[Canniseur: While not surprising on one level, I have to wonder what the mechanism is that lowers the risk of Liver Disease. I also have to wonder why the government in the U.S. has forbidden research into anything over the years. If this study is accurate and true, we’ve just begun to discover the benefits of cannabis even if we don’t yet understand the mechanisms of cannabis on the human body.]
According to a study published in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, cannabis consumption may produce a protective effect against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Obesity is a leading cause of increased occurrences of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
At the study’s 3-year follow up, it was found that cannabis users presented significantly lower Fatty Liver Index (FLI) scores than non-users, NORML reported.
Santander, Spain: Subjects with a history of cannabis use are less likely than abstainers to develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), according to longitudinal data published in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry.
A team of Spanish investigators assessed the relationship between cannabis use and liver steatosis over a three-year period. They determined that those subjects “who reported continuing cannabis use were at lower risk for developing NAFLD.”
They concluded: “Our results suggest that using cannabis could have a protective effect on liver steatosis. The beneficial effect of cannabis at the level of the development of steatosis seems to be secondary to its modulation effect on weight gain and the reduced development of obesity. … These results are in line with previous studies in the general population, in which cannabis showed significantly lower NAFLD prevalence compared to non-users.”
For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director. Full text of the study, “Cannabis consumption and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: A three years longitudinal study in first episode non-affective psychosis patients,” appears in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry.
The authors stated that “cannabis users less frequently met the criteria for liver steatosis than non-users” and that “patients maintaining cannabis consumption after 3 years presented the smallest increment in FLI over time, which was significantly smaller than the increment in FLI presented by discontinuers (p = .022) and never-users (p = .016).”
[Canniseur: Here’s an interesting debate. Does cannabis help or hurt people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia? There are two sides to this. More research will help us understand how cannabis affects schizophrenia. Good or bad? I’m guessing that for different people, cannabis can have opposite effects. The more we learn, we’re beginning to see that cannabis consumption, by whatever means, is hugely complex.]
The mental health condition can erase people’s memories of their days, past and even their reality. The SRDAA states that person must have at least two of the following symptoms to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, with one of the first three listed being one a person is suffering form:
Disorganized or catatonic behavior
Cannabis consumption tends to be a debated topic surrounding most mental health conditions today. This is particularly true with schizophrenia. Some believe that cannabis can lead to increased psychosis, a common symptom in schizophrenia. Meanwhile, others believe that may not be the case just yet.
Dr. Alex Dimitriu is a double board-certified in Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine. In response to this article, Dr. Dimitriu explained what the effects of psychosis are like on a person. “Psychosis is defined as having false beliefs (often called delusions) and seeing or hearing things that are not real (hallucinations). In a psychotic state, people may appear disorganized, confused, paranoid, almost as if they were tripping on something (like LSD, or magic mushrooms).”
He also expanded on how THC is a mild hallucinogen that can lead to short-term schizophrenia but should not be long-lasting. “Believe it or not, to some degree or other many users of cannabis have experienced the “psychotic” like effects of the drug. Fortunately, this is short-lived, usually lasting hours. Most commonly, this is seen as the paranoia – thoughts like “are people watching me?” “am I going to get in trouble with the authorities?” or, “I think I’m having a panic attack and should maybe go to the ER?”
Dr. Amy Baxter, CEO of Pain Care Labs, felt differently about cannabis use and its potential to affect people. She wrote that while cannabis can be useful in a myriad of conditions from cancer to PTSD, the dopamine pain receptors targeted can lead to mania and psychosis when overstimulated. Dr. Baxter elaborated, “In fact, 10-15% of people get paranoia and hallucinations (psychosis symptoms). With certain genetic backgrounds, even a single use of cannabis can lead to a 10x greater risk of lifelong schizophrenia.”
She also recommended a 2017 review of cannabis through the centuries, noting its recommendation for more research.
Dr. Jordan Tishler is a Harvard graduate and doctor with his own practice and research and works with CannabisMD. He noted that cannabis use is used at higher rates by people with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Dr. Tishler added, “This has lead to the association of cannabis use with development or worsening of these illnesses. It’s entirely unclear whether cannabis is causing these problems or the problems lead to cannabis use. Obviously these are very different situations. Studies that try to solve this riddle are very mixed, some appear to show causation, others do not.”
