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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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  • 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?

  • 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 SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @05:48PM (#47792597)

    If pot becomes legal in all states, I hope there are warnings on the marijana cigarettes like there are on tobacco cigarettes.

    Is that as likely to cause cancer? It does seem like smoking anything is a bad idea, but perhaps tobacco has something that makes it more likely to develop issues...

    However there's also another way to get MJ into your system, edibles. If you were using it for medical purposes a medicinal brownie seems like a more appealing application than does smoking...

  • 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.

  • by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @06:18PM (#47792717)
    The War on Drugs has been a failure- it's put millions of people in prison, cost our society billions of dollars, and fueled honest-to-God warfare in South America and Mexico- and Americans are slowly starting to realize this. That being said, I think we're running the risk of having things swing too far in the other direction. There seems to be this attitude out there that pot is harmless, and that's just not the case in my experience. In moderation, it's probably safe. But chronic use- long term use at high doses- seems to really fuck people up. I know people from high school who used to smoke once in a while, and they're fine- productive members of society, good spouses, good parents, etc. I also know people who went on to smoke weed daily for many years... and they're just not all there anymore. They're always in a pretty good mood, but it seems disconnected from what's going around. They're hard to connect to, they can't seem to empathize with other human beings, they seem scattered and their thought processes tend to run wild; there's a lot of creativity but they lack the focus to do anything with it. The PSAs were right: drugs DO fry your brain.

    I think alcohol and Prohibition are a good parallel here. Prohibition was clearly a disaster, and when used in moderation, alcohol is harmless and probably even beneficial. But long-term, daily use of alcohol in high volumes can really screw you up. All things in moderation. Just because you can't OD on pot doesn't mean it's safe to take as much as you want as long as you want.

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 30, 2014 @07:42PM (#47793041)

    yes, thank you for demonstrating the step the prohibitionists are taking as a fall-back position to the whole 'that ain't the same pot you smoked back in the day', and 'pot causes mental illness' from their all-or nothing smoke pot and your a dangerous criminal stance

    admittedly it is an improvement, but it is disingenuous in that it is just an attempt to maintain a source of cash flow through fear

    while I agree that many of the rules regarding alcohol use should apply to marijuana (regulation, taxation, limits on use regarding vehicles), I do not agree that the effects of marijuana use are a dangerous as those of alcohol use

    and the use of legal, regulated marijuana is certainly less dangerous that using 'illegal' marijuana in states where you will be subjected to a black market and arrest by law enforcement

    it has been demonstrated in Australia (comparing between states where pot is illegal and legal) that the most dangerous and long term effects of marijuana use are in states where it is illegal and arrest leads to poor education and job outcomes

    that is to say that the enforcement against the drug is more harmful than the drug

  • 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).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 30, 2014 @08:52PM (#47793313)

    Because he's barely scraped the surface of these freaks. Have another bullet point: They're the ones who expect you to die slowly and painfully at the end of your life (God forbid you skip out on it. God forbid you ask them to help pay for all the tubes and shit.) Your pain brings them closer to their god.

  • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 ) on Saturday August 30, 2014 @11:01PM (#47793723)

    " There seems to be this attitude out there that pot is harmless, and that's just not the case in my experience. In moderation, it's probably safe. But chronic use- long term use at high doses- seems to really fuck people up."

    Replace pot with Alcohol, cigarettes, HFC's, video games, etc. and its pretty much the same thing. How far can it swing in the other direction? You mentioned alcohol has bad long term effects. But despite this people still drink themselves to death, drive drunk and kill others or get killed, or become a raging ass holes causing mayhem. People still smoke cigarettes despite the exorbitant cost and adverse health effects including cancer. People still drink gallons of soda and sugar crap until their pancreas packs it in and shuts down. People play video games until they loose their jobs, wives, kids and home or in some cases, until they drop dead. There is nothing the government can do at that point other than prohibit it these things and we all know how that works out. It's either all with some restrictions (don't drive and you must be 18 years old).

