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Does the Medical Use of Marijuana Lead to Drug Abuse?


For many years, traditional Chinese medicine has been using marijuana tea as a pain reliever, and currently, the medicinal value of cannabis is under evaluation in numerous laboratories and is the subject of many studies. The controversy surrounding the use of marijuana for medical purposes sparked my interest in the topic. Increasing number of studies suggest unmatched healing power of cannabis, while a similar number of researches are trying to prove the harmful effect of it as a medicine. Looking at these two sides, one can wonder if marijuana medicinal value supersedes its harmfulness. The most controversial debate surrounds the question whether the use of cannabis as a medicine will cause addition and drug abuse. Some sources show that medical marijuana does not have either a noticeable negative effect on the human body or a cause-effect relationship with the rise in the drug abuse rate. Cannabis is not a gateway drug, and the legalization of its medical uses does not indicate increased consumption, as the growth in marijuana use is caused by the increase in the number of self-reports about the usage of the drug in the states where it has become legal.
The first resource backing up the argument is a web site of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The researchers working there argue that marijuana has a very low addiction rate, which is nine percent lower than those of alcohol, heroin, cocaine and tobacco. Further, NIDA states that the two medicines developed from cannabis components have not been seen to have addictive effects. The authors write that CBD is a cannabinoid that does not affect the mind or behavior. CBD suspended in oil is used in the treatment of extreme epilepsy in children, and it is not known to have side effects. The concern that the medical use of marijuana will lead to drug abuse comes from the fear that cannabis has a harmful impact on patients. However, this idea is baseless, and as NIDA cites, the medical use does not produce the high effect thus cannot lead to drug abuse.
Another source supporting the thesis is argues that considering marijuana as a gateway drug or a cause of other drugs abuse is a myth or a stereotype. Further, the scholar notes that cannabis is hardly the first drug for the users, the most probable first drugs are tobacco and alcohol. Marijuana anti-legalization advocates state that this substance is a gateway drug, which initiates people to the abuse of other drugs such as cocaine and heroin. However, Szalavitz insinuates that marijuana does not lead individuals to substance abuse. In support of this argument, the author writes Over and over they find that the number of people who try marijuana dwarfs that for cocaine or heroin. This quote points out that the number of cannabis consumers exceeds that of other drugs addicts by more than two times. If marijuana were a gateway drug, the number of people abusing other drugs would be equally or near equally large. The number disparity proves that cannabis does not lead to drug abuse.
The third article echoing the thesis was written by Choo, et al. and published in 2014. The scholars imply that state legalization of medical marijuana does not increase its usage or drug abuse by the adolescents. In Colorado, the use of cannabis is currently legal for medical and recreational use. Nevertheless, there has not been any statistics indicating the growth in its use or drug abuse rates. This study did not find increases in adolescent marijuana use related to the legalization of medical marijuana. From the research, the authors could not find significant variations between statistics of cannabis and drug use before and after the legalization of medical marijuana. In Colorado, for example, the statistics of marijuana use among adolescents has been pretty much the same before and after its legalization. The differences in statistics are insignificant, proving that the medical use of cannabis has not lead to drug abuse in the states where it is legal.
Fourth, the work of Sam Harper, et al. supports the argument as well. The authors claim that there is no direct relationship between the legalization of medical marijuana use and the growth in using it for recreational purposes or drug abuse. We find very little evidence that passing MMLs increases reported use, among adolescents or any other age group. There are cases which indicate a high marijuana use in states where its medical usage is legal. Nonetheless, there are many factors that can account for the high ratings, which do not relate to the cannabis use legalization. For example, states with initially high marijuana consumption are likely to legalize its use. The inability to draw a cause-effect relationship between legalization and high cannabis usage in those regions suggest that using medical marijuana does not lead to drug abuse.
The last source invoked in support of the thesis is an article by Miller and Kuhns published in 2012, in which they argue that the legalization of the medical use of marijuana has increased the validity of self-reported marijuana consumption among arrestees. In states where the use of cannabis is completely illegal, prisoners tend to under-self-report using it as evident from urinalysis tests. However, study sites that states that had passed medical marijuana laws had significantly higher validity levels than states that had not, suggesting that the passage of medical marijuana laws may affect the validity of self-reported marijuana use. In states, where the medical use of cannabis was legal, individuals could give valid information that they use marijuana as opposed to persons living in areas where it is illegal. In line with this argument, one can claim that high rates of marijuana usage in states where its medical use is legal is not an indication of higher consumption than in other countries. Rather, the reports in the latter are invalid, since most people in those nations deny using cannabis even when they do. Therefore, medical use of marijuana does not translate to high marijuana usage or drug abuse.
From this preliminary research, I have learned that it is still unclear whether the legalization of the medical use of marijuana has more harmful or more useful effects. Although there is incrementing evidence that the medical use of cannabis does not lead to drug abuse, the counter evidence is also equally convincing. Considering the lack of unanimity and consensus on the issue, I think that only longitudinal studies conducted without bias would give more valid information to make a right conclusion. Researchers should approach this problem differently and not from the quotas of either causing or not causing drug abuse. The scholars should be objective and act without prejudice. This topic is intriguing and relevant nowadays. Thus, I consider necessary to continue working on it further. At this point, I perceive that currently, there is no evidence that the medical use of marijuana leads to drug abuse, and unless further research proves otherwise, the medical use of marijuana does not lead to drug abuse.
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asked by Linda W.  –  March 17, 2020
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I find it interesting that opioid utilization has decreased in states where CBD products are being used. I work in the medical field and see opioids used being used more and more, despite our current opioid epidemic, or “opidemic”, as some are calling it.

Hopefully as more solid research done we’ll see more positive results. Thoughts?

answered by Isabella P.  –  March 24, 2020

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