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States Allowing Medical Marijuana Have Fewer Painkiller Deaths 217

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-more-dorito-related-injuries dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Narcotic painkillers aren't one of the biggest killers in the U.S., but overdoses do claim over 15,000 lives per year and send hundreds of thousands to the emergency room. Because of this, it's interesting that a new study (abstract) has found states that allow the use of medical marijuana have seen a dramatic reduction in opioid overdose fatalities. "Previous studies hint at why marijuana use might help reduce reliance on opioid painkillers. Many drugs with abuse potential such as nicotine and opiates, as well as marijuana, pump up the brain's dopamine levels, which can induce feelings of euphoria. The biological reasons that people might use marijuana instead of opioids aren't exactly clear, because marijuana doesn't replace the pain relief of opiates. However, it does seem to distract from the pain by making it less bothersome." This research comes at a time when the country is furiously debating the costs and benefits of marijuana use, and opponents of the idea are paying researchers to paint it in an unfavorable light.
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States Allowing Medical Marijuana Have Fewer Painkiller Deaths

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 30, 2014 @04:35PM (#47792273)

    You mean the War on Drugs was a complete waste of time and money and ruined millions of peoples' lives for no reason, while funneling billions of dollars a year to ruthless criminal warlords in South America?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dpilot (134227)

      We will not solve the problem with illegal immigration until we figure out how to do something sane instead of the War on Drugs. Right now the unintended consequence of the War on Drugs is that south of the border, drug lords are about as well (if not better?) funded as the governments, destroying the local economies. Some of the people seeking jobs in those economies end up coming to the US in search of work.

    • while funneling billions of dollars a year to ruthless criminal warlords in South America?

      ...and biotech firms

    • ruthless criminal (Score:5, Informative)

      by whathappenedtomonday (581634) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @05:34PM (#47792535) Journal
      warlords in South America? Don't forget the pharmaceutical industry, and all those other industries that benefit from prohibiting a natural competitor [wikipedia.org] that needs little cultivation because it basically grows like ... well, weed.
    • by s.petry (762400)

      I won't argue that the war on drugs is a huge failure, but that's a different argument in my opinion. The primary argument here is whether or not marijuana legalization has reduced deaths from prescriptions.

      Given legalization is extremely new, the conclusion of the article and study is grossly premature. Making matters worse in my opinion, is that the study only looks at a single element of drugs, and not the complete impact.

      As with my opening paragraph, I'm not pro drug war or anti marijuana. I simply t

      • Given legalization is extremely new, the conclusion of the article and study is grossly premature. Making matters worse in my opinion, is that the study only looks at a single element of drugs, and not the complete impact.

        California legalized marijuana 18 years ago, in 1996. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]

        • by s.petry (762400)
          Yeah, and the ATF and DEA were still raiding shops as recently as 2 years ago in spite of California's laws legalizing marijuana. Normalization is not recent.
          • by sjames (1099)

            The DEA's criminal actions would, if anything, weaken the apparent results. The evidence really DOES strongly point to a reduction in prescription deaths where medical marijuana is legal.

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        And for all those who die in the interim, 'MEH' something in the hundreds of thousands globally and the tens of millions who continue to suffer in pain but think about the pharmaceutical companies profits, the billions lost (or more accurately left in people's pockets rather than being extorted out to pay for patented pain relief), apparently your thought for them is, 'fuck you there is money to be made' at least three years worth and that's without the lobbyists and a religion based ban, 'WOOHOO" billions

        • by s.petry (762400)
          I didn't say it was bad to have some statistics, I said it was bad to have this study focus on one statistic. You know as well as I do that if the numbers are off, people against legalization will jump all over the study just to wreak havoc on the legalization. Illegal marijuana was (and in many places still is) a huge revenue source for both the criminal side and the law enforcement side (and yes, we would probably agree that the line between those two elements is crossed very often).
          • by Sarius64 (880298)
            There are stories on both sides of the aisle. My grandfather was dying of fatal painful colon cancer when the doctor refused to give him any more morphine because the federal regulations indicted he would be considered an addict at that point of consumption. I doubt marijuana would have helped him there but I empathize with people in those positions.
      • by Sarius64 (880298)

        Agreed. I think a "War on Drug Users" and a "War that Enables Free Confiscation of US Citizens' Property" are more appropriate labels. If it were a war on drugs we would take strike teams to the cartel members (Mexican government?) and remove the source. The US populace wouldn't have known about the largest meth lab in the world sitting 100 miles south of San Diego for two decades. Sigh.

        Google: largest meth lab mexico [google.com]

    • by Yakasha (42321)

      You mean the War on Drugs was a complete waste of time and money and ruined millions of peoples' lives for no reason, while funneling billions of dollars a year to ruthless criminal warlords in Washington D.C.?

      tiftfy.

    • You mean the War on Drugs was a complete waste of time and money and ruined millions of peoples' lives for no reason, while funneling billions of dollars a year to ruthless criminal warlords in South America?

      No, it was complete waste of time and money and ruined millions of peoples' lives for the purpose or reducing freedom and privacy, while funneling billions of dollars a year to black ops funding, police department funding, and ruthless criminals everywhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 30, 2014 @04:40PM (#47792295)

    At least that seems to be US drug policy
    A common painkiller will kill you and a schedule 1 dangerous drug has medical benefits and cannot kill you regardless of dosage

    As far as the legal painkiller goes, Acetaminophen can destroy your liver and most NSAIDs increase your risk of stroke

    Opioids are the biggest culprit tho, what with their tendency to suppress breathing and cause death with relatively small doses. Add in the tendency to cause physical addiction and long term illegal use of stolen pharmaceuticals or heroin

    Are we living in crazy town, or is the will of the people finally being heard?

    • by fermion (181285)
      Prescription drugs are killing people and have been the gateway drug ever since I can remember. The overuse of perscription drugs lull people into a belief they never have to feel anything, and when they cannot afford the commercial stuff, they get stuff on the street. Common sense laws that could control the way that prescriptions drugs lead to drug abuse have been fought tooth and nail by the the Pharmcos. In places like Vermont, where easy access to drug and guns intersect, the prescription drug abuse
      • Making plants illegal is just silly.

        About a silly as a public Elementary School in a declared "Drug Free Zone" growing Poppies in their landscape.

        • ...public Elementary School in a declared "Drug Free Zone"...

          Of-topic, I've never understood that declaration... it seems to imply that drugs are allowed everywhere else. Which by my understanding isn't the case.
          Oh, well... Americans :)

    • by Skynyrd (25155) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @06:26PM (#47792757) Homepage

      Are we living in crazy town, or is the will of the people finally being heard?

      We are living in crazy town.
      Our representatives don't represent us any more; they obey the special interest dollar.

      I don't see a positive future for the US. Either the middle class will continue to get fucked until everybody is at the poverty level (except the uber-wealthy) or there will be a civil war. Neither one will end well. We will continue to be distracted with issues like gay marriage, legal weed, NASCAR and celebrity dating (even though two of those actually matter) until one or the other happens. I am glad I have about 40 years of life left, and didn't bring kids into the world.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        I don't see a positive future for the US. Either the middle class will continue to get fucked until everybody is at the poverty level (except the uber-wealthy) or there will be a civil war.

        Relax, the way things are going we seem headed for World War III long before that.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    How many choking deaths from people getting the munchies?

  • Painkillers, HA! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 30, 2014 @04:56PM (#47792367)

    First mistake, opoids are not painkillers, they're brain killers. They do not affect the pain, they merely mess you up so bad you no longer care if anything hurts.
    I'm in constant pain, 24/7, and tried the opoid "painkillers". They also killed my life, I was so brain dead I could accomplish only the bare minimum hygienic tasks.
    I got off the opoids (a significant achievement) and started smoking pot to deal with the pain. Sure, it hurts more now, but the pot allows me to deal with it.

    And since I live in a State that has not even legalized medical pot due to all the damn liars about the so called "dangers" I'm an Anonymous Coward.
     

    • Re:Painkillers, HA! (Score:5, Informative)

      by apraetor (248989) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @06:42PM (#47792833)
      Opiates and opioids work on several subtypes of opioid receptors, which are present in locations besides the brain. The mu-opioid receptions in the brain are responsible for the sense of euphoria the drugs produce, but those receptors, along with kappa- and delta- variants, modulate nociception (pain sense). If opioids didn't actually work directly on pain then intrathecal morphine wouldn't work as well as it does.
      • by Rinikusu (28164)

        Anecdotally, when I was on Morphine, the pain was still there. It was buried in my brain, but if I looked for it, I found it. Morphine merely allowed me to shunt it off somewhere else. Same with whatever pain meds they gave me post-surgery. I didn't even know I was on pain meds until they started to wear off (about every 12 hours, on the dot). I knew I still had pain deep down, but I just didn't care about it. However, after about 12 hours, I couldnt' ignore it and had to retake.

