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Cannabis is an “Exit Drug”, not a “Gateway Drug”

Drug problem decreases significantly where weed is legal

As a growing number of U.S. states reform their marijuana laws, new data emerges about the consequences of those reforms. According to a recent study, not only has the sky not fallen in states with legal marijuana, but these states have actually seen their drug problem decrease significantly.

A new study by the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria ( http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dar.12323/abstract ) suggest that more people are using marijuana as a substitute for prescription drugs and alcohol because it’s less addictive. According to the authors of the study, it is the largest survey of medical cannabis patients to date and highlights its potential health benefits.

Majority of medical marijuana users using pot instead of pills

One of the authors is UBC Okanagan Associate Professor Zach Walsh, who says a majority of medical marijuana users are using pot as a substitute for pills. “Our study shows that more than 80 per cent of medicinal cannabis users reported substituting cannabis for prescription drugs including opiate pain killers,” says Walsh, “We need to compare the risks and benefits of using other substances, such as opiates or alcohol, to the risks and benefits of cannabis use to estimate the real public health consequences of cannabis use,” says Walsh. “Looking at cannabis use in isolation paints an incomplete picture.”

Medical marijuana users are substituting booze, cocaine and meth for Weed

The study also reveals that drinkers are putting down the bottle and picking up a joint instead. More than half of the study’s 470 respondents reported substituting alcohol with cannabis, while a third of respondents prefer using cannabis instead of hard drugs like cocaine and crystal meth.

The authors say the study’s findings demystify the notion that marijuana is a gateway drug. These findings highlight the potential of cannabis to be an ‘exit drug’ to addiction rather than a gateway drug,

“If you want to make informed choices about pain control, I think use of cannabis is a right that every Canadian should have,” says Walsh. “It’s been proven to be much less harmful and addictive than opiates or substances like alcohol.”

American States with medical pot see nearly 25 percent fewer fatal prescription drug overdoses

“In the 23 U.S. states where medical marijuana has been legalized, deaths from opioid overdoses have decreased by almost 25 percent”. Opioid mortality is such a tremendously significant health crisis now, we have to do something and figure out what’s going on.The efforts states currently make to combat these deaths, like prescription monitoring programs, have been relatively ineffectual. Everything being done is having no effect, except for in the states that have implemented medical marijuana laws, If legalizing medical marijuana does help tackle the problem of painkiller deaths, that will be very significant, as thus far it is the only way to combat this crisis.

A new study reveals that states where medical marijuana is legal experience around one-quarter fewer deaths from prescription drug overdoses, signaling perhaps a small victory for proponents of pot’s alleged pain-alleviating powers. According to the study published in the latest installment of JAMA Internal Medicine    (http://archinte.jamanetwork.comarticle.aspx?articleid=1898878 ) , the 13 states in America that have legalized the use of medical marijuana for patients with valid prescriptions see a 24.8 percent lower annual opioid overdose rate that those where weed can’t legally be offered to treat ailments. Of those who die from prescription opioid overdoses, 60 percent have a legitimate prescription from a single doctor.

Dr. Marcus A. Bachhuber of the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center writes in the study that “States that implemented medical marijuana laws appear to have lower annual opioid analgesic overdoses death rates (both from prescription pain killers and illicit drugs such as heroin) than states without such laws,”…..“Prescriptions for opioid painkillers for chronic pain have increased in the United States and so have overdose deaths. However, less attention has been focused on how the availability of alternative non opioid treatment, such as medical marijuana, may affect overdose rates,”.

Now after reviewing overdose rates across the US from 1999 through 2010, Dr. Bachhuber and his colleagues determined that states with legal weed witness fewer overdoses, “As our awareness of the addiction and overdose risks associated with use of opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin grows, individuals with chronic pain and their medical providers may be opting to treat pain entirely or in part with medical marijuana, in states where this is legal,” Colleen L. Barry, PhD, a senior author of the study, said in a statement.

Prescription painkiller abuse an “epidemic.”

The study, organized by researchers from the RAND Corporation and the University of California-Irvine ( http://www.nber.org/papers/w21345 ), found that “in the years following legalization, states that legalized marijuana had experienced significant reductions in fatal overdoses and addiction treatment center admissions relating to opioid abuse,” but only in states which allow for legal dispensing of marijuana for medical purposes. Opioids, such as morphine, are opium-derived drugs commonly prescribed as painkillers, and their use is a growing health concern in the United States, as the drugs are known for their addictive potential and can be deadly if overdosed. For the past 15 years, Americans have been using more of these drugs, causing the number of overdose deaths to skyrocket. Prescription painkillers are highly addictive and deadly — they killed more than 16,000 people in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest numbers. In the U.S., drug overdoses kill more people than suicide, guns or car crashes. The CDC now calls prescription painkiller abuse an “epidemic.”

States with legal medical marijuana had overall lower rates of opioid-related deaths

Compared to states without medical marijuana, these states tended to have lower rates of substance abuse admissions as well as fewer deaths caused by opioid-induced overdose. The study also found that while drug-related harm was noticeably lower in states which allow for marijuana dispensaries, there was no significant difference in states that did not. They found that the presence of marijuana dispensaries was associated with a 15 to 35 percent decrease in substance abuse admissions. Opiate overdose deaths decreased by a similar amount. “Our findings suggest that providing broader access to medical marijuana may have the potential benefit of reducing abuse of highly addictive painkillers,” the researchers conclude.

Weed can reduce the drug epidemic

This research proves weed can reduce the drug problem by providing access to marijuana. The study’s findings highlight that for these improvements to take place, the law must not only legalize the use of cannabis-based medicines, but also make these remedies accessible to patients who need them, including people suffering from chronic pain.

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Sources:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dar.12323/abstract

https://www.rt.com/usa/182940-medical-marijuana-opioid-overdose/

http://marijuanapolitics.com/study-medical-marijuana-dispensaries-save-

lives-reduce-opioid-related-harm/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/marijuana-not-gateway-

drug-1.3250953

http://www.metronews.ca/news/vancouver/2015/09/30/uvic-ubc-study-says-

marijuana-could-be-exit-drug.html

http://www.theloop.ca/it-looks-like-marijuana-might-not-be-so-bad-after-all/

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dar.12323/abstract

http://media.jamanetwork.com/news-item/lower-opioid-overdose-death-rates-

associated-with-state-medical-marijuana-laws/

http://www.nber.org/papers/w21345