Study Shows Medical Marijuana Reduces Overdose Deaths

SPRINGFIELD -- Prescriptions for high-power narcotic painkillers have doubled in the last decade, but a new study shows the same painkillers could themselves be a threat. Medical marijuana could be a safer alternative.

The University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine death rates involving narcotic painkillers containing opioids, such as morphine and oxycontin, in states with and without medical marijuana. The surprising fact for some is, in states with medicinal marijuana, the rate of death dropped by almost 25 percent.

Dennis Garland takes morphine for his neuropathy pain and says the concern of an overdose is always in the back of his head.

"I worry about double,” Garland said, “forgetting I already took a dose and taking a second one."

Garland keeps his pills locked tight for fear of another tragic overdose.

"I've got a 3-year old toddler running around the house and he's getting into anything he can and the first thing he does is put it in his mouth,” he said.

Dan Linn, executive director for the Illinois Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said the study shows legalizing the drug will save lives.

"We've known from patients anecdotally for years they can reduce their pharmaceutical intake if they're able to use medical cannabis,” Linn said.

With 60 percent of opiod-related deaths involving legitimate users, he points to medical marijuana as the safer alternative.

“There hasn't been a single documented overdose fatality from cannabis,” Linn said.

The governor’s office is beginning its search for members of the medical marijuana advisory board which will help determine which conditions are approved to use the drug.

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