Legalization of Marijuana leads to increase in Addiction and decrease in Opioid usage

As more and more states begin to legalize the usage of medical and recreational marijuana, will there be any significant effects of marijuana usage or a significant trend in usage of other substances such as opioids and alcohol? In 1996, California became the first state to legalize the usage of medical marijuana. And in 2016, it became the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Marijuana is now legal in 19 states including Washington, D.C.

Marijuana is an extract from the cannabis plant that contains large amounts of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is a psychoactive compound that can change and alter your mood. It can make you feel happy, content and highly attuned with sensory experiences. And on the flip side, marijuana can also make you feel paranoid, confused, distracted and forgetful. Marijuana can be ingested in many forms such as smoking, baked, cooked, or brewed.

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Many studies have shown the excessive use of marijuana can lead to serious side effects such as depression, anxiety, and even lead to substance abuse of other drugs. Marijuana has been associated with the development of psychotic disorders and other co-occurring mental health conditions. Because marijuana is known as a gateway drug where users start off and move on to “harder” drugs, could the legalization of recreational marijuana lead to an increase in substance use disorders? According to various medical and social studies, marijuana legalization has led to a significant increase in marijuana addiction, but not in addiction to other substances.

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Legalization has led to factors including increased social acceptance, increased availability and even an increase in purchasing due to a more accessible price point because of the competition in marketing among businesses that can now legally operate and make profits. Legalization has also led to new formulations of marijuana with creators introducing either higher or lower concentrations to target a wider range of consumers. The possibilities really are endless in this new business market. All these factors play a major role in marijuana’s increase in popularity and a possible increase in addiction.

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In a recent study from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and NYC School of Medicine, there has been a significant increase in marijuana use disorders among young adult users after its legalization. However, there is no correlation related to usage of other addictive substances such as alcohol, cocaine and heroin. In fact, studies have shown in states where both medical and recreational marijuana is legal, opioid usage and opioid addiction rates have dropped. Researchers suspect the reasoning for this is due to the similar effects marijuana and some opioids give the user. Opioids act as a painkiller and need to be prescribed by a medical professional. Whereas marijuana also gives very similar painkilling, endorphin releasing, effects that are readily accessible, available at various price points and convenient without the hassle of having to get a prescription. Because of these reasons, more people will opt for using marijuana instead of opioids.

At Hotel California by the Sea, we offer a specialized program in helping those who suffer from marijuana addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions. Due to its mood-altering effects, excessive usage of marijuana can lead to various mental health disorders that should be treated simultaneously when treating for marijuana addiction. Our evidenced based treatment methods at our inpatient residential and outpatient programs can help all individuals receive the help and treatment they need. 

References:

https://delphihealthgroup.com/marijuana/legalization-addiction-rates/
https://www.cato.org/policy-analysis/effect-state-marijuana-legalizations-2021-update#key-dates
https://www.publichealth.columbia.edu/public-health-now/news/problematic-cannabis-use-rises-states-where-drug-legal
https://insight.livestories.com/s/v2/substance-use-after-marijuana-legalization/be43094c-9e83-4780-8c9b-ebf66407b0cf/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4308295/
https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/11/13/20962924/marijuana-legalization-use-addiction-study