When it comes to medical marijuana, it isn’t just the new regulations and businesses that are largely untested.
Thanks to the antiquated law that puts it on the same level as heroin, crack, and somehow even above the pain medications that are causing spiraling overdose deaths, federal funding has long placed massive burdens on medical marijuana research.
Slowly but surely, that is changing. Though the bureaucratic requirements for funding haven’t changed, outside funding is starting to fill in the gaps.
Some of the findings have been surprising to medical marijuana’s detractors and supporters alike.
Take, for example, the recent report from the American Journal of Public Health that looked at traffic fatalities, one of the leading causes of death around the globe, and especially in the U.S.A. and other developed nations.
It found that, on average, states which adopted medical marijuana laws also saw large drops in traffic fatalities based on two decades’ worth of national data — 26% lower for states with the laws than those without them, and an 11% reduction since the laws were passed.
That isn’t the only surprise, either. The same states have seen a 25% reduction in opioid deaths as well.
So what is going on here?
The researchers couldn’t say for certain, with all the factors in play, but the findings suggest that a large part of these improvements come from a drop in self-medication with some of the most addictive drugs ever created.
Let’s face it, medication costs are soaring while people’s ability to pay for them is getting worse. Even good people are desperate, and are increasingly turning to desperate measures for any relief, real or perceived.
The same goes for chronic conditions, like PTSD, which can mean months, years, and decades of need to handle symptoms.
Thanks to just a slight thaw in research, we’re starting to see early evidence that medical marijuana will have a role in addressing the biggest public health issues of our time.
I’m sure every adult is familiar with how pervasive alcoholism is, and the terrible impact it has on individuals and communities.
And while it may take years to build up to severe alcoholism, it can take just as long to break, if that ever happens.
Alcohol treatment program relapse within just six months is around 50%. The worst patients end up requiring powerful and addictive drugs just to stave off the effects of alcohol withdrawal, which can kill on their own.
Take benzodiazepines for example. People who need them often have already been hospitalized, and require additional costly visits to doctors’ offices and the pharmacy.
And the side effects of benzodiazepines and alcohol compound each other, making any relapse while taking the drugs immediately life-threatening.
Thankfully, early evidence suggests that medical marijuana is a far better substitute for pharmaceuticals as far as safety and patient quality of life are concerned.
A survey compiling self-reported addiction treatment and relapse rates among substance users, “Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol and Other Drugs” in the Harm Reduction Journal, found that respondents used cannabis to curb their alcohol cravings, as an alternative to previous use of prescription drugs, and even as a substitute for more potent drugs such as cocaine.
57.4% of respondents chose to use cannabis because it provided better symptom management as well.
Secondly, alcohol is the go-to drug of choice for self-medication for psychological conditions.
Alcohol recovery programs are increasingly using it to provide a substitute with no risk of addiction during the critical early days of alcohol recovery.
As Dina Fine Maron, a medicine and health editor at Scientific American, told 18 Karat Reggae, “Really, if we stopped medical marijuana programs that are now in place in 29 states and Washington, DC… the science suggests we would worsen the opioid epidemic.”
She went on to explain that states with medical marijuana programs have fewer opioid overdose-related deaths than states without medical marijuana — 25% fewer, according to a 2014 study cited in her article.