States’ pot laws linked to drug overdose death rates

image of cannabis leaf

Medical marijuana laws have been linked with lower death rates from overdoses on prescription painkillers and illicit drugs such as heroin.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Wikimedia Commons

Death rates from overdoses on prescription painkillers or heroin and other illicit drugs appear to be an average of 24.8 percent lower in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without the laws.

The finding, published August 25 in JAMA Internal Medicine, does not provide direct evidence that medical marijuana laws reduce drug overdose rates. But if future research affirms the link, those results could lead to legislation supporting medical marijuana use to reduce the risk of overdoses from other drugs.

For more, read SN‘s feature “Legalization trend forces review of marijuana’s dangers.”

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Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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