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What are people talking about this week? Better yet, what should they be talking about? We're talking about marijuana and obscene language.

The story on cursing I mention can be found here:

John Green -- Executive Producer
Stan Muller -- Director, Producer
Aaron Carroll -- Writer
Mark Olsen -- Graphics
What are people talking about this week?  Better yet, what should they be talking about?  We're talking about marijuana and obscene language.  This is Healthcare Triage News.

[Opening theme]

You may remember from our episode on marijuana that it's not nearly as dangerous, per se, as legal substances, such as alcohol or tobacco, but it's also much safer than many legal prescription drugs like opioid analgesics.
Chronic pain is unfortunately common, and the number of people who are on prescriptions for relief from that pain, with opioids, has almost doubled in the United States in the last ten years.  Unfortunately, misuse of opioids, or disorders from their misuse, and deaths from overdoses have also gone up significantly too.
If only there were some other, safer drugs available to treat chronic pain.  
As of this summer, almost half of the states in the U.S. have made medical marijuana legal.
Researchers looked at data from 1999 to 2010 to see if making medical marijuana legal affected the overdose death rates from opioids.  Before 1999, only California, Oregon, and Washington permitted its use.  What's up with the west coast?
Over those years, ten more states legalized medical marijuana. Here's what researchers found: States with legal medical marijuana had an opioid overdose mortality rate that was 25% lower than states without it.  Not only that, but the association got stronger over time.
It was estimated in the study, that in 2010 alone, medical marijuana laws were associated with more than 1700 fewer deaths than expected from opioid overdose in the United States.  This wasn't a randomized controlled trial.  Laws are different in the different states, and it's not clear if marijuana controls pain as well as opioids, but this certainly should make us think hard about what we consider safe for pain control.
And the good news, and second story, is that we may have some better answers in the future.  One of the reasons we have so little information about the medical effects of marijuana is that research on it is hard to get approved.  For a long time, the federal government has only allowed 21 kilograms of it to be legally grown a year for research purposes.
Turns out that the University of Mississippi has an exclusive contract to grow marijuana for research in the United States.  There is a secure plot of land where crops are allowed to grow.  That would be a cool field trip, no? 
In big news this week, the DEA has increased it order from 21 kilograms to 650 kilograms.  This has a lot of researchers excited that they might get to do some better studies.  It might also signal that the federal government is considering accepting medical marijuana nationally.  But don't get too excited.  There are still tons of hurdles left to get there.
Our final story of the week comes to us from our friends at  Joseph Stromberg wrote about five surprising things about swearing.  Link to the article down below.  For instance, swearing appears to be becoming more common, but the most interesting of the five concerned a study about swearing and pain tolerance.
Researchers got 67 undergraduate students to put their hands in ice cold water for as long as they could.  Only ten of the made it to five minutes.  They all did this twice, and on one of the two times they were randomized to swear.  They could pick any curse word they wanted to, and they were told to repeat it while they kept their hands under the ice cold water.  One participant was excluded because he or she couldn't come up with a curse word.  Some people.
And get this.  Participants who swore were able to withstand the pain for significantly longer.  They also reported significantly less pain overall.  The effect was seen regardless of sex or gender.  The only people who swearing didn't work for were males who had a tendency to catastrophize.  Not that we know anyone around here like that.
So it turns out that swearing might have a hypoalgesic effect, and the popularity of all those foul-mouthed HBO dramas might be good for our collective pain tolerance.  Maybe we shouldn't get so down on people who curse when they hurt themselves, and maybe my kid shouldn't get so angry with me for what I say when I walk into walls, which happens far more often than you think.