Pubdate: Mon, 08 Jun 2015
Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune (MN)
Copyright: 2015 Star Tribune
Author: Ed Gogek, The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)
Note: Dr. Ed Gogek is an addiction psychiatrist in Prescott, Ariz., 
and author of the book "Marijuana Debunked: A handbook for Parents, 
Pundits, and Politicians Who Want to Know the Case Against 
Legalization," which is scheduled to be released in August by Chiron 


Legalization Makes It Easier for Teens to Get It, and We Have Other 
Drug Options.

Legislatures across the country are legalizing medical marijuana, but 
the nation's physicians aren't requesting these laws. The American 
Academy of Pediatrics and the American Society of Addiction Medicine 
are both against medical marijuana laws. The American Medical 
Association doesn't support them either.

Groups representing patients aren't behind these laws. The American 
Cancer Society hasn't demanded them, and the Glaucoma Foundation even 
warns patients against using the drug.

Instead, the demand comes from groups like the Drug Policy Alliance 
and Marijuana Policy Project. These are not medical organizations. 
They are part of a pro-legalization lobby supported by pro-marijuana 
billionaires. And they've apparently convinced state legislators to 
ignore some very serious problems.

The biggest problem is that medical marijuana laws are responsible 
for most of the growth in adolescent use. According to the University 
of Michigan's Monitoring the Future survey, teen use in the U.S. 
surged between 2005 and 2011. But it didn't surge equally in all states.

Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that the 
number of teens who smoked pot over the past month increased by 33 
percent in medical marijuana states, but by only 6 percent in the 
rest of the country. In 2005, only about 20 percent of the U.S. 
population lived in medical marijuana states, yet those states 
accounted for more than two-thirds of the increase in adolescent use 
between 2005 and 2011. If it weren't for states with medical 
marijuana laws, teen use would have barely increased at all.

There's also evidence that even among adults, nearly all of the 
"medical" marijuana goes to drug abuse. The largest survey of medical 
marijuana patients, published in 2014 in the Journal of Global Drug 
Policy and Practice, found that only 6 percent reported using 
marijuana for cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, Alzheimer's, Crohn's, hepatitis 
C, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's 
disease. The vast majority - 91 percent - got their marijuana for pain.

Research shows that most chronic pain patients are women. In 2001, 
the journal Pain published a study by researchers who interviewed 
more than 17,000 people and found that 54 percent of those with 
chronic pain were female. On the other hand, five years of data from 
the NSDUH showed that adult marijuana abusers were 69 percent male. 
So if the pain patients using medical marijuana are genuine, they 
should be mostly female. If they're substance abusers faking or 
exaggerating pain just to get high, they should be about 69 percent male.

Between 2011 and 2013, I contacted all of the state medical marijuana 
programs and got data from seven. In all but one of the states, 64 to 
74 percent of the pain patients were male.

These numbers are nowhere near what we would expect from a 
cross-section of legitimate pain patients. Instead, they're clustered 
around the result we would see if the patients were all substance 
abusers. So while not every medical marijuana patient is misusing the 
law just to get high, the great majority probably are.

A 2011 study from the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis found similar 
results. The researchers surveyed 1,655 consecutive patients from 
nine medical marijuana clinics in California and found that the 
average patient was a 32-year-old man who started smoking pot as a teenager.

Not only are these laws harmful, but they're completely unnecessary. 
While some seriously ill patients are helped by marijuana, there are 
four prescription cannabinoid medications that are just as helpful. 
So there's no reason to use marijuana itself as medicine.

Two of these medicines, Marinol and Cesamet, are available in the 
U.S. by prescription. A third, Epidiolex, or pure cannabidiol, is 
available for children with seizures through a special Food and Drug 
Administration program. The fourth, Sativex, is in the last stages of approval.

Some of these medicines have fewer side effects than marijuana and 
are longer-acting, which means they are better for genuine patients 
who don't want to be stoned all the time. However, the biggest 
advantage of prescription cannabinoids is that they're much less 
likely to be abused or diverted to teenage use than medical marijuana is.

Legislators should ignore the pro-marijuana lobbyists and instead 
listen to the American Medical Association, the American Academy of 
Pediatrics and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. If we want 
to rein in teenage marijuana use and prevent widespread abuse of the 
drug, instead of passing new state medical marijuana laws, we should 
get rid of the ones we already have.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom