JAMA Internal Medicine Study Shows that Medical Cannabis States have Lower Opioid-Induced Fatality Rates
Research published in the 8/25/14 edition of JAMA Internal Medicine showed that the enactments of marijuana laws are associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates.
Results showed that states with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.
The research was conducted by a team of leading investigators from the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the University of Pennsylvania, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who conducted a time-series analysis of medical cannabis laws and state-level death certificate data in the United States from 1999 to 2010.
During period studied, 13 states either enacted or had existing laws allowing for cannabis-based therapy. The states included California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
Year-by-year analysis showed that the lower rates of overdose mortality associated with such laws generally strengthened over time: year 1 (−19.9%), year 2 (−25.2%), year 3 (−23.6%), year 4 (−20.2%), year 5 (−33.7%), and year 6 (−33.3%).
It was the authors’ conclusion that 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.
Just how serious of a problem is prescription drug safety?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdose deaths increased for the 11th consecutive year in 2010. CDC’s analysis shows that 38,329 people died from a drug overdose in the United States in 2010, up from 37,004 deaths in 2009. This continues the steady rise in overdose deaths seen over the past 11 years, starting with 16,849 deaths in 1999.
Overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics have shown a similar increase. Starting with 4,030 deaths in 1999, the number of deaths increased to 15,597 in 2009 and 16,651 in 2010.
In 2010, nearly 60 percent of the drug overdose deaths (22,134) involved pharmaceutical drugs. Opioid analgesics, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone, were involved in about 3 of every 4 pharmaceutical overdose deaths (16,651), confirming the predominant role opioid analgesics play in drug overdose deaths.
According to the FDA’s Federal Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) , in 2011 there were 98,518 deaths due to the use of prescription drugs and 573,111 serious outcomes (including death, hospitalization, life-threatening, disability, congenital anomaly and/or other serious outcome).