Unlike other articles in this series, no patients came forward to share their experience with High Times. That said, many testimonies online detail individual experiences. From the medical professional perspective, while often short-lived, Dr. Dimitriu noted that come symptoms can worsen when using cannabis. He recalled a patient in their 20s who experienced paranoid thoughts, didn’t go to school and slept on the floor to avoid electromagnetic waves. He also noted a 50-something-year-old patient who started hearing voices after smoking a potent strain.
Dr. Tishler also offered up an example they encountered. In this case, a 65-year-old patient suffered from severe and constant physical pain and unresponsive to traditional medicine. The patient also had suffered from 40 years of mental health issues, dating back to her 20s. He explained how they came to a suitable treatment plan using cannabis.
“Ideally, we’d avoid cannabis for her, but her pain is debilitating, unresponsive to prior treatment, and her acute psychosis was long ago. In this case, I was able to devise a care plan with her vast mental health team to monitor her daily (as they were already doing) such that if cannabis made her worse, we’d know rapidly.”
He said that he “did lose sleep over her case,” but the issue worked out in this case. He also offered a counterexample. “I’ve had cases where, despite careful consideration, they did poorly and were thankfully noticed quickly.”
With such varying outcomes and the severity of the condition, Dr. Tishler recognized that cannabis could be the cause of psychosis, or increase the illness. Therefore, it is wise to avoid using cannabis if there are any signs of any such symptoms. He also addressed the problem with this solution. “The problem, of course, is that it is hard to foresee these illnesses until they strike. Since these illnesses tend to occur in late teens and early young adults, this is part of the reason for suggesting that these people avoid cannabis.”
The other responding physicians agreed with this approach. Dr. Baxter called using cannabis with this mental health condition “extremely risky.” Meanwhile, Dr. Dimitriu expanded on other substances people with schizophrenia and other conditions may want to consider avoiding.
“Certainly true with uppers – whether it is amphetamines like Adderall, or methylphenidate – Ritalin, even caffeine and energy drinks – these meds can increase levels of dopamine which can worsen agitation, and the symptoms of psychosis. Classic psychedelics should be definitely avoided – like LSD, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), DMT, and so on.”
While THC appears to be a cannabinoid medical professionals would not recommend in most schizophrenia patients, some are discussing the positive benefits of CBD.
Dr. Bill Code is a cannabis expert concerning mental conditions, including schizophrenia. His book, Solving the Brain Puzzle, addresses cannabis use. He explained how CBD led to “considerable benefit” with psychosis and schizophrenia. He came to a decision after reading a French study of high potency CBD and its equivalence to modern antipsychotics “without the rough side effects.”
Dr. Dimitriu expanded on why CBD may prove to be an effective anti-psychotic. “CBD has been shown to have numerous medicinal benefits – as a pain reducer, an anti-convulsant (anti-seizure), a sleep inducer, and has been shown to lower anxiety levels,” he said while adding that additional studies are required. He mentioned a 2012 investigation of the effects of CBD as an antipsychotic for further reading.
In the end, just with any condition, the choice falls on the patient as long as they are of a sound mind to do so. “This is not always an easy decision…careful planning and monitoring is essential to being able to avoid problems or [react] quickly if they do arise,” said Dr. Tishler.
[Canniseur: A law suit is the perfect way to get this administration’s attention. Let’s hope it works because we need scientific research performed with quality weed. We are way behind other countries like Israel and Canada in cannabis medical advances.]
A collective of researchers has filed a lawsuit against the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) demanding a response to their three-year-old application to grow cannabis for research purposes.
The federal government has been providing cannabis to US scientists ever since 1968, but this government-sanctioned grass is notorious for being some of the lowest-quality schwag that researchers have ever encountered. The quality of this product – which is apparently full of stems, seeds, mold, and pathogens – is so bad that many researchers have flat-out rejected it for fear that it would destroy the validity of their research.
Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Northern Colorado discovered that government weed is significantly lower in both THC and CBD than legal or black-market bud, and is genetically closer to hemp than it is to marijuana.
This low-quality government weed is produced on one single farm operated by the University of Mississippi, the only institution that the DEA has authorized to grow pot for research purposes. As the interest in medical cannabis has skyrocketed over the years, scientists have begged the feds to allow other, non-government cultivators to create a quality product that they can actually use for research.
In 2016, the DEA conceded and began accepting applications from cultivators. The agency accepted 25 applications, but former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions reportedly put the brakes on this process as part of his personal war on weed. A year later, the DEA announced that these applications were still under review. Scientists and legislators wrote countless angry letters to the DEA and Sessions demanding that these applications be considered.
