According to a report this year from the esteemed Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), fatal overdoses caused by prescription painkillers dropped dramatically in states where cannabis is legal for medical and recreational use.
Access to medical cannabis, according to the study, is responsible for an overall 25% drop in fatalities associated with prescription drugs taken for chronic pain. The study also expects such fatalities to continue to drop as cannabis reform across the country allows more people to legally access the drug for medical purposes.
Study authors in fact believe that people who have chronic pain tend to rely on medical cannabis when they have this option, which also dramatically reduces the risk of addiction and overdose of other used medications.
“We think that people with chronic pain may be choosing to treat their pain with cannabis rather than with prescription painkillers, in states where this is legal,” said lead author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber, a researcher with the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
The impact of this study, particularly for veterans as a result, might be significant in the next few years as some kind of federal reform becomes a more reachable goal. Such far reaching conclusions by respected medical researchers are also likely to play into policy decisions particularly over local bans and higher taxes in many states. With that said, research like the analysis in the JAMA study only adds to the debate about the necessity of access for medical patients to not only relieve their pain, but to shine light on the advantages, both personally and societally, of continuing to supply access to medicinal cannabis.
This piece first appeared in Culture Magazine.