PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Residents of states where medical marijuana is legalized suffer fewer overdoses from prescription pain medication than elsewhere, says a new study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.
Opioid analgesics are a class of pain medications that include popular pills like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin. Though effective at suppressing moderate to severe pain, opioid analgesics are addictive and linked with a range of negative side effects.
Additionally, overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics have more than quadrupled over the last decade. But according to new research, states where medical marijuana is still strictly forbidden are bearing the brunt of that increase.
As detailed in a new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania looked at overdose data of all 50 states from 1999 to 2010. They found that the 13 states where medical marijuana is legally prescribed saw a 24.8 percent lower annual opioid overdose mortality rate in the wake of the passed legalization legislation.
The study did not attempt to ascertain the effectiveness of medical marijuana for patients suffering from pain. But lead researcher Marcus A. Bachhuber said in a released statement that medical cannabis "may provide relief for some individuals."
"In addition, people already taking opioids for pain may supplement with medical marijuana and be able to lower their painkiller dose, thus lowering their risk of overdose."