Monday, June 22, 2015

Docs don’t like medical marijuana

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Published: June 22, 2015

 

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State 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 United States 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 only by 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 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 ALS. The vast majority, 91 percent, got their marijuana for pain.

While some seriously ill patients are helped by marijuana, there are four prescription cannabinoid medications that are just as helpful.

State legislators who want what’s best for the country should ignore the pro-marijuana lobbyists and instead listen to the AMA, the Academy of Pediatrics, and the 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.

DR. ED GOGEK Is an addiction psychiatrist and the author of “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 Publications. He wrote this for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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