As of the 2016 election, 28 states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, including Florida, Montana, North Dakota, and Arkansas just this past year. This countrywide push toward the acceptance of marijuana as a medical treatment has changed and saved lives across the 50 states.
So just how important is medical marijuana, and how is it saving lives?
Reduced opioid overdoses and deaths
Deaths and reported overdoses related to opioid are on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control, deaths related to opioid overdoses increased by more than 9% just between 2013 and 2014.
Since then, multiple studies have found that the introduction of medical marijuana and the prevalence of medical marijuana dispensaries have reduced overdose-related deaths. Some of these studies estimate that the reduction in deaths is anywhere from 16% to an astonishing 53%. Most researchers speculate that this is due to the number of patients utilizing marijuana for pain relief, instead of relying on synthetic opioid pain relievers like morphine.
By providing an alternative to these addictive and exorbitantly expensive pain killers, medical marijuana has already started preventing unnecessary drug-related deaths in the states where it’s legal and available. The four states mentioned above, which just passed their medical marijuana legislation, are not included in this statement since they have not yet begun distribution yet.
Related Content: Can Medical Marijuana Help Curb the Opioid Epidemic?
Seizure treatments for all ages
This is easily one of the most heart-wrenching and hopeful stories you’ll hear all year. A small child named Charlotte was suffering from seizures starting from the age of three months. The seizures would continue for hours and lead to repeated hospitalizations. She was later diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a form of seizure that can usually not be controlled with medication. The seizures were preventing her from reaching her milestones, and around the age of two, she started to experience some cognitive decline.
By the time medical marijuana became an option in her home state of Colorado, she was having upwards of 300 grand mal seizures every single week, and her family had signed a do-not-resuscitate order in the event that her heart stopped while in a hospital. They were at the end of their rope and finally decided to apply for medical marijuana.
A small supply changed her life. A low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil stopped her seizures for more than a week.
This small application of medical marijuana quite literally turned her life around. Little Charlotte went from being unable to eat, talk, or walk on her own to a thriving, 6-year-old girl who only has seizures a few times a month, mostly in her sleep.
This same strain of low-THC marijuana is being used to help change the lives of patients with epilepsy, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. Its name? Charlotte’s Web
Relief for Parkinson’s patients
Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder that causes tremors, stiffness, and problems with both movement and posture. Actor Michael J. Fox brought a lot of awareness to the disease after his own diagnosis. It makes everyday actions like eating or dressing difficult or even impossible to complete, depending on the severity of the disease.
The use of medical marijuana can be extremely beneficial for Parkinson’s patients in helping them control their tremors and relieve other symptoms.
Go watch this video of a gentleman in the UK who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Go ahead, we’ll wait.
Other treatments for the disease include drugs with harsh side effects or even brain surgery, which is risky on the best days.
The use of medical marijuana isn’t a new concept. In 2004, The Movement Disorders Journal completed and published a study that showed the benefits of medical marijuana when treating patients with Parkinson’s disease. Almost 46% of the trial participants showed a reduction in symptoms after using medical marijuana.
A token for mental health
Mental illnesses are some of the hardest conditions to treat, and many of the people suffering from them go undiagnosed or untreated because of the negative stigma surrounding them. Medical marijuana can change all of that.
Studies have shown that the use of marijuana can be beneficial for patients suffering from:
- Anxiety/Panic attacks
- Suicidal thoughts or tendencies
One study, completed in Denver by the University of Colorado, found that in states where medical marijuana was legal, suicide rates dropped by 9-10%.
Medical marijuana can also help these patients without any of the short- or long-term side effects caused by the medications used to treat those conditions.
We’ve still got a long way to go. A little over half of the states in this country have medical marijuana legislation on the books right now, but only eight states have legalized its recreational use. With so many life-changing applications, all we can do is cross our fingers and hope the remaining states wise up and realize they can help their citizens with a simple signature on a piece of paper.
Jennifer Landis, writer and founder of Mindfulness Mama, has been writing for the last decade and holds a BA in journalism. She is an avid goal setter and achiever.
Jennifer’s proudest accomplishments include two all-natural births, running a marathon, successfully making a croquembouche, and running two half marathons.
In addition to The Doctor Weighs In, her writing has appeared in VeryWell Family, Fortune, Scary Mommy, The Huffington Post, and Women’s Running. Tweet her your favorite health tips @JenniferELandis.