Really interesting paper published by Bachhuber and colleagues recently in JAMA Internal Medicine looking at the association between medical marijuana laws and opioid analgesic overdose in US states from 1999-2010.
They found an association between states with medical marijuana laws and decreased fatal opioid overdoses. To be exact, a 24.8% decrease in fatal opioid overdoses in medical marijuana states compared to nonmedical marijuana states. The authors were careful to point out that their analysis did not highlight a potential mechanism of action but they did discuss the potential that the use of medical marijuana to manage pain by those patients that might have otherwise used some or more opioids may have contributed to the decreased overdoses.
The findings from this study are especially interesting given the continued rise of opioid overdose deaths and the ongoing experiment with both medical and recreational marijuana in the United States. Additional research needs to be done in this area including all of the potential impacts (good and bad) of recreational marijuana in what seems inevitably to be the increasing number of states to legalize it.