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Medical Marijuana Reduces Abuse and Overdose From Painkillers

By HERWriter
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Medical Marijuana Reduces Painkiller Abuse and Overdose Peter Kim/fotolia, Edited by Erin Kennedy

Research has indicated that states where medical marijuana is legal have lower rates of abuse and overdose of painkillers based on a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Other research published on Health Affairs shows that the states where medical marijuana is legal have fewer prescriptions given out for painkillers and other drugs, as compared to states where medical marijuana is not legal. This information is based on data from prescriptions filled by Medicare Part D enrollees from 2010 to 2013.

The research was carried out by Ashley and W. David Bradford. This father and daughter are researchers at the University of Georgia.

Pharmaceutical companies are being affected by these lower numbers in so many states across the country. And pharmaceutical companies fund research and provide financial support for anti-marijuana groups.

The Department of Health and Human Services had issued a recommendation that the main psychoactive ingredient, THC, no longer be a Schedule I drug. The HHS recommended that it be shifted to the less controlled category, Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act.

The office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) learned that several months later, at least one pharmaceutical manufacturer of a synthetic THC stated its opposition against rescheduling natural THC to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The DEA later said no to the HHS recommendation. No reasons for this rejection were given.

According to the Bradford researchers, in 2013, the 17 states that allow medical marijuana saved approximately $165 million. If the whole country allowed for medical marijuana, it could save Medicare close to half a billion dollars.

The Bradfords indicated that those who use medical marijuana are finding relief, without taking pharmaceutical drugs.

A UK study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found after doing 79 studies that there was a "30% or greater improvement in pain with cannabinoid compared with placebo," as reported by the Washington Post.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) reported that there has been a sizable reduction in abuse and overdose deaths from prescription painkillers in states where medical marijuana is legal.

Their research showed a drop of 15 to 35 percent in opiate addiction and overdose deaths where medical marijuana is legal.

In April 2016, the DEA had said that it would reconsider the Schedule I classification that has been hung since the 1970s on marijuana, even medical marijuana.

Schedule I drugs are considered to have the highest potential for abuse and no "current accepted medical use" by the DEA.

But as we've seen, this reassessment didn't lead to a change of its classification.

Things seem out of sync with the perspective of the nation in the present day. In the 1990s about one-quarter of Americans thought marijuana should be legalized. By 2015, that number rose to 58 percent. In the past 20 years, 23 states plus Washington, D.C., have made medical marijuana legal in one form or another.(3)

Marijuana's therapeutic benefits have been recognized and publicly acknowledged by the American Medical Association (AMA) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) among other respected organizations, and they support the change from Schedule I.

"I certainly think it ought to be rescheduled," former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said, as reported in an article on Business Insider. "You know, we treat marijuana in the same way we treat heroin now, and that clearly is not appropriate."

In 2001 and again in 2006 the DEA reviewed and kept it at Schedule I. Be aware, this means anabolic steroids, cocaine, methamphetamines and oxycodone are less restricted because they are either Schedule II or Schedule III.

Study of medical marijuana faces some substantial hurdles. Two petitions have asked the DEA to for a reclassification to remove some hindrances to scientific research. At present, studies must be approved by federal agencies, the DEA, the FDA and occasionally the National Institute on Drug Abuse among other federal agencies.

The University of Mississippi has had the only license to grow research-grade marijuana for almost 50 years. UM holds an exclusive contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. All American marijuana research is required to get its cannabis from the university. And bear in mind, UM has a goal of proving it to be dangerous.

Nevertheless, 14 states have voted to make medical marijuana legal in 2016. Perhaps the numbers may eventually make a difference to the decision makers, even though research has not convinced them as yet.

According to the Tax Foundation, an independent tax policy research organization, legalized medical marijuana could put $28 billion into government coffers through taxes.

Reviewed October 4, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN

1) Why pharma companies are fighting legal marijuana - drop in painkillers in states with legalized marijuana. Washingtonpost.com.  Retrieved Sept. 29, 2016.

2) How medical marijuana could literally save lives. Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved Sept. 29, 2016.

3) The DEA is getting dragged 'kicking and screaming' into the new world of marijuana. Businessinsider.com. Retrieved Sept. 29, 2016.

4) DEA declines to loosen restrictions on medical marijuana. CNN.com. Retrieved Sept. 29, 2016.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.