Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Analgesic Overdose Mortality in the United States, 1999-2010

Published by Anthony Taylor on

In a 2014 report of a study conducted by Marcus A. Bachhuber, MD; Brendan Saloner, PhD; Chinazo O. Cunningham, MD, MS to “determine the association between the presence of state medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose mortality,” they wrote, “increased access to medical cannabis may reduce opioid analgesic use by patients with chronic pain, and therefore reduce opioid analgesic overdoses.”

While caveated by the usual “more research is needed,” their preliminary research does show a reduction in overdose rates among patients using opioid medications for the treatment of chronic pain.

“Medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates. Further investigation is required to determine how medical cannabis laws may interact with policies aimed at preventing opioid analgesic overdose.”

“If the relationship between medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose mortality is substantiated in further work, enactment of laws to allow for use of medical cannabis may be advocated as part of a comprehensive package of policies to reduce the population risk of opioid analgesics.”

Patients using opioid medications for chronic pain issues are at risk when using these medications and especially in older populations – the fastest growing demographic for cannabis use – where providers must take special care in prescribing to patients that may have other issues such as sleep apnea or sleeplessness.

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Anthony Taylor

Anthony Taylor is a long time activist in the marijuana reform movement. He was responsible for changes to the initiative process and has been a persistent voice in Salem for marijuana reform. His recent efforts led to the addition of PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana as well as sentencing reform including the creation of misdemeanor possession of marijuana and hashish, a long overdue change in Oregon statute.


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