Depression and suicide rates have now been added to the list of problems that can be prevented with the legalization of medical cannabis. While suffering from mood disorders can make an individual more apt to abuse the drug, the correct use might reduce the suicide rate, particularly in males.
A study published by the American Public Journal of Health found that the general public’s suicide rate can be reduced by five percent if marijuana is legalized. Suicides in young males could be reduced by as much as ten percent.
Professors from the University of Colorado in Denver, Montana State and San Diego State analyzed data on suicides, over a 17-year span, from the states that have legalized marijuana. The professors, who co-wrote the study, focused on states where medical cannabis was legalized for medical use between 1990 and 2007. Statistical methods used states in which marijuana was still illegal as the control group.
In states where marijuana can be used legally the suicide rate in males between the ages of 20 and 29 dropped by nearly 11 percent and 9.4 percent in those aged 30-39. While legalization is thought to be the cause for the decrease in male suicides other factors may also have a causal effect. The study looked at suicide rates among women as well but the results were not determined to be as accurate. Further study has been deemed necessary to see if medical marijuana can reduce the risk of suicide in women as well.
While any considerable reduction in suicide is nothing to scoff at opponents of the medical marijuana movement cite studies finding that use is positively correlated with depression, suicide and other psychological disorders.
As with any drug marijuana can be abused but responsible use could alleviate symptoms that contribute to suicide. Many other factors have yet to be considered in conjunction with the availability of medical cannabis.
People who suffer from chronic pain are more likely to suffer from mood problems and a propensity for suicide than the average healthy individual. This pain could be arguably managed by standard drugs, but not without causing significant, sometimes troubling side effects.
As marijuana continues to be illegal in most states and at the federal level it is possible that the findings could be entirely attributable to other factors, though somewhat unlikely. The ideological differences in states where medical cannabis is permitted could be responsible. For example, homosexual males are more likely to commit suicide but in areas where a more liberal or accepting mentality predominates this rate may be lower.
The availability of medical cannabis may also be keeping people out of the legal system, saving them money, time, freedom, and reducing the stress that goes with jail time and fines. A strain in those areas can plausibly contribute to depression and even a suicide that can be eliminated with legalization.
Abuse of more damaging drugs has been reduced in states where medical cannabis is legal, as have fatal car accidents. While it is sometimes suggested that being under the influence of marijuana can contribute to accidents those due to inattention or slowed reactions are far less likely to result in fatalities.
The prohibition of marijuana continues to make less sense as it can reduce not only suffering but death as well. An acceptance of medical cannabis at a federal level is the only way that science will be permitted to continue experiments that can establish a causal relationship. A lack of this is unfortunately part of the reason that medical cannabis continues to be illicit in most areas.
The continued ban on medical cannabis at a federal level is maddening. Marijuana can not only cure breast and brain cancer, but reduce the devastating suicides in young males, the most susceptible cohort. The uses that medical cannabis has been shown to help is long, it truly is a miracle drug. Billions of dollars continue to be spent on cancer research and treatments that ignore the existence of a plant that can save people, but also the fact that the standard treatments for cancer are causing patients to suffer needlessly. The short and long-term effects of radiation and chemotherapy can be disabling and marijuana does not cause damage to those who use it properly.
This study is one more link in the chain to lock up the archaic belief that marijuana is a deeply damaging drug and give people a key to a healthier and more affordable medication. The only permanent and serious negative side effect to marijuana is brain damage from chronic use in the adolescent years when brain development is still underway. In adulthood, adverse effects are mild and transient.
This study concludes that the “negative relationship between legalization and suicides among young men is consistent with the hypothesis that marijuana can be used to cope with stressful life events.” It is possible that the alleged “gateway drug” can actually reduce and prevent addiction to alcohol and other serious drugs like cocaine and heroin. When the majority stops fearing this and realizes that alcohol is more likely a gateway drug, if there is such a thing, medical cannabis can become legalized and potentially save many young men from suicide.
This article first appeared on ‘Liberty Voice’ on 10 February 2014.