Legalizing marijuana for medical use may have a benefit beyond providing relief for patients suffering from pain, nausea and other illness-related symptoms and disorders. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that states with medical marijuana laws had an average 25% lower opiate overdose death rate.
Opiates including codeine, vicodin, oxycontin and hydrocodone, are often prescribed for chronic pain. The researchers analyzed medical cannabis laws and death certificate data from all 50 states from 1999 to 2010.
The results showed a clear association between passage of the laws and a decrease in fatal drug overdoses.
In 2010 alone, the researchers estimate there were 1,700 fewer overdose deaths in states where medical marijuana is legal.
To date, 23 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana.