(HealthDay News) – State medical cannabis laws correlate with reduced state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, according to a study published online Aug. 25 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Marcus A Bachhuber, MD, from the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and colleagues examined the correlation between the presence of state medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose mortality. A time-series analysis was performed of medical cannabis laws and state-level death certificate data from 1999–2010 in all 50 U.S. states.

The researchers found that three states had medical cannabis laws effective before 1999, while 10 states enacted laws between 1999 and 2010. Compared with states without medical cannabis laws, states with laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate (P=0.003). In each year after implementation, these laws correlated with a lower rate of overdose mortality that generally strengthened over time (year one, −19.9%; year two, −25.2%; year three, −23.6%; year four, −20.2%; year five, −33.7%; and year six, −33.3%). Findings remained similar in secondary analyses.

“Further investigation is required to determine how medical cannabis laws may interact with policies aimed at preventing opioid analgesic overdose,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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