Study: suicide rates fall when states legalize medical marijuana
A University of Colorado economics professor has co-authored a study, just released by the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany, that concludes that suicide rates among young males decline markedly after states legalize medical marijuana. Professors at Montana State University and San Diego State University were also involved in the study. The study is titled “High on Life: Medical Marijuana Laws and Suicide.”
CU Denver professor Daniel Rees and his coauthors don’t say conclusively why suicide rates fall. They offer evidence that marijuana acts as an antidepressant when used moderately, but also note that using marijuana in larger amounts can actually lead to depression.
They also note that the sale of alcohol to young males declines in states that legalize medical marijuana and note that alcohol is a known depressant the use of which can lead to suicidal thoughts. Rees did not return a phone call seeking comment.
From the study:
Using state-level data for the period 1990 through 2007, we estimate the effect of legalizing medical marijuana on suicide rates. Our results suggest that the passage of a medical marijuana law is associated with an almost 5 percent reduction in the total suicide rate, an 11 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 20- through 29-year-old males, and a 9 percent reduction in the suicide rate of 30- through 39-year-old males.
We conclude that the legalization of medical marijuana leads to an improvement in the psychological wellbeing of young adult males, an improvement that is reflected in fewer suicides.
In an often-cited article, Hamermesh and Soss (1974) argued that negative shocks to happiness may reduce expected lifetime utility to the point where an individual will decide to take his or her own life. The negative relationship between legalization and suicides among young adult males is consistent with the argument that marijuana can be used to cope with such shocks. However, estimates provided by Anderson et al. (2011) provide an alternative explanation. These authors found that the passage of MMLs (medical marijuana laws) led to sharp decreases in alcohol-related traffic fatalities, self-reported alcohol use, and per capita beer sales. The strong association between alcohol consumption and suicide related outcomes found by previous researchers (Markowitz et al. 2003; Carpenter 2004; Sullivan et al. 2004; Rodriguez Andres 2005; Carpenter and Dobkin 2009) raises the possibility that medical marijuana laws reduce the risk of suicide by decreasing alcohol consumption.
Speaking recently at the University of Denver, Amanda Reiman, Ph.D, the director of research at the Berkeley Patients Group and a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, said that marijuana has medical value even for people not suffering from one of the ailments that medical marijuana laws typically allow people to use marijuana for.
“We deontologically believe that drug use is inherently wrong, which is why it is hard for us to believe there are responsible users. Do you really have to be sick to get benefit from cannabis?” she asked rhetorically.
She said that when you ask people why they smoke marijuana, the most common answer is that it helps them relax. “The word medical is redundant when talking about cannabis. Relaxation itself is medicinal.”
Reiman’s words were echoed on the DU panel by University of California law professor Marsha Cohen, who said that when asked why they smoke marijuana, people answer, “‘It makes me feel better.’ That makes it medicinal use,” she said.
Mason Tvert, executive director of SAFER (Safer Alternative for Recreational Enjoyment) and one of the organizers of a ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol, which will probably be on the Colorado ballot in November, said he was not surprised by the study’s conclusions.
“We know marijuana has medicinal value, and we know that people living with pain sometimes kill themselves,” Tvert said. He added that the connection with alcohol use was intriguing. “Every credible study ever done proves that marijuana is safer than alcohol,” he said.
The Colorado Independent contacted numerous mental health/suicide prevention organizations but could not find anyone willing to comment for this article. Needless to say, other studies have reached other conclusions regarding the effect of marijuana on mental health. For one such perspective, click here.
re: “The Colorado Independent contacted numerous mental health/suicide prevention organizations but could not find anyone willing to comment for this article.”
People in those organizations are embarrassed (to say the least), because if true it will mean that many who have specialized and profited from government persecutions of marijuana users, were not simply wrong, they were deadly, deathly, pig-headed perversely wrong about pot and people who take it. Their lies are responsible for thousands of suicides.
They assumed that if they just lied a little about pot, their lies would be counted as righteousness. Lies about cannabis are certainly profitable (for government, police and politician – and those who service them), at any rate.
Highly ironic how reality is always trumping the lies about pot, and this suicide stat is simply another example.
Don’t expect that kind of study to get funded in the US … NIDA only funds studies that might be used to uphold prohibition, for example. If it won’t say something bad about pot, a marijuana -related study won’t be funded by the US Govt.
> Their lies are responsible for thousands of suicides.
> -O. B. Server
OK, so we know that in the medical fields (specifically medical drugs), greed is rampant, often to the detriment of the best possible outcomes for patients. But, I think this is just going to far. Chill out with the hyperbole, man. Maybe, you should relax and do a jay :)
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It’s been a long time canabis is medicinal. I believed, it’s because of the selfish interest of the of the USA that rendered the use less.