        Now, I'm in constant p

        • Keep on doing what you need to do, Rinikusu. The brain does tend to 'max out' on THC, studies show. Over months of use, the brain will only allow itself to get 'so high', and no more. A person needs to stop using to allow the brain to return close to 'normal. Elsewise, it will max out on a person's ability to fully feel it's effects. Like any drug, it has it's limits.
        • by WilyCoder (736280)

          "a car on a bicycle"

          that must have been a big bike to support a car!

    • Re:Painkillers, HA! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SternisheFan (2529412) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @07:13PM (#47792943)
      Heroin is what all opiate based pain medication is based on. It's all opiates, whether it's a $10 bag of heroin bought on the street, melted on a spoon and transferred to a needle to be injected directly into one's bloodstream, or the painkiller your doctor prescribed. It all has the same effect on the brain. If you are taking a pain killer, you basically are a heroin user. It's all opiates.

      20+ years ago, a friend of mine was dieing from stomach cancer. Hospice, home to die. Doctor's gave him 2 months to live, he lasted seven. He had an I.V. drip hooked up to him in his bedroom, a metering device programmed by the R.N. to administer regulated doses of morphine, with a large red button that we could press to give him an extra dose of morphine. The man had bedsores that were excruciating for him to deal with, on top of the stomach cancer pain.

      This was in 1992. There was no such thing then as medical marijuana. Whenever that man wanted to smoke pot, we made sure it was there for him, and yes, it eased his pain. There was never a need for discussion of whether it was legal. He needed it, he got it. And pot wasn't as powerful then as todays strains are.

      To deny anyone in legitimate legal pain from having access to medical marijuana is a crime against humanity. No politician should have the right to 'decree' that people in pain should be denied easement of their pain, in my opinion.

      Legalization of marijuana comes with many caveats. I do not want my bus/cab/train/plane drivers/pilots using marijuana, the THC content of todays marijuana are much stronger than they were back in the 1960's. Someone ingesting THC can 'fade out' while driving, or else we will see more of these type of videos....

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new... [dailymail.co.uk]

      To be made broadly legal will involve a learning curve of laws that will need to be enacted. If your job involves transporting people, pot (like alcohol), needs to be used responsibly, and never 'on the job', especially since today's pot potency is much higher than what it was from days past.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        the THC content of todays marijuana are much stronger than they were back in the 1960's.

        We keep hearing this, but there's no evidence to support it. Maybe it's better than you could get in the 1960s, but humans have been cultivating this plant specifically for high THC production for literally thousands of years.

  • Yes, yes it is.
    What was the question?

  • We just don't give a shit.

  • Its business and lobbying. As soon as the meidical marijuana industry puts money into lobbying things will get a lot better for patients.
  • I disagree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msobkow (48369) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @05:59PM (#47792625) Homepage Journal

    ...marijuana doesn't replace the pain relief of opiates.

    No, for many people it's more effective than opiates. I know literally dozens of medical cannabis users who have given up opiate pain killers completely and replaced them with medical cannabis. But it's important to experiment with different strains and find what works for you; all cannabis is not created equal.

    Personally, I use Kush and Afghanistan strains and crosses for migraines. Over the years I've tried literally hundreds of strains, and looked into their breeding history, and came to the conclusion that it was Kush and Afghanistan strains that are the most effective for my migraines.

    Where an opiate pain killer will dull the pain of a migraine, the proper strain will completely eliminate all migraine symptoms for me within 5-10 minutes of consuming a half gram dose. Triptans, on the other hand, only work half the time and take half an hour to have any effect, if any. Opiates only dull pain and actually make the nausea of a migraine worse because they upset my stomach. Add in the addictive nature of opiates, and I think you can understand why I'd much rather use medical cannabis than prescription opiates for what ails me.

    • I was a burn patient and was prescribed enough morphine to depress my breathing, but that didn't touch my headache. The Nurses looked at me like I was crazy when I asked for tylenol for my headache, but it clobbered the headache.

