Two recent studies have cannabis users saying, “We told you so.” A new report from Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicates that marijuana has been shown to lower deaths due to opioid overdose. Another recent study from the American Psychological Association suggests that marijuana use in couples is associated with a lower risk of domestic violence.
The JAMA study sought to determine if there was an association between medical marijuana use and overdoses of opioids. The study covered the decade between 1999 and 2010. When it first began, medical marijuana was a rarity, with just 3 states — California, Oregon and Washington — allowing it. By the end of the study, ten more states had joined in legalizing medical use. All 50 states were included in counting overdose deaths.
The study concluded that there was a 25% lower mortality rate from opioid overdose after the medical marijuana laws were implemented. In the final year of the study alone, about 1,700 fewer deaths due to overdose occurred than would have, based on prior numbers.
Dr. Marcus Bachhuber is one of the lead authors of the study. As a physician at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Dr. Bachhuber has managed many cases of chronic pain. He knows well how difficult it can be.
“It can be challenging for people to control chronic pain, so I think the more options we have the better. But I think it’s important, of course, to weigh the risks and benefits of medical marijuana.”
As a chronic pain patient myself, I can say that my medical marijuana helps my pain medication work better. A 2006 study published by the British Journal of Pharmacology says that this is because the receptors for both THC and Opioid overlap. The study cited showed that the two receptors interact directly.
Add to that the proven muscle relaxant qualities of marijuana — as anyone with chronic pain can tell you, pain makes muscles tense which causes more pain, etc. — and pot’s ability to reduce stress and the need for opioids is lessened.
That stress-relief effect might explain the results of another recent study. The American Psychological Association study found that marijuana use lowers the risk of intimate partner violence. For the study, IPV is defined as physical aggression like hitting, beating, choking or slapping. Couples, chosen from marriage license applicants in New York state, were observed over nine years, using mail-in surveys to report on the effects of marijuana on violence in the relationship.
The couples were asked about marijuana use as well as alcohol and other drugs. Of course, the researchers expected marijuana to have the same effect as the alcohol does. But they were surprised to see that this was not the case. The researchers found…
“… that more frequent marijuana use by husbands and wives predicted less frequent IPV perpetration by husbands. Husbands’ marijuana use also predicted less frequent IPV perpetration by wives. Moderation analyses demonstrated that couples in which both spouses used marijuana frequently reported the least frequent IPV perpetration.”
So the couple that tokes together is the least likely to beat up on each other. The hypothesis is that marijuana lowers aggressive tendencies. But I think it comes back to pot’s stress reduction effect. A couple that is less stressed out about their lives are less likely to take that out on each other.
These studies will need follow-up, certainly. But it’s nice to know that studies are supporting what cannabis users have known for years.