    The people have to be the ones to use judgement. If someone smokes so much weed and they fry their brains then that is their fault. Just like the old 65yo blue collar retiree who spends every night at the bar downing 6+ pints until his liver fails (know a guy who this just happened to. sad). People have to be educated and they have to be smart.

    Oh and I can counter your burn out pot head story with an anecdote of my own: I have a friend who at one point worked two jobs and got a degree at the same time. I asked him how he did it his answer was "Copious amounts of marijuana bro." He smokes in the morning, on his way to work while at work and at home. He is very energetic, driven and lively. Quite the opposite of your theory. So it of course depends on the person.

    I have also known people who smoked a lot and were fucked up because they were fucked up to begin with. You just always assumed they were messed up because of the pot but meanwhile you never really knew them well enough and they were messed up in the head to begin with. I worked with a kid who would go berserk is he didn't smoke and he smoked all the time. If he drank he was VIOLENT. A night out with him meant he was going to get into a fight and usually win because he was a hulk of a man. Turns out his father was exposed to chemical warfare agents while in nam and had a lot of mental issues including PTSD. His father ambushed him and his mother with a knife thinking they were Vietcong which promptly ended that marriage. He also had a very dysfunctional life and had a lot of really fucked up friends (I mean what friend tells you to fuck their own mother because she thinks your cute and lets you actually follow through? Yea, those were his friends. They gave me the heebie jeebies). The smoking was probably medicating him.

    In the end legalizing it will create new problems but they will be far more petty than what we have today. We can rid ourselves of a large amount of violent crime, people in jail and money spent on ruining lives while fattening the wallets of war machine peddlers. I'd rather live in a world full of cheery burnouts than drug gangs chopping peoples heads off with box cutters and chain saws, prisons bursting at the seams with inmates who just become more angry and make plenty of angry new friends they can do business with once they get out and government paramilitary goons wielding surplus military hardware shooting first and asking questions later (oops! no drugs here. Sorry for shooting your dog and father, kids. Have a nice life!). Legalize it, please.

  • by macs4all ( 973270 ) on Sunday August 31, 2014 @08:03AM (#47794801)

    "After alcohol, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the active ingredient in marijuana, is the substance most commonly found in the blood of impaired drivers, fatally injured drivers, and motor vehicle crash victims. Studies in several localities have found that approximately 4 to 14 percent of drivers who sustained injury or died in traffic accidents tested positive for THC."

    I call Shennanigans.

    1. Tests for THC Metabolites (which are ALL that the drug tests measure (rather than the incorrectly-stated delta-9 THC), have ZERO ability to determine whether a person was "high" at the time of the accident). That is because those Metabolites (but NOT the effects of the drug) stay in a typical human's bloodstream for weeks after the last "dose"; so, a statement regarding their presence in traffic accident "participants" has as much to do with establishing a causal relationship as mentioning their shoe size as a contributing factor.

    2. The anti-marijuana bias of that "study", and that of the person who propounds it, is transparently p, and laughably, evident by including "motor vehicle crash victims" (other than drivers). So what now? We have a new classification of negligence called "RIDING while high"??? Yeah, those people SURELY should be included in a study if impaired DRIVING...

  • by hrvatska ( 790627 ) on Sunday August 31, 2014 @10:57AM (#47795261)
    Both outcomes are very germane to the debate of whether or not to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Good statistics should be used to guide policy. When you say "both outcomes you've described mean nothing to dead people", that comes off to me in the same way as "think of the children" does. Law enforcement has various means to test impairment that may not be as definitive as a breathalyzer (whose accuracy is considered debatable by some), but are still good enough to determine if a person is fit to drive. Instead of banning marijuana, how about if we instead develop more effective means of determining if a person is fit to drive? It shouldn't matter whether a person is unfit to drive because of alcohol, pot, old age or blood pressure medication, they're still unfit to drive.

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford