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States Allowing Medical Marijuana Have Fewer Painkiller Deaths 217

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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  • 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 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.

  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @06:42PM (#47792831) Journal

    Smoking pot destroys quite a bit of the supposed good stuff in it. Its really a poor delivery system outside of getting high.

    As far as causing cancer, it is a surprisingly low number of smokers who get cancer from smoking. I know it is presented as if you even look at a cigarette, you will get cancer and die, but less than 10% of life long smokers will get cancer. But of people who have cancer, something like 87% of the lung cancer deaths are from smoking and about 30% of all cancer deaths are from smoking. Further, smoking increases your risks of cancer about 23 times that of non smokers so there is a strong tie in with cancer. This is how the tobacco companies were able to refute connections to smoking and cancer for so long and probably why they weren't just shut down completely after losing court battle after court battle.

    Now when comparing smoking pot with tobacco, you have to understand that the combustion process changes a lot of the chemicals within the substances, creates new ones by reactions, and it is thought that these changes may modify your risks of cancers and other diseases. Similarly, fire fighters seem to have higher risks of cancers and it is thought because of exposure to smoke and supposedly safe chemicals for fire retardants when burned.

    I just wouldn't trust anyone who says it is safe to smoke pot. Maybe it might be less dangerous, but that would mean it would still be dangerous.

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by The Good Reverend ( 84440 ) <michael&michris,com> on Saturday August 30, 2014 @08:39PM (#47793251) Journal

    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 mspohr ( 589790 ) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @10:53PM (#47793697)

    The war on drugs is a war on black people. It's a convenient way to lock them up. White people use (abuse) drugs at a higher rate than black people but get busted at a much lower rate.

  • Why is the parent post moderated flamebait?

    The comment is statistically accurate if a bit understated. Lots of charts:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/... [washingtonpost.com]

    There are countless articles anyone on /. should be competent to find on their own, such as this:

    The punishment falls disproportionately on people of color. Blacks make up 50 percent of the state and local prisoners incarcerated for drug crimes. Black kids are 10 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than white ones -- even though white kids are more likely to abuse drugs.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... [huffingtonpost.com]

    As for the "war on black people" comment, see the book "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness":
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]

    Once a person is convicted of a felony, like for having an ounce of pot or whatever, huge swaths of civil and privacy rights are just taken away for life, finding employment becomes very hard, and they end up never being financially capable of escaping the ghetto. This is just as effective as "whites only" laws.

Help! I'm trapped in a PDP 11/70!