Medicinal Marijuana Linking to Decline in Overdoses
The Washington Post reports that University of Georgia researchers have produced significant evidence linking prescription marijuana to falling overdose statistics in states where medicinal marijuana use is legal.
The study suggests that chronic pain sufferers can find alternatives to dangerous medication on a large scale. While this development hasn’t come without push back from pharmaceutical lobbyists, states that have legalized medical marijuana have already seen a plunge in painkiller prescriptions.
The Georgia researchers reported that in the 17 states where medical marijuana use had been legalized through 2013, prescriptions for painkillers and other classes of medications declined rapidly compared to states where marijuana use was not legalized for medicinal purposes. The number of prescriptions for medications commonly used to treat chronic pain, such as antidepressants, anti-nausea, anti-anxiety and seizure medications decreased across the board. However, the most striking finding was the consistent drop in prescriptions written for analgesics or painkillers.
The study conducted by the University of Georgia researchers adds more information to the rapidly growing pool of knowledge supporting marijuana use for treatment of chronic pain, both in combination with opioids and as a viable treatment on its own.
Chronic pain is common, multidimensional and individualized and treatment can be challenging for healthcare providers as well as patients. Roughly 76 million US citizens live with chronic pain; a number larger than all persons diagnosed with cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined.
In March of this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated guidelines for clinicians who prescribe opioids for individuals suffering from chronic pain.
The guidelines help providers make informed decisions about pain treatment for patients 18 and older in primary care settings. The CDC recommendations focus on the use of opioids in treating chronic pain and are not intended for patients actively being treated for cancer and those receiving palliative or end-of-life care.
Unlike cannabis, opioids carry a known risk of chemical dependence. Over ten years ago, the CDC reported a 200% increase in the rate of overdose deaths from opioid pain relievers and heroin.
This finding has several implications for the investigation of medical malpractice cases. Where cannabis is not legally available, patients may increasingly seek it on the black market and complicate a medical investigation. The full ramifications of medically prescribed cannabis may not be known for many years, and with decreasing revenue at stake, the pharmaceutical industry continues to fund studies discounting its benefits. Most immediately, the role of prescription drugs in a case is affected by the state in which an adverse medical event took place. Finding expert witnesses conversant in drug laws of that state will be more important than ever.
ALN Consulting can research, identify and secure expert witnesses appropriate for cases involving the use of medical marijuana and other pain treatments. We do more than help you prepare…we prepare you to win, call us today.