Another year came and went without progress. Last August, the DEA authorized the cultivation of 5,400 pounds of research weed, more than five times the amount it authorized in previous years. The research community assumed that this announcement would entail the approval of additional growers, as the massive increase in production seemed beyond the capabilities of the University of Mississippi.
Another eleven months have passed, and the DEA has yet to approve any additional growers. Frustrated by the endless delays, the Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) has filed a lawsuit demanding that the agency finally review the cultivation application it submitted nearly three years ago. The suit asks a federal judge to force the DEA or the attorney general to respond to this application within three months.
“DEA’s delay in noticing or responding to SRI’s application is unlawful, unreasonable, and egregious,” the institute argued, according to Marijuana Moment. “It contravenes the letter and spirit of the [Controlled Substances Act], seriously harms SRI, and hampers SRI’s efforts to help suffering veterans through clinical research.”
Dr. Sue Sisley, a family practice doctor and SRI’s principal researcher, explained that “there’s been no progress, despite years of lobbying, so we are now seeking a remedy through the courts.
“While most states in the US recognize that cannabis has medical value, the DEA says otherwise, pointing to the absence of clinical research,” Sisley continued. “But at the same time, government regulations and bureaucracy prevent researchers like SRI from ever doing the clinical research the DEA has overtly demanded.”
While the US government does its best to underhandedly undermine legitimate scientific research into cannabis, other countries such as Canada and Israel not only encourage studies with high-quality buds, these nations’ governments actively subsidize beneficial cannabis research, too.
[Canniseur: As we learn more and more about the endocannabinoid system (EDS), we’re discovering how beneficial cannabis can be to our health and our EDS. We need cannabis to be rescheduled for ongoing and more research funding. Still, it’s starting to look like cannabis’s healing powers is outside of big pharma’s grasp.]
Should we be taking cannabis as a nutritional supplement?
What if cannabis is more than a recreational drug, or medicine, but a nutritional supplement that can prevent deficiencies that may be responsible for everything from neurological pain to insomnia? You may have heard of the endocannabinoid system, and know that ingesting cannabis binds to ready-made receptors within our body. In addition to helping us feel happy and high, the consumption of cannabis can treat everything from nausea to PTSD and is hailed as a medicine by many. But do these illnesses stem from a deficiency of our body’s own cannabinoids? Should everyone be consuming cannabis? Read on to learn what the experts have to say about this controversial, but potentially awesome, theory.
What is the endocannabinoid system?
“The endocannabinoid system is the homeostatic regulator for the central nervous system,” says Dr. Matt Montee, PhD., PA-C. “The name comes from the plant.” We discovered the endocannabinoid system in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. How did humans exist for so long without researching such an important biological system? While the motor system is rather apparent, the ECS works subtly. “The endocannabinoid system is more of a control system. It’s responsible for the cross-coordination between those other primary systems,” explains Harvard cannabis specialist and CEO of Inhale MD, Jordan Tishler, MD. “It’s hard to see it in action, but really what it’s doing is keeping all of those systems functioning at peak levels.”
Cannabinoids from plants, such as THC and CBD found in cannabis, are known as phytocannabinoids. Our body makes its own cannabinoids, or endocannabinoids, which are fat-soluble enzymes. They bind to the two primary receptors, CB1 and CB2. While both exist throughout the body, CB1 receptors are the most highly concentrated in the brain. CB2 is primarily found in the immune and hematopoietic system (which regulates the production of blood). Phytocannabinoids bind to these same receptors. “In particular, its THC that interacts with the receptors,” says Tishler, MD. “CBD can interact with those same receptors, but they don’t stimulate those receptors the way that THC does. Rather they change the way those receptors react to the THC.”
While THC and CBD are the most famous phytocannabinoids, there are over 100, and we are just beginning to identify and understand them. Evidence suggests that cannabinoids help our body maintain homeostasis. Therefore, some medical practitioners and cannabis advocates speculate that just like a serotonin deficiency leads to depression and is treated by stimulating serotonin production, humans can have an endocannabinoid deficiency. Hypothetically, this deficiency is the underlying cause for neurological pain, mood and anxiety disorders, and even cancer. The controversial solution? Consume cannabis. Some advocates say everyone should take marijuana.
Should we all be feeding our ECS with cannabis?
