A recently published brief, “High on Life? Medical Marijuana Laws and Suicide” published by the Cato Institute, reveals some amazing statistics. Researchers D. Mark Anderson, Daniel I. Rees and Joesph J. Sabia wrote the brief. The work is update from groundbreaking work they did in 2012 showing that the in states with legal medical marijuana had lower suicide rates.
The brief notes that many people who are against medical marijuana have based their opinions on the idea that “marijuana use increases the likelihood of depression, anxiety, psychosis, and schizophrenia” and “that the negative effects of marijuana are long-lasting and that users are at risk of suffering from decreased psychological well-being later in life.” Data does show that of those that commit suicide, over 90% have a substance abuse disorder or a diagnosable mental illness.
The question the researchers asked was if increased access to marijuana increased the factors of mental illness or substance abuse, that would in turn increase suicide rates. What they found was the opposite actually.
“When we examine the relationship between legalization and suicides by gender and age, we find evidence that [medical marijuana laws] are associated with decreased suicides among 20- through 29-year-old males and among 30- through 39-year-old males. This result is consistent with registry data from Arizona, Colorado, and Montana showing that most medical marijuana patients are male, and that roughly half are under the age of 40. Estimates of the relationship between legalization and suicides among females are less precise and sensitive to functional form.”
There isn’t a clear explanation as to how an increased access to marijuana has reduced suicide rates among young men, but the researchers do make a point that many young men have said marijuana helps them cope with the anxiety and stress of difficult times. It is also important to note that alcohol use among the young men also decreased in states with legal medical marijuana.
The study did not determine if there is a correlation between the access to medical marijuana and a decreased use in prescription anti-depressants, SSRI’s or other medications.
The others do want to mention that “the association between legalizing medical marijuana and suicides was not statistically significant” for the entire population, but among men aged 20-39, the risk dropped an astounding 10.8%. That will be the topic of future research.
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