USA: Big Weed Moves to Exploit Addiction

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Bottom of FormRemarks prepared by Drug Free America Foundation, March 2018. Get a downloadable copy here.
July 2018

Marijuana use is associated with an increased risk of prescription opioid use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse analyzed data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions and found respondents who reported past-year marijuana use in their initial interview had 2.2 times higher odds than nonusers for having a prescription opioid use disorder and 2.6 times greater odds of abusing prescription opioids.[i]

Marijuana use seems to strengthen the relationship between pain and depression and anxiety, not ease it. A recent study that surveyed 150 adults receiving MAT examined whether marijuana use diminishes the relationships between pain, depression, and anxiety and whether self-efficacy influences these interactions. The study concluded that marijuana use strengthens the connection between feelings of pain and emotional distress. Marijuana use was also associated with a low sense of self-efficacy, making it harder for them to manage their symptoms.[ii]

The current opioid epidemic in the US has been universally recognized as one of the most important public health issues to date. Opioid overdoses have increased by 200% since 2000 with more than 53,000 individuals dying from an opioid overdose in 2016 alone. Opioids have dominated drug policy and funding discussions at both the state and federal level and now Big Marijuana is moving in to profit from this health care crisis.

Leveraging an ecological study,[iii] the marijuana lobby is pushing states to expand medical marijuana access to include opioid use disorders. The evidence that increased access to marijuana has reduced opioid overdose deaths however is weak and shortsighted. The cited study fails to account for a decade worth of drug prevention and policy efforts that reduced access to powerful prescription opioids as well advancement of overdose prevention strategies.

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