The endocannabinoid system regulates the immune and the endocrine system. “Those are the two culprits for most chronic degenerative and terminal illness,” says traditional naturopath and registered herbalist Dr. Lakisha Jenkins. “We will literally see a healing of the nation if we start to support ECS.” According to Dr. Jenkins, we should view phytocannabinoid supplementation like a nutritional supplement. Rather than view it as strictly recreational or medicinal, it can be a nutritional tool to prevent the development of conditions cannabis currently treats. Your friend who doesn’t smoke weed likely consumed the wrong type, at the wrong time, in the wrong amount.
Tishler, MD is familiar with the claim that we should integrate cannabis into our diets to treat endocannabinoid deficiencies but is skeptical. “It’s not an unreasonable hypothesis, but I wouldn’t operate under the impression that we have any research to support it,” he says. In particular, he is wary of brands that say we all need cannabis. “It’s sold with claims being made by unqualified people without the science to back that up. It becomes far more about making money than taking care of people,” Tishler, MD says.“Sometimes it doesn’t work; people can’t handle the side effects, just like any other medication. It’s good for some people, and it’s not good for other people.”
What is the best way to consume cannabis?
So if you’re someone who does react well to cannabis, what method of intake is best to feed your ECS? Dr. Jenkins names sublingual tinctures as it’s systemic; you can feel it through your entire system. Those who truly don’t want a psychoactive experience can opt for a cannabis suppository or the Pechoti method, in which you put cannabis in your belly button (yes, it’s a thing). Dr. Montee agrees that cannabis has nutritional value. “If a patient really doesn’t want THC there’s full-spectrum CBD. I know some people prefer the isolate, but I think the best answer is using full spectrum products, so the entourage effect comes into play,” he says.
Full spectrum cannabis, as opposed to isolated THC or CBD found in some oil, shatter, and extracts contains all the terpenes, flavonoids, and other cannabinoids. The entourage effect assumes that cannabis is most beneficial when everyone gets to come to the party. Most pharmaceuticals are an isolated compound, but the entourage effect takes us back to plant medicine of indigenous cultures. “Traditional medicine is still practiced in cultures that don’t have access to media, electricity, all of the norms that we call comfort in democracy. They still use plants; they still use botanicals. Isolating constituents and making pharmaceuticals is actually what’s new. We’ve only been doing that for less than 200 years,” Dr. Jenkins says.
While whole plant medicine may take us back to medicine before prohibition, to know if we should consume cannabis to treat an endocannabinoid deficiency, we must look towards the future. More research is the only way to know the true powers, and drawbacks, of the cannabis plant, and that requires the Federal government to reclassify cannabis from a Schedule I substance. “It’s very frustrating that the government is standing in the way of research,” says Tishler, MD. “Cannabis has amazing potential to help people; it’s just that there are no miracle drugs. Everything is going to have pros and cons. The best way we can help those people is to have a rational, nuanced approach.”
[Canniseur: If true, and science has figured out cannabis protects the onset of Type 2 diabetes in obese people, what a godsend. Perhaps not being obese in the first place would help more, but given the typical western diet that seems too hard for most.]
Long-term cannabis use might help overweight individuals from developing diabetes, according to experts from Laval University in Quebec.
A study published this month in the Journal of Diabetes found that a history of marijuana use is associated with lower fasting insulin and insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) in obese adults.
Researchers assessed data from a nationally representative sample of over 129,000 adults to examine any relationship between cannabis consumption and fasting insulin levels and insulin resistance.
They reported that both current and past cannabis use was associated with significant and persistent changes in insulin levels in obese patients compared to non-users. Experts also found that former consumers with high lifetime use had a significantly lower insulin level that persisted, regardless of the duration of time since last use.
However, these changes were only evident in overweight subjects.
“[W]e found that lifetime marijuana use is significantly associated with lower fasting insulin and HOMA-IR in obese individuals,” the authors concluded. “We also found that, a long time (> 10 years) after cessation, former users showed significant lower levels of fasting insulin and HOMA-IR scores than did never users, independent of their frequency of use in the past.”
The new findings come months after another medical study concluding that marijuana users are less likely to gain weight when compared to non-users.
Oscar Pascual is the editor of Smell the Truth, syndicated on GreenState and SFGATE. Smell The Truth is one of the internet’s most popular destinations for cannabis-related news and culture. This blog is not written or edited by Hearst. The authors are solely responsible for the content.
[Canniseur: The author here is doing a bit of a mea culpa. He originally jumped on the “cannabis equals lower opiate deaths” bandwagon from one study. Many other authors did the same. They were attempting to make a correlation between medical cannabis use and a lower reported deaths from opiate overdose. Correlation and causation are two different things. While the deaths might have gone down (they did not) there is no evidence one way or another that medical cannabis use equals lower deaths from opiate overdose.]
