Archive for the ‘Drug laws’ Category
Marcus Bachhuber and Colleen Barry write in the NY Times:
PRESCRIPTION opioid painkillers like Percocet, Vicodin and OxyContin have come under intense scrutiny in recent years because of the drastic rise in overdose deaths associated with their prolonged use. Meanwhile, access to medical marijuana has been expanding — 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized its broad medical use — and chronic or severe pain is by far the most common condition reported among people using it.
Could the availability of medical marijuana reduce the hazards of prescription painkillers? If enough people opt to treat pain with medical marijuana instead of prescription painkillers in states where this is legal, it stands to reason that states with medical marijuana laws might experience an overall decrease in opioid painkiller overdoses and deaths.
To find out if this has actually happened, we and our colleagues Brendan Saloner and Chinazo Cunningham studied opioid overdose deaths in the United States from 1999 to 2010. Our findings, which were published on Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that this unexpected benefit of medical marijuana laws does exist.
Pinpointing the effect of laws on health is notoriously difficult. For one thing, states that have passed medical marijuana laws are no doubt different in important ways from states that have not passed such laws. Differences in, say, social attitudes about drug use or overall health trends might affect rates of opioid painkiller deaths, independent of whether medical marijuana is legal.
Furthermore, from 1999 to 2010 (the period of time we studied), states implemented various measures in response to the threat of opioid painkiller overdoses, including central registries of controlled substance prescriptions, laws allowing pharmacists to request identification before filling a prescription and laws increasing oversight of pain management clinics. These measures, too, might affect rates of opioid painkiller deaths, regardless of the legality of medical marijuana.
We designed our study to allow us to compare state-level rates of opioid painkiller overdose deaths before and after the passage of medical marijuana laws, while controlling for these and other concurrent state and national trends. . . .
If legalizing marijuana could save hundreds or even thousands of lives, isn’t it a moral imperative to take that step? Do those lives mean nothing?
Why wait and let the toll rack up? Two headlines from NORML:
Marijuana use by newly married couples is predictive of less frequent incidences of intimate partner violence perpetration, according to longitudinal data published online ahead of print in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Researchers reported: “[M]ore frequent marijuana use generally predicted less frequent IPV perpetration, for both men and women, over the first 9 years of marriage.”
The enactment of medicinal marijuana laws is associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates, according to data published online today by the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers reported, “States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws. … Although the exact mechanism is unclear, our results suggest a link between medical cannabis laws and lower opioid analgesic overdose mortality.”
Ashley Yeager reports in Science News:
Death rates from overdoses on prescription painkillers or heroin and other illicit drugs appear to be an average of 24.8 percent lower in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without the laws.
The finding, published August 25 in JAMA Internal Medicine, does not provide direct evidence that medical marijuana laws reduce drug overdose rates. But if future research affirms the link, those results could lead to legislation supporting medical marijuana use to reduce the risk of overdoses from other drugs.
For more, read SN‘s feature “Legalization trend forces review of marijuana’s dangers.”
Christopher Ingraham writes in the Washington Post:
A new study by researchers at the University of Buffalo finds a significantly lower incidence of domestic violence among married couples who smoke pot. “Couples in which both spouses used marijuana frequently reported the least frequent IPV [intimate partner violence] perpetration,” the study concludes.
These findings were robust even after controlling for things like demographic variables, behavioral problems, and alcohol use. The authors studied data from 634 couples over nine years of marriage, starting in 1996. Couples were administered regular questionnaires on a variety of issues, including recent drug and alcohol use and instances of physical aggression toward their spouses.
Previous research on the relationship between marijuana use and domestic violence has largely been based on cross-sectional data (that is, data from one point in time), and those findings have been mixed: some studies found links between marijuana use and/or abuse and domestic violence, while others did not. The Buffalo study is one of the few to use data collected over the course of decades to examine the question, putting it on solid methodological ground compared to previous work. . .
You can see why the DEA works so hard to block all studies of marijuana: because studies keep turning up reasons it should not be illegal, and the DEA, for whatever reason, really wants to keep it illegal. This study quite nicely avoids avenues the DEA can block, and so we have yet another positive finding.
Interesting question, eh? More and more one becomes aware that ll decisions involve tradeoffs, and figuring those out seems to be where managers (for example) spend a lot of time. Certainly legalizing marijuana cannot be an unalloyed good, but the tradeoffs: billions saved through ending the (futile, brutal, costly, life-wrecking) War on Drugs. a drastic decline in prescription painkiller addiction (and some increase in the number addicted to marijuana, but the addiction rate for marijuana is quite low), help for many in pain or with ills such as epilepsy, which marijuana can relieve—those tradeoffs look damn good. Not to mention additional tax revenue. (Most drug dealers cheat on their income tax, it turns out.)
Jason Millman writes in the Washington Post of a very interesting study. Although conclusions were not clear-cut the findings are encouraging enough to suggest more studies, especially in states like Colorado and Washington, where marijuana is (relatively) freely available to adults.
We all know that alcohol, the true gateway drug to violent crime and drug abuse, is more dangerous than marijuana, but I was surprised to see how much more dangerous alcohol is. Does D.A.R.E. discuss alcohol, and give more time to discussing alcohol than discussing marijuana, since alcohol is not only more dangerous, but more readily available? I wonder. (Actually, I bet I know.)
Christopher Ingraham writes in the Washington Post:
Skyrocketing incarceration rates for nonviolent drug offenders have come to symbolize the futility of the national “war on drugs.” Even the most ardent drug legalization opponents are beginning to view drug use through the lens of public health, rather than criminal justice.
This shift in focus is evident at the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, which for decades has been the command center of the federal war on drugs. The ONDCP now emphasizes “balance” as a key component of federal drug strategy. “Drug addiction is not a moral failing but rather a disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated,” the agency states on its website. “Drug policy is a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue.”
That said, it doesn’t seem that the nation’s law enforcement agencies have embraced the new approach. While the number of arrests for all offenses has declined nationally since 1991, the share of arrests related to simple marijuana possession has more than tripled over the same time period. . .
Continue reading. Good graphs at the link.