After all the propaganda about marijuana being a “gateway drug”, the evidence seems to suggest the exact opposite; that legalization of marijuana has resulted in significant decreases in heroin and prescription pill overdose deaths in those states where cannabis is legally available. (Link to Recent Study)
And the real evidence against marijuana being a “gateway drug” is the fact that there is a national epidemic of opioid use in this country despite cannabis being illegal in most states.
Heath care professionals at the forefront of actually treating opiate addiction are starting to realize therapeutic benefits of cannabis. Purely from a safety standpoint, marijuana has a much wider therapeutic index (the ratio between the treatment does and toxic dose) compared to a drug like Methadone.
A recent article from TheWeek.com titled “Can medical marijuana curb the heroin epidemic?” discussed the current evidence and uses of cannabis as an addiction treatment. Some of notable information are quoted below.
But research has shown that marijuana, while still criminalized at the federal level, can be effective as a substitute for treating opioid addicts and preventing overdoses.
Before being criminalized, marijuana was used in the U.S. to cure depression and a variety of other mental health ailments. Many studies have supported the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids, along with the ability of marijuana’s psychoactive ingredients to treat nausea, help with weight loss, alleviate chronic pain, and mitigate symptoms of neurological diseases.
If anything, evidence suggest pharmaceutical pain pills were the gateway drug to heroin.
Massachusetts, like many states across the US, has seen a dramatic rise in opioid addition fueled by the increase in opiate prescription pills. In Boston, heroin overdoses increased by 80 percent between 2010 and 2012, and four out of five users were addicted to pain pills before turning to heroin.
There is no evidence that marijuana was directly responsible for ANY deaths. Contrast this with the following alarming statistic:
Meanwhile, the leading cause of death among the Boston’s homeless population has shifted from AIDS complications to drug overdoses, with opiates involved in 81 percent of overdose deaths.
Where medical marijuana was legally available, evidence seems to suggest marijuana is acting as a viable alternative for people who would otherwise abuse alcohol, prescription pills, or illegal drugs…
Research shows that marijuana has been used as a form of self-treatment, where users take cannabis in lieu of alcohol, prescription opiates, and illegal drugs.
A recent study might change this policy. Comparing states with and without legalized medical marijuana, it found a substantial decrease in opioid (heroin and prescription pill) overdose death rates in states that had enacted medical marijuana laws. In their conclusions, the researchers suggested that medical marijuana should be part of policy aimed to prevent opioid overdose.
(Also see our Article: “Legal Medical Marijuana Lowers Prescription Drug Overdose Deaths by 25%“)
And the final words…
Formerly demonized and later legislated as a Schedule 1 substance, marijuana could diminish the damage wrought by harder drugs, like heroin.