America’s worst-ever drug problem, the ongoing opiate-fueled overdose apocalypse, is by now a chronic condition and one for which both easy and simple solutions as well a single easily identifiable cause have been elusive.
Some of the states with the worst increases year-over-year were the same states that have been on this same trend for years: Ohio, Pennsylvania. Michigan, Florida. One thing all of those states have in common: They all went for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. And they have all have passed laws expanding access to cannabis, either medical or recreational, since 2010.
Is there a connection? Nobody can say for certain, and that includes the authors of the study published June 10 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the U.S’s premier scientific journals, who found that a previously identified link between liberalized cannabis laws and a decrease in opiate overdoses reversed itself.
Researchers, including some of the country’s top drug policy experts, followed up on a prior study, published in the also-prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), that identified a dip in overdose deaths in states that had legalized cannabis access in some way through 2010.
That study has since been much touted in drug-policy reform circles and accepted by public-health officials as a potential balm for the overdose crisis. Several states, including Illinois, which legalized recreational marijuana via the legislature last month, have expanded medical-cannabis access specifically to patients prescribed opiates. And there were more than a few legalization zealots who abandoned caution and nuance and pushed the line that cannabis access directly led to fewer overdose deaths. (Among those who tread incautiously? This author, I’m unhappy to admit.)
Seeking some clarity, researchers at Stanford University used the same methodology as the earlier study to looked at what had happened between 2010 and 2017. They found that despite increased cannabis access, many states, including Ohio, still experienced significant increases in opiate-overdose related deaths. But still, there’s a problem.
As someone whose career is focused on helping addicted people I really wish it were this easy but legalizing medical marijuana doesn’t curb opioid overdose deaths, study says https://t.co/XSVxRotLFx
What does this mean? Maybe nothing, as the study’s authors themselves admitted. Or maybe something else.
It could be that the “correlation” was mere coincidence. That the states with bad opiate problems also approved medical or recreational legalization measures because it followed a nationwide trend, and drug-overdose deaths continued along the same trend, independent of one another.
It could also be that the drug-overdose crisis would have been worse without cannabis. Nobody can say, since the study cannot say. What they are sure is that there’s no causal link so far.
“If there is a relationship between medical cannabis use and opioid overdose on an individual level, this kind of study can’t reveal it,” as Chelsea L. Shover, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Stanford University School of Medicine and a lead author of the second study, told The New York Times.
At the same time, the study falls into another trap. It was the states with the worst pre-existing opiate overdose crises that happened to legalize cannabis between 2010 and 2017 — Ohio and Pennsylvania among them. That’s a complicating factor that the study simply could not control for, which means that while cannabis cannot be called a solution, it also cannot be ruled out as a change agent of some kind.
Problems this big, this bad, and this persistent have no single cause nor one single, simple solution. In Dayton, a struggling city in Ohio, which has consistently had one of the worst year-over-year increases in opiate deaths, officials managed to cut the overdose death rate by 50% in one year. And as they told the New York Times, they still aren’t exactly sure why.
Maybe expanded access to treatment, maybe expanded access to overdose-reversal drugs like Naxolone, maybe all of the above. One factor the article did not consider: the nine medical-marijuana dispensaries within a three-hour drive of the city, a thin concentration compared to states like California but significant in the Rust Belt. What did that do? Nobody can say for certain, but the answer is likely “not nothing.”
[Canniseur: Here’s an example of some “Reefer Madness” science. In my mind, I see these mad scientists running around in their white lab coats and having a good laugh at their research, since that’s what we should do. Laugh. Laugh at the stupidity of this study. If these ‘scientists’ had used milk at these doses, of course they’d kill mice. Then I could go out and yell; “Milk KILLS. Milk KILLS Milk KILLS. The doses they fed the mice (and they are mice), were so high, it would have killed anything]
A recent study from the University of Arkansas, where mice died after being given CBD, may change the public’s perception of CBD. But probably not.
Should we start saying no to CBD? Before we ditch those hemp pre-rolls that can’t even get us lit, let’s look at how the study was conducted.
Because mice are much smaller than humans, the researchers “allometrically scaled” the doses so they were proportional to human doses. The thing is, the researchers scaled the doses in the wrong direction.
