Medical Pot Legalization Associated with Hike in Opioid Deaths: Study

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Photo by Cindy Shebley via Flickr

A new study by Stanford University researchers has found a link between legalization of medical marijuana  and increased opioid overdose deaths.

The study results represented a marked reverse from the findings of a 2014 study, which showed a correlation between legal medical cannabis and lower opioid mortality.

“We found that the sign reversed for medical cannabis laws, such that states passing a medical cannabis law experienced a 22.7 percent increase…in overdose deaths,” said the authors of the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The 2014 study, which looked at this relationship from 1999 to 2010, found that states with medical cannabis laws were associated with lower opioid overdose death rates. The current study used data from 1999 to 2017, by the end of which most states had some form of legalized medical marijuana and 2.5 percent of the population were users.

Like the initial study, however, Stanford University researchers did find a negative correlation between medical marijuana and opioid overdose deaths from 1999-2010. This trend began to reverse in 2013.

According to the Associated Press, some people in states with legalized medical marijuana got medical cards — despite whether or not they were actually ill — as a way of buying marijuana legally.

Though legalized medical marijuana and opioid overdose deaths are clearly associated, it cannot be concluded that the legalization or use of medical marijuana causes the increase in opioid overdose deaths, according to the study.

Read the full study here.

This summary was prepared by Yotam Ponte, a TCR news intern.

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