Another study appears to support the medicinal value of cannabis has emerged.
Burn trauma patients who test positive for marijuana when admitted to the hospital are less likely to die and typically incur lower hospital costs compared with other patients, according to the new data.
The data were compiled by investigators at the University of North Carolina Department of Surgery, Jaycee Burn Center and published in April in the Journal of Burn Care and Research by the American Burn Association. The goal was to assess the relationship between marijuana use and in-hospital mortality in 3,299 burn trauma patients hospitalized over a 10-year period.
According to the study, 56 percent of patients tested positive for at least one substance. The most prevalent was marijuana — 29 percent — followed by alcohol, cocaine, and amphetamines.
Subjects who tested positive for marijuana had a 1 percent in-hospital mortality rate, compared with 4 percent for patients who tested negative. Those who tested positive for alcohol had a mortality rate of 8 percent.
Patients who tested positive for cannabis also had shorter intensive care unit stays, as well as lower overall hospital costs compared with those who were drug-negative, according to the study.
The average hospital cost for patients testing positive for cannabis was $82,400, compared with $90,583 for those with negative drug and alcohol screens, the study shows. Additionally, costs were $102,518 for patients testing positive for cocaine, $133,976 for amphetamines and $154,656 for alcohol.
“In our patient cohort, marijuana use appears to be protective in acute burn admissions, despite classic teaching that illicit drug use leads to poorer outcomes,” authors said in the study.
This is applicable to research to help to determine whether an immune phenotype is protective in marijuana users who sustain a burn injury, according to the authors.
The findings bolster earlier studies showing cannabis use is associated with reduced in-hospital mortality for those who have suffered heart attacks, traumatic brain injuries, and other forms of severe trauma.
That’s why Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), wasn’t too surprised at the findings.
“These findings are consistent with those of other studies similarly reporting a correlation between marijuana use and greater in-hospital survival rates among various patient populations,” Armentano said. “As is the case with any population-based study, these findings report an association, but this is not necessarily evidence of causation.”
He noted that while it may be that a past history of cannabis use is protective in some way, the results may also be attributable to other variables, such as a subject’s age or overall health.
“However, because this same association has been reported in numerous studies involving various patient cohorts, it lends weight to the theory that the substance itself may be playing a significant role in influencing this outcome,” Armentano said.