the leading cause of deaths from injuries in the United States today, exceeding deaths from suicide, gunshot deaths and motor vehicle accidents (see chart above for 2013 data). In 2010, 16,651 deaths were caused by a prescription opioid overdose, representing nearly 60% of all drug overdose deaths, and exceeding overdose deaths from heroin and cocaine combined. While a modest decline in opioid overdose deaths has occurred since 2012, more than 16,000 lives are lost to prescription opioids even today.
These numbers are the result of a dramatic rise in problems associated with prescription opioid abuse over the past two decades, both in terms of morbidity and mortality. While the number of fatal poisonings due to prescription pain medications quadrupled between 1999 and 2010, the distribution of opioid pain medications also quadrupled during the same period, demonstrating a parallel rise between the distribution of opioid pain medication and its abuse nationally. Treatment admissions grew at an even faster rate, increasing nearly six-fold between 1999 and 2009. Opioidrelated emergency department visits more than doubled from 21.6 per 100,000 in 2004 to 54.9 per 100,000 in 2011, for a total of 1.24 million emergency department visits involving non-medical use of pharmaceuticals and pain relievers in 2011. It is these trends that led the Centers for Disease Control to deem the misuse of prescription opioids in the United States an “epidemic.”
CONCLUSION: Many medical marijuana patients report using marijuana to alleviate chronic pain from musculoskeletal problems and other sources. If marijuana is used as a substitute for powerful and addictive pain relievers in medical marijuana states, a potential overlooked positive impact of medical marijuana laws may be a reduction in harms associated with opioid pain relievers, a far more addictive and potentially deadly substance. To assess this issue, we study the impact of medical marijuana laws on problematic opioid use.
We find that states permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not. Our findings suggest that providing broader access to medical marijuana may have the potential benefit of reducing abuse of highly addictive painkillers."

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