Dose scaling was based off the “maximum recommended human maintenance” amount for Epidiolex in human patients, the first and only FDA-approved CBD drug derived from cannabis. That dose is 20mg/kg. So we’d expect the dose for the mice to be much, much smaller, somewhere in the range of 0.3mg/kg.
The researchers instead dosed the mice on 0, 246, 738, or 2460mg/kg. Yeah, you read that correctly: at the higher end, the mice got 120 times the recommended dose for a full-grown human being.
So no shit the mice got liver damage and died.
The University of Arkansas study pulled the same kind of bad science we saw back in the 1970s, when Dr. Heath erroneously (and unethically) concluded that marijuana caused brain damage in rhesus monkeys — after forcibly suffocating the poor simians with weed smoke.
To the Arkansas researchers’ credit, their study does offer additional evidence that CBD can wreck the liver and potentially compromise people with hepatic diseases or who rely on medications to stay alive. But that’s not exactly news. Earlier this month, during the FDA’s public hearing on CBD, several doctors and toxicologists testified that CBD could cause health complications in certain people, especially at high doses.
Even the Arkansas study’s lead researcher, Igor Koturbash, admitted to this previous knowledge in an interview.
“If you look at the Epidiolex label, it clearly states a warning for liver injury,” he told Nutra Ingredients USA. “It states you have to monitor the liver enzyme levels of the patients. In clinical trials, 5 percent to 20 percent of the patients developed elevated liver enzymes, and some patients were withdrawn from the trials.”
Furthermore, although rodent studies are useful for determining a drug’s toxicity, mice aren’t humans. They have different physiologies and different metabolic systems than us. They don’t process drugs the same way humans do, and, to date, there have been no recorded instances of someone dying because they chugged a liter of CBD mocktail.
What’s the takeaway here? Besides exposing the University of Arkansas’s shoddy scientific methods, we should probably think twice before infusing every ingredient of every meal with CBD (along with slathering ourselves in CBD lotions, soaps, shampoos, face masks, creams, and underarm deodorants). Having too much of a good thing is real, even when it comes from cannabis.
But don’t blindly buy into the Reefer Madness-esque hype, either.
[Canniseur: The results of this study are not surprising at all. All these ‘safety’ studies attempt to equate being high (a bad term, IMHO) with being drunk or at least similar to being under the influence of alcohol. Cannabis intoxication is not like being drunk in any way. Conflating the two drugs and trying to push the influence of alcohol onto cannabis is just plain wrong.]
Marijuana studies cover many topics, ranging from legal weed’s impact on teen usage rates and crime to whether senior citizens are moving away from prescription opioids and into medical marijuana. But a new study looks at a very different facet of marijuana use: Does legal weed have any correlation with death in the workplace?
Specifically, researchers at Montana State University, the University of Colorado and American University looked for an association, if any exists, between legalizing medical marijuana in a state and the number of workplace fatalities. As the researchers wrote, there is “increasing concern that legalizing medical marijuana will make workplaces more dangerous.”
However, the researchers found just the opposite is true.
The study, published late in 2018, looked at workplace fatalities across the country using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Researchers then cross-referenced this information with areas where medical marijuana is legal.
They found that legalizing medical marijuana was associated with a 19.5 percent reduction in the number of expected workplace fatalities based on historical trends. This was associated with workers between the ages of 25 and 44.
What’s more, the association “grew stronger over time,” according to the research. In places where medical marijuana has been legal five years, there was a 33.7 percent reduction in the number of expected fatalities for workers 25 to 44.
Areas where medical marijuana is legal to treat pain and where collective cultivation is legal were associated with a lower fatality rate among workers between the ages of 25 and 44 than those areas that did not have those provisions. The study found that fatalities were not reduced among those workers between ages 16 to 24 and that the “association was a negative one” though not statistically significant.
Why fewer fatalities with marijuana?
The study did not reach a conclusion on why the number of expected fatalities had dropped so far, only offering proof that it had happened.
The researchers revealed their theories, however, when they suggested further study is needed into the issue. Specifically, they called for further investigation to determine if the study results are “attributable to reductions in the consumption of alcohol and other substances that impair cognitive function, memory and motor skills.”
There are other studies that suggest this could be the case. While it did not focus on the workplace, a recent study in Texas found that opioid prescriptions had dropped in areas where medical marijuana is legal. The drop was biggest for those between the ages of 18 and 55.
Further, the study found this drop where medical marijuana is legal. The same drop was not associated with legalized recreational marijuana. Another study found that consumers, led my Millennials, are lowering alcohol use in areas where marijuana is legal.
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