      • by apraetor (248989)
        I didn't have extensive burns, just the back of my left hand and wrist, from boiling oil, but I noticed the same thing. Oxycodone (the Percocet variety) did a great job of letting me ignore my hand -- when it wasn't itching like crazy -- but it didn't work for my headaches either. Marijuana definitely worked for both, although I think the effect is something to do with dissociation, at least for me. Instead of the pain being an all-consuming sensation it becomes.. well I'm not sure of the words. After marij
        • Mine was from burning rosin on the back of my right hand, they kept asking me about the pain which was well controlled but my take everything too literal mind never thought to complain about the itching. I was being seen in a teaching Hospital, Detroit Recieving, a MD from another Hospital casualy said "Oh by the way you do know that benedryl stops the itching, don't you?" after 6 weeks the itchy gritty torment was gone with 1 benedryl!

    • I literally read your anicdotal comments literally once, and must say I literally agree with your experiences. Literally.

      • by msobkow (48369)

        Oh my fucking God! Shoot him! He made a fucking TYPO!

        Asshat.

  • by wmansir (566746) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @06:13PM (#47792697)

    This study has been misreported nearly everywhere. The study didn't find states with legalized medical marijuana had fewer deaths than non-legal states. Legalized states continually had more deaths per capita, and both groups had dramatic increased in opiate OD deaths over the period covered by the study. The researchers found OD death rates in legalized states increased ~25% less than expected.

    I don't have access to the full study, but this chart included in this Washington Post article [washingtonpost.com] shows both groups OD death rate increase dramatically over time. It's interesting to note the change from 2009-2010, which significantly narrowed the gap between the groups. Prior to that year both groups seemed to be on similar trend lines. That said, groups moved from the illegal to legalized group over the course of the study and I'm not sure if or how the chart was adjusted for those changes.

    • No (Score:5, Informative)

      by kipling (24579) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @06:50PM (#47792861) Homepage

      I don't think so. The JAMA article http://archinte.jamanetwork.co... [jamanetwork.com] does look at longitudinal effects but the 25% figure comes from comparing states with and without. From the abstract:
      States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate (95% CI, 37.5% to 9.5%; P=.003) compared with states without medical cannabis laws.
      The common way to statistically analyse the effect of one variable is to model as many variables as the data allows and run a regression to isolate the effect of the target variable.
      It may be that there are other problems with the study (e.g. correlations between the variables assumed to be independent) but this isn't one of them.

  • I think a lot of people replace opiates with marijuana despite inferior pain relief because it's a helluva lot easier to function in a more-or-less normal way on pot than, say, percocet or whatever.
    • by PPH (736903)

      function in a more-or-less normal way

      Maybe, maybe not. But it is accepted that opiates are more lethal than marijuana. And if some peopleare satisfied with the replacement, that's a step in the right direction from the point of view of death rates.

      It appears that the biggest anti-marijuana movement is made up of the drug companies that stand to loose opiate sales to m.j.

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @07:32PM (#47793021)

    For those that don't smoke...

    It relieves pain not because it reduces the pain... but because it allows you to more easily focus on something else. If you're watching a movie for example, it's very easy to get lost in the movie and forget entirely about your bad back, or whatever. It's been used in mediation and religious ceremonies for thousands of years for that very reason.

    Along those same lines, if you were abusing Oxy, it would likely help you forget you lost your buzz and make it less likely you'd go for your next hit. I'm not sure on that though, I don't do real drugs.

  • by swb (14022) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @07:46PM (#47793063)

    There's times I think that the "anti opiate" forces would be against anything that made pain sufferers feel better. It's like there's some kind of morality subtext that's really "pro pain" and opposed to feeling better (unless of course it was due to praying to Jesus).

  • Jesus christ slashdot, get your shit together.

  • countries with stricter gun laws have fewer gun-related deaths.

  • >"Many drugs with abuse potential such as nicotine and opiates, as well as marijuana, pump up the brain's dopamine levels, which can induce feelings of euphoria."

    Exactly how does one "abuse" nicotine? What ridiculous grasping to put nicotine into the same sentence as opiates and marijuana when it comes to getting "high". It is also never used for pain killing. You might as well have included caffeine and sugar in the list. It blows the credibility of the article and makes it seem totally desperate.

Put no trust in cryptic comments.

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