In the state of Ohio, synthetic THC (Marinol) is legal and controlled, and costs approximately $30 a pill, and most patients are prescribed three pills a day. I have never had a patient (I’m a hospice nurse) who’s insurance covered it. Now tell me again why marijuana is illegal?
Scot Kersgaard deep thanks for this article.
Agreed O.B. Server
Protection of the wrong industries has cost us all so very much.
Next study up.
States antidepressant sales fall when Mary Jane gets to town.
Do the states near states with easily accessible marijuana also have a measurable effect?
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Without a doubt, if it were not for cannabis I would have killed myself a long time ago. Something about it promotes suppression of strong/intense/uncontrollable emotions, yet enhances rationality; intuitiveness, facilitating a manageable process for dealing with extreme trauma(s) without ‘losing it’ mentally or emotionally.
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They refused to legalize it because they know it is a miracle drug.
No one, not even one person in the whole entire world has ever overdosed on pot.
Cigarettes, that destroys the lungs and weakens the heart is being sold at your local convenient stores.
Alcohol, that has RUINED BILLIONS of lives is available, legally for purchase at your local convenient stores.
Hemp however, even though NO ONE has ever overdosed on it, is made illegal.
What a world we live in.
It’s baffling how the common public view about drug use and law enforcement treats them as materially separate and unrelated things. If there had been studies on depression and suicide in relation to alcohol use during Prohibition, results would have been similar.
Depressed people self-medicate with marijuana, a short-acting anti-depressant. If they can’t freely use this medication or are looked down upon for having found a satisfactory way to solve their own mental health crisis, they are likely to continue being depressed instead of improving. In states where you might actually be able to get high without fear of police harassment, the frequency of effectiveness of self-medication increases.
We, as social beings, need to start thinking about things from start to finish, left-to-right, full perspective instead of isolating seemingly related variables without controlling other very important ones. Modern politcally-charged medical and psychological science often confounds the barrier between correlation and causation, like how tobacco and lung cancer studies didn’t control for diet, alcohol use, and other carcinogenic behaviors. Exactly how responsible tobacco is for lung cancer _by_itself_ is still basically unknown, because a politically satisfying result came about. THIS IS UNSCIENTIFIC INSANITY AND MUST BE STOPPED!
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Buenas tardes a todos: Mi nombre es Alejandro,…soy usuario medicinal desde hace 1 año,…esta bendita planta me devolvió las ganas de vivir,..me mejoro notablemente mi calidad de vida, por eso soy un ferviente defensor de la cannabis, de echo milito en la Agrupación Agricultores Cannabicos Argentina,…en el año 97 me diagnostican vih, en el 2000 hepatitis c, en el 2001 comienzo a padecer de una neuropatia y en el 2009 por un disgusto ” pierdo mi empleo “, se me agrava la neuropatia transformandoce en una polineuritis sensitiva en los nervios periféricos de grado moderado segun mi electromiograma y que consta en mi Historia Clinica,…para tolerar el dolor me medica mi anestesista del hospital tornu la Dra Teresa Franco, 21mg de metadona, 450mg de pregabalina, 50mg de amntriptilina, 1500mg de paracetamol y 1mg de lorazepan a esto sumenle los retrovirales,…La verdad estaba abrumado ya que el dolor no sedia a pesar de tanta medicacion, en varias oportunidades se me aparece como alternativa natural para conbatir el dolor pero muy eceptico yo lo desechaba hasta que un dia en una crisis de dolor mi hijo me hace conocer la cannabis en su forma natural, o sea me dio su flor, inmediatamente despues de ingerirla en leche ervida el alivio se me hizo presente a las 2 hs, fue increible, como un escaneo que bajaba hasta los tobillos, nunca voy a olvidar lo que senti,..pero lomejor no solo fue eso, sino que tambien en un año de tratamiento y con control medico logre dejar las drogas legales, hoy solo estoy tomando 25mg de amtriptilina y 150 de pregabalina, lo demas lo deje todo gracias a Dios…,Quiero agradecer a la Dra franco por los certificados donde ella considera que el cannabis es la causal de mi mejoramiento, eso permitió que yo iniciara una acción de amparo para que el Gobierno la Ciudad de Buenos Aires me suministre en su forma natural la cannabis, o, en su defecto me la permita cultivar,…esto esta en el juzgado N° 7 a cargo de la Jueza lidia Lago,…todo esto fue posible gracias a la Mesa Nacional de La igualdad y contra la discriminacion con su Secretaria Gral. La legisladora porteña Maria Rachid,…Estamos esperando las muy buena noticias, si esto sale seré la 1ra persona del país que va a tenr una autorización para cultivar,…creemos fervientemente que el auto cultivo es una manera muy eficaz de reducir daños….Hoy soy muy feliz de saber que puedo disfrutar de la vida.
Saludo a Uds muy Atte
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