New Study – Medical Cannabis Access Lowers Death Rate

Research Shows Access to Medical Cannabis Lowers Prescription Drug Overdose Rate

Cannabis is a gateway drug. For decades, that is the message we have been sending to kids, teens and adults in an attempt to promote the general abstinence of cannabis use. The inherent problem with this statement is, by not defining where that gateway leads, cannabis supporters and activists have allowed the anti-cannabis movement to fill in that blank themselves. They have done so in droves, spending time and money to spread negativity and untruths as to how the cannabis plant can actually serve the world. However, that narrative is slowly changing across the globe and especially here in the United States. Government officials are shifting from the antiquated ‘Just Say No’ approach to cannabis to a ‘Don’t Smoke and Drive’ message of responsible consumption. Furthermore, researchers are constantly releasing studies that show the benefit of wide-scale cannabis legalization. The following study is just one more great example.

New Study

Officials, celebrities, researchers, activists and successful entrepreneurs are all acting to change the idea of ‘What’s behind the gate?’. One such study was recently released, inferring that legal medical cannabis systems have a positive impact on lowering drug abuse and overdose. Which means, in this case, cannabis is a gateway to a safer society.

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, legal medical dispensaries may play a direct role in reducing opioid addiction and deaths by overdose. The study, conducted by David Powell, Rosalie Liccardo Pacula and Mireille Jacobson of the RAND organization, a nonprofit global policy think tank, was created to show the potentially positive impact legalized medical cannabis access can have in relation to drug abuse.

What They Found

“States permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not.” – NBER Study

This study was fueled by more than thirty years of data and affirmed the findings of another popular medical journal, JAMA. The Journal of the American Medical Association, or JAMA, reported in 2014 that statewide legal medical cannabis access lowered the opioid overdose fatality rate.

“States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws.” JAMA reported.

If cannabis can truly lower the amount of overdose deaths in America, than it might be just what the country needs, as death tolls have been steadily increasing over the past decade. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted just that fact. Their research shows that at least 16,000 people died in 2010 alone, up from only 4,000 in 1999.

How is Cannabis Different?

“The inhalation of whole-plant cannabis is safe and efficacious in the treatment of various types of neuropathy – a type of pain that is poorly managed by opiates.” StudyUC San Diego

“Prescribing cannabis in place of opioids for neuropathic pain may reduce the morbidity and mortality rates associated with prescription pain medications and may be an effective harm reduction strategy.” – StudyHarm Reduction Journal

Expert Opinions

According to Author Colleen L Barry these findings implicate that legalized medicinal cannabis can be and is being used to save lives.

“[The study’s findings] suggest the potential for many lives to be saved. … We can speculate … that people are completely switching or perhaps supplementing, which allows them to lower the dosage of their prescription opioid.”

Mireille Jacobson, associate professor at UC Irvine and co-author of the NBER paper believes that, given the amount of deaths per year caused by prescription painkillers (16,000+), we must take a serious look at using medical cannabis for chronic pain treatment.

“If this is for real, it means that there are other ways that are less dangerous for people to deal with chronic pain.”

Solving the pain management puzzle is no simple feet, especially when you consider patients with chronic issues that require long-term treatments. These studies have proven that, by simply making legalized medical cannabis accessible to pain patients, you can reduce the amount of lives lost to prescription opioid addiction and abuse. All to often, the cannabis industry has allowed itself to be defined by the anti-advocate; who refers to cannabis as a gateway to more dangerous and intoxicating substances. That out of touch hypothesis is beginning to change due to countless studies just like this one. In fact, if this research proves consistent, than part of what the anti-cannabis activists have been saying will be true. Cannabis is in fact a gateway drug…a gateway to saving lives.

What do you think about cannabis being called a ‘gateway’ drug? Do you think chronic pain patients should have safe access to cannabis? Join the conversation and comment below!

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