Tag: medical marijuana

The Strange World of Veteran Marijuana & Painkiller Policy

Their Drug Policies Make No Sense!

veteran affairs policy on medical marijuana

I recently stumbled across a fascinating article on the confusing and strange world of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ policy on painkillers and illegal drugs. It told the story of Bill Williams, a Vietnam War veteran living in Texas, and his fight to continue receiving hydrocodone (Vicodin) for chronic pain.

Without going into detail here – find that below – I found Williams’ story incredibly interesting. It raised a number of questions over how the VA treats pain and how they, a federal agency, deal with medical marijuana.

Think about it – all forms of marijuana, medical and recreational, are illegal at a federal level. How can a federal agency prescribe, provide, regulate, and simply deal with a drug that’s illegal nationally but legal in certain states?

The answer is that a federal agency can’t deal with it. Williams’ story makes this abundantly clear. Read on to learn what he went through and where the VA stands on medical marijuana.

What states have legalized marijuana for recreational use?

Chronic Pain, Narcotic Pills & Medical Marijuana

Bill William’s story starts, like many veterans, in Vietnam.

Williams served on a submarine and developed PTSD as a result of his service. The VA regularly prescribed him Valium and other benzo-like drugs to treat his PTSD for the past thirty years. They also prescribed him Vicodin for chronic pain since late 2013.

Williams also smoked marijuana to help combat both his PTSD and chronic pain. While the VA was at first sympathetic, and even urged him to continue smoking pot if it helped, that’s no longer the case.

In fact, the VA recently implemented a number of “no-tolerance” policies surrounding the prescription of opioid painkillers. These are a result of the DEA’s crackdown on hydrocodone in late 2014 (moving it from a Schedule III to a Schedule II narcotic).

These policies culminated in Williams losing his hydrocodone prescription in April after failing a drug test for marijuana.

According to the Military.com article, Williams hadn’t smoked pot in months. Rather, his friends’ secondhand smoke caused him to fail the test. Regardless of whether he inhaled or not, Williams did admit to failing previous drug tests for marijuana.

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He doesn’t see why the Texas VA is punishing him for smoking marijuana when it’s legal in other states. This point gets to the heart of the matter – how the VA dictates its medical marijuana policy.

According to Williams’ doctor, the Texas VA doesn’t allow any leeway when it comes to marijuana and opioids. Still, when other states’ VAs allow for civilian based medical marijuana prescription…things start to fall into legal gray area.

In fact, according to the article,

“But in states such as Texas, where marijuana isn’t legal, the VA’s policy is less clear. Asked specifically about marijuana use by Texas patients, VA officials couldn’t provide clarification” (Military.com).

So where does the VA stand on medical marijuana? What’s its position on vets like Bill Williams who aren’t smoking pot to get high, but rather using it as a vital and necessary form of medicine?

The VA’s Position on Medical Marijuana

For years the Department of Veterans Affairs’ doctors, nurses, and medical professionals were unable to even officially talk about medical marijuana with their patients.

This was, and still largely is, due to the Controlled Substances Act. That’s the piece of law that makes marijuana illegal on a federal level. It also prevents any federal government employee from recommending a substance deemed to be illegal.

Advocacy groups, like Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, argue this line of thought is outdated and serves no one – not policy makers, not doctors, and certainly not veterans.

Things started to change this past May though. The Senate advanced a VA funding bill – the FY16 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriation bill – that includes a provision enabling VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana.

There are a few caveats though. First, VA doctors would only be able to recommend medical marijuana. They wouldn’t be able to prescribe or dispense it, as marijuana is still illegal at a federal level.

veteran affairs legal and illegal drug policy

Second, the bill wasn’t passed into law. Rather, the amendment regarding VA doctors and marijuana was voted on and officially added to the bill. It still has to be passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives – where a slightly different version of the bill is making its way through committee.

Finally, both the Senate and the House bill need to be the same to be passed into law.

Still, this is a major step forward in addressing the discrepancy between national and state-level marijuana law. It’s also a major step forward in regulating how the VA views medical marijuana.

Think about it like this – Bill Williams may be able to get the pain relief he needs if the VA takes a unified stance on how to treat medical marijuana.

It doesn’t mean things are going to change overnight and it doesn’t mean that Williams will immediately get his painkiller prescription back. It does mean that lawmakers, federal agencies, state departments, and government-employed doctors will be on the same page.

That’s something we can all hope for.

Vermont may be the next state to legalize marijuana…

Why are Teenagers LESS Likely to Smoke Pot in States Where It’s Legal?

Medical Marijuana ≠ Teen Drug Abuse!

Scientists recently found something very interesting about teenage marijuana consumption in states where medical marijuana is legal. They found that legalizing pot for medical reasons lead to no increase in adolescent marijuana abuse.

adolescent medical marijuana

Although that seems to contradict common sense, it’s absolutely true according to researchers from Columbia University. A team from the esteemed university recently published a landmark study in The Lancet Psychiatry.

The Columbia team set out to answer two questions – whether more adolescents smoked pot in states where it’s legal for medical use and whether the risk of smoking pot changed after making it legal.

To answer these questions, researchers examined data on over 1 million teenagers’ marijuana use habits over a period of twenty-four years. Their conclusions are outlined below, but suffice it to say they found some interesting results.

In fact, Deborah Hasin, one of the study’s lead authors, released a statement saying, “Our findings provide the strongest evidence to date that marijuana use by teenagers does not increase after a state legalizes medical marijuana” (Al Jazeera America).

Why is medical marijuana being touted by some as “the solution to the prescription painkiller epidemic?”

The New Data on Adolescent Marijuana Use

To gather their data, the Columbia team studied research from the Monitoring the Future Study. This is an annual survey which examines 8th, 10th, and 12th graders drug use. Researchers looked at responses from almost 1.1 million students, in forty-eight states, between 1991 and 2014.

It’s safe to say this was a comprehensive study!

So, after sorting through all the numbers, what did the team find? Well, the first fact that stuck out was marijuana use was already high in states that went on to legalize it for medical use.

That makes sense, right? States with liberal attitudes towards pot will likely pass laws allowing for its medical use. These states will also likely have more adolescents and adults who use the drug recreationally.

What’s interesting is that researchers found no spike in teenage use after medical marijuana laws were passed.

Not only was there no increase in use, but there was actually a decrease in 8th grade marijuana use in those states. Looking at the table below, you can see that it’s more likely for an adolescent to smoke pot in one of the states where marijuana is outright illegal.

There are a number of theories for why this decline occurred. Some speculate that legalizing pot for medical reasons led to 8th graders thinking of it less as a drug of abuse and more as a medicine. Others believe legalizing pot galvanized parents to educate their children more thoroughly about the drug.

Regardless of the reason, less adolescents smoking marijuana is something we can all get behind!

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What Critics are Saying

Not everyone is onboard with this new research. There are a number of critics, mainly social conservatives, who are calling out for more research to be done. In an interesting twist of fate, the Columbia team itself believes more studies should be done.

Social conservatives have always argued that legalizing marijuana for medical use could led to an increase in overall drug abuse, particularly among teenagers. They believe allowing pot to be used for medical reasons will make it appear more attractive to teenagers and lead them to experiment.

This latest study confirms the above isn’t true. Still, this line of thinking is worth considering. After all, according to the study itself, 10th and 12th graders in states where medical marijuana’s legal do use the drug more often.

It’s important to point out that their use mirrors teenagers in states without medical marijuana. Still, why are adolescents in these states smoking more? Well, and this is where things get interesting, researchers believe there are “state-level risk factors.”

These risk factors can be things like a strong pro-marijuana culture, increased rates of other drug abuse, familial problems, and a generally relaxed attitudes surrounding marijuana use.

In fact, researchers from Columbia ultimately concluded,

“State-level risk factors other than medical marijuana laws could contribute to both marijuana use and the passage of medical marijuana laws, and such factors warrant investigation” (TIME).

Further investigation sounds good to me. For the time being, though, let’s all be happy that fewer teenagers are abusing drugs. That’s certainly a step in the right direction!

New research shows marijuana is less of a gateway drug than this commonly consumed chemical!

Medical Marijuana Could End Childhood Seizures

The Newest Condition Cannabis May Treat

In the world of alternative medicine, a veritable wild west of pills and powders, marijuana is king. It’s toted as the cure for everything from headaches to cancer. While many of these