Medical Cannabis Again Linked To Opioid Use Reduction

Medical marijuana and opioid abuse

A new study has found fewer drivers killed in car crashes tested positive for opioids in U.S states with medical marijuana laws.

Conducted at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, the study reviewed 1999-2013 Fatality Analysis Reporting System data from 18 U.S. states that tested at least 80% of drivers who died within one hour of a car accident for alcohol and other drugs; focusing on drivers aged 21 to 40 that tested positive to opioids.

Of the 68,394 deceased, around 42 percent were in states that had medical marijuana laws operating at the time of the accidents that took their lives. A quarter died in states before laws went into effect, and 33 percent of fatalities occurred in states that had never passed a medical marijuana law (MML).

“.. age-stratified analyses indicated a significant reduction in opioid positivity for drivers aged 21 to 40 years,” say the study’s authors.

The study, published in the American Journal Of Public Health concluded:

“Operational MMLs are associated with reductions in opioid positivity among 21- to 40-year-old fatally injured drivers and may reduce opioid use and overdose”.

The study will likely raise a few other questions from those against medical marijuana that the researchers weren’t seeking to address; such as – what role, if any, did the use of medical cannabis have in these fatalities?

The study follows other research published in June stating opioid abuse is less prevalent in MML states. An estimated 5.4% abuse prescribed opioid medication in states where medical cannabis is illegal; whereas in states with MML,  the rate drops to just 2.8%.

An earlier University of Michigan study found chronic pain patients using medical cannabis demonstrated a significant reduction in their use of prescription opioid-based medications – 64 percent.

There’s been a great deal of academic interest in marijuana’s potential to help address North America’s opioid prescription abuse crisis; which was fully thrust into the spotlight after the death earlier this year of music legend, Prince. The largest harm reduction study ever undertaken will soon commence in Canada, a project that will see Canada’s National Access Cannabis  collaborating with the USA’s Phytosciences Consultants.

Image credit : Columbia University