Archive for the ‘Drug laws’ Category
From the letters section of the New Yorker, responding to Ian Frazier’s piece about the opioid-overdose epidemic (“The Antidote,” September 8th)
Frazier writes that on August 28th it was announced that drug-overdose deaths have gone up forty-one per cent in New York City. Another news item, from August 25th, revealed that deaths associated with the use of opiate drugs fell in thirteen states after those states legalized medical marijuana. According to a report in JAMA Internal Medicine, “Medical cannabis laws are associated with significantly lower state-level opioid overdose mortality rates.” Six years after states legalized medical marijuana, opioid-related overdoses declined thirty-three per cent compared with states with no formal access to marijuana. In states where marijuana use is illegal, people looking to get high visit a local dealer, and might walk out with all sorts of extremely addictive and potentially lethal drugs. In states like California, where medical marijuana is legal, they go to a dispensary, and don’t leave with anything except marijuana. The legalization of marijuana may not be the ultimate solution to drug problems, but it represents a step in the right direction—a thirty-three-per-cent reduction versus the forty-one-per-cent increase in deaths in New York City.
Los Angeles, Calif.
In the meantime, the drawbacks to legalizing marijuana are quite obscure.
Lancet just published a study that showed some negative correlation between frequent marijuana use and various negative outcomes—e.g., lower h.s. graduation rates. No causality was posited, but of course unthinking marijuana opponents (is that redundant?) leapt on the dat as conclusive. (Headline in Australian paper: “Cannabis use catastrophic for young brains”.)
Christopher Ingraham takes a calmer look in an excellent report (with useful graphs) in the Washington Post. From the article:
. . . From 2006 to 2012, monthly marijuana use among high school seniors increased by more than 4 percentage points*, from 18.3 percent to 22.9 percent. If indeed marijuana use were the educational catastrophe that opponents predict, you’d expect to see downward pressure on national graduation rates as more kids took up the habit. But in actuality, the opposite happened: over the same period, as kids were smoking more, graduation rates jumped 8 percentage points.
This should not be at all construed to imply that increasing rates of marijuana use are somehow causing higher graduation rates. Correlation doesn’t equal causation. And these numbers don’t even constitute an argument against the Lancet study findings – it’s perfectly plausible that any negative consequences of marijuana use are too small to show up in a simple national trendline like this.
But it’s a useful corrective against the facile notion that “more weed = less graduation.” In reality, there are a whole host of factors that influence graduation rates, from income to demographics and beyond. Marijuana use may indeed exhibit some pull on the graduation numbers at the national level. But this effect, if it exists, is likely dwarfed by all the other factors at play.
I also looked at the relationship between state-level marijuana use rates, as measured in the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, and state-level graduation rates. There was zero correlation. For instance, Vermont teens were about twice as likely as Utah teens to use marijuana in 2009. But Vermont’s graduation rate was about 12 percentage points higher than Utah’s that year. . .
Nate Jackson makes some convincing arguments in the NY Times:
VIRTUALLY every single player in the N.F.L. has a certifiable need for medical marijuana.
The game we celebrate creates a life of daily pain for those who play it. Some players choose marijuana to manage this pain, which allows them to perform at a high level without sacrificing their bodies or their minds.
I medicated with marijuana for most of my career as a tight end from 2003 through 2008. And I needed the medication. I broke my tibia, dislocated my shoulder, separated both shoulders, tore my groin off the bone once and my hamstring off the bone twice, broke fingers and ribs, tore my medial collateral ligament, suffered brain trauma, etc. Most players have similar medical charts. And every one of them needs the medicine.
Standard pain management in the N.F.L. is pain pills and pregame injections. But not all players favor the pill and needle approach. In my experience, many prefer marijuana. The attitude toward weed in the locker room mirrors the attitude in America at large. It’s not a big deal. Players have been familiar with it since adolescence, and those who use it do so to offset the brutality of the game. The fact that they made it to the N.F.L. at all means that their marijuana use is under control.
Had marijuana become a problem for me, it would have been reflected in my job performance, and I would have been cut. I took my job seriously and would not have allowed that to happen. The point is, marijuana and excellence on the playing field are not mutually exclusive.
A good example is Josh Gordon, the Cleveland Browns wide receiver who . . .
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.