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Yet Another Study: Sick People Dump Opiates for Marijuana

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The anti-marijuana legalization cabal of law enforcement, pharmaceutical companies and the politicians they support have something right: In the states where marijuana is available, marijuana use increases. That is exactly the point, after all—and it’s a good thing!

As a new study published this week found, where marijuana use increases, there’s a significant decrease in the use of prescription opiates and other habit-forming drugs.

Researchers from Bastyr University, an “alternative medicine” university with campuses in Washington State and California, surveyed 2,774 adults who reported using cannabis at least once in the previous 90 days. Respondents came from all 50 states and 42 countries—and only 59 percent of respondents identified themselves as medical marijuana users.

Almost half—46 percent—“reported using cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs,” according to the study, published in the Journal of Pain Research.

And the pharmaceuticals most often dumped in favor of cannabis are exactly the ones which cause the most problems.

As the researchers wrote, “The most common classes of drugs substituted were narcotics/opioids (35.8%), anxiolytics/benzodiazepines (13.6%) and antidepressants (12.7%).”

(While not responsible for tens of thousands of dead Americans as opiates are, anti-anxiety drugs are also habit-forming.)

And, bolstering widespread contentions that marijuana is a boon and a balm to aging Americans, the “practice” of replacing pills with pot “increases in frequency with age.”

Most importantly, the findings give the lie to the Republican line that marijuana has no place in strategies to defeat the opiate epidemic.

This is a canard repeated on every level, from White House spokesman Sean Spicer and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to supposedly reasonable conservative Ohio Governor John Kasich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie—the latter of whom is, unfortunately for all of us, the leader of a commission tasked with ending the opiate crisis.

“These patient-reported outcomes support prior research that individuals are using cannabis as a substitute for prescription drugs, particularly, narcotics/opioids, and independent of whether they identify themselves as medical or non-medical users,” the researchers wrote. “This is especially true if they suffer from pain, anxiety and depression.”

There is now a raft of evidence that shows sick people prefer marijuana to prescription pills.

What’s most telling about this study, however, are the findings from places where cannabis is wholly illegal. In those places, people are breaking the law to buy marijuana, in order to not take their doctor-prescribed pills.

Remember that the National Academy of Sciences found “conclusive evidence” for marijuana’s value in treating chronic pain (and this despite the fact that cannabis’s prohibition makes it exceedingly difficult to study). Remember as well that millions and millions of Americans are in pain, terrible pain, pain for which they are seeking treatment. We consume 80 percent of the world’s painkillers, and an opiate-based prescription painkiller—hydrocodone—was the most prescribed drug in America in 2011.

It’s easy to overstate marijuana’s value—especially in an esteemed publication such as ours—but when study after study after study come to the same conclusion, it’s impossible to present an intellectually sound argument to the contrary.

Every time you hear otherwise, you are hearing a lie. And, as has been the case since the Controlled Substances Act was passed, you are hearing a lie from your government.  

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