Study: Opioid Prevalence Falls Following Medical Cannabis Legalization

oil_bottlesThe implementation of medical marijuana programs is associated with a decrease in the prevalence of opioids detected among fatally injured drivers, according to data published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers at Columbia University in New York and the University of California at Davis performed a between-state comparison of opioid positivity rates in fatal car accidents in 18 states. Authors reported that drivers between the ages of 21 and 40 who resided in states that permitted medical marijuana use were approximately half as likely to test positive for opioids as were similar drivers in jurisdictions that did not such programs in place.

They concluded, “Operational MMLs (medical marijuana laws) are associated with reductions in opioid positivity among 21- to 40-year-old fatally injured drivers and may reduce opioid use and overdose.”

Prior comparisons have determined that medical cannabis access is associated with lower rates of opioid use, abuse, and mortality. Most recently, a 2016 study published in the journal Health Affairs reported a significant decrease in the use of prescription medications following the implementation of medical marijuana programs.

An abstract of the study, “State medical marijuana laws and the prevalence of opioids detected among fatally injured drivers,” appears online here.

9 thoughts

  1. Take THAT potalyzer!
    How in the fu€k did we get a patent going on this genius device that has no peer-reviewed controlled studies that it can detect marijuana in someone’s breath in the “last two hours…”

    And no one is inventing the “opialyzer”???!!!

    Think we MIGHT be barking up the wrong tree?
    Here, Ive got NORML’s educational commercial on this one;

    “Looking for safety from pot heads driving while legal prescription opiates cause more accidents?
    No problem! We at NORML have the solution to your propaganda saturation! Smoke a bowl of some fresh, pine-smelling trainwreck and read THIS! Heeeeears your evidence!
    “Legal limits, also known as per se limits, for marijuana and driving are arbitrary and unsupported by science. ”
    (Their study of drivers in Washington state was not controlled for alcohol and only began since Washington legalized so they cant report a “spike”).

    …and I like this honesty from the NHSA…
    “The survey found that marijuana users are more likely to be involved in accidents, but that the increased risk may be due in part because marijuana users are more likely to be in groups at higher risk of crashes. In particular, marijuana users are more likely to be young men – a group already at high risk.”

    They also find drunk driving is declining while marijuana driving is increasing. And also that marijuana is often green and when It’s not raining, the sky is often blue. Thank you NHSA for protecting our roads! We salute you!

    Care to speculate how many accidents there are in the US involving people who consume only marijuana and no alcohol or prescription meds, or meth? Take a guess! Less or more?!

  2. That’s great! We all want to save lives, and avoid accidental deaths and/or injury, to ourselves and others. Right?

    Reality check! It’s time for another pop quiz:

    Q: Rank the following items according to their relative risk of accidental death and/or injury, from most deadly to least deadly:
    a) cannabis
    b) opiates
    c) automobiles

    A: c (automobiles), c (opiates), a (cannabis)

    Get the picture? We’re using carnage from automobile accidents to compare usage rates between cannabis and opiates. But the killer “elephant in the room” is the automobile.

    Loosely speaking, the human body benefits from cannabis; it will tolerate opiates; but it cannot survive violent impacts of over four or five MPH.

    Wake up to the real dangers in our society!

      1. Damn, my typing sucks, I forgot a comma this time, but to err is human! I think my main point is correct, however!

      2. Here are the stats I have, from the CDC, for year 2013:

        Annual Deaths:
        Vehicle accidents: 35,369
        Pharmaceutical opioid analgesics: 16,651
        Cannabis: 0

        And for reference:
        Tobacco: 480,000
        Guns: 33,636
        Alcohol: 29,001

      3. I took another look at those numbers; I realized I had neglected the Heroin numbers! From CDC, for year 2014:

        Annual deaths from
        Pharmaceutical opioid analgesics: 18,893
        Heroin Overdose 10,574

        …for a total of 28,893 annual deaths from opiates. Still less than the annual deaths from automobiles, so my point remains the same.

    1. One might argue that many people “must” drive, and that therefore the relevant issue here is not the automobile, or the act of driving, but rather, it is the effects of impairment on driving.

      I understand this line of thinking, but I would respectfully disagree, and here’s why:

      First, I would argue that the relevant issue here is Safety. Impairment while driving an automobile is a legitimate factor, and I would not diminish its importance, but it is only meaningful to the extent that it relates to Safety, the fundamental issue.

      Secondly, if one “must” drive, then that means one has become dependent on something dangerous: automobiles. If you’re in such a pickle, I accept that; but it doesn’t change the underlying Safety risks.

      But my main point here is, whenever there is a fatal accident that occurs while a driver is impaired on drugs of any kind, the death itself can still be directly attributed to the automobile, moving at high speeds (which is what cars do. It’s their purpose.)

      This is true unless the person in question actually died at the wheel from overdose, in which case, a corpse in a car, moving at high speeds, crashed on their own!

      If we are genuinely concerned about Safety, and not just using it as a political weapon in the War On Drugs, then we must not let our cultural biases about the automobile affect our ability to assess matters of Safety with objectivity, honesty and clarity.

  3. Our great leaders are not going to like this report because it does not fit the narrative they want. I WOULD BE SURPRISED if main stream media will not give this story legs. Until Americans starts rejecting the propaganda coming from the TYCOON owned reality news. Lets see, tycoons buy our politicians with lobby and pack money. Then they monopolize our entire news networks and use them as a political cheering squad for whatever party the tycoon owner/director is affiliated with. Until the news is given back to the people by breaking up the news monopoly’s we are going to find change will take forever. Facts like what is reported in this article on opioids will barely be heard by most folks. Media likes the stories of children being rushed to the hospital for overdosing on marijuana candy in Colorado. This fits the beurocrats narative better.

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