The U.S. has a love / hate relationship with prescription pain medications like Vicodin and OxyContin. Overdose deaths from these pharmaceutical opioids have approximately tripled since 1991, and every day it is reported that 46 people die from such overdoses in the United States.
A Study at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control 2014 found that in the 13 states that passed laws allowing for the use of medical cannabis between 1999 and 2010, 25 percent fewer people died from opioid overdoses annually.
Prescription pain medications refers to opioid or narcotic pain relievers, including drugs such as Vicodin (hydrocodone+acetaminophen), OxyContin (oxycodone), Opana (oxymorphone), and methadone.
“The difference is quite striking,” said study co-author Colleen Barry a health policy researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. The shift showed up quite quickly and become visible the year after medical cannabis was accepted in each state.
In the study, the researchers hypothesized that in states where medical cannabis can be prescribed, patients may use cannabis to treat pain, either instead of prescription opiates, or to supplement them—and may thus require a lower dosage of painkillers that is less likely to lead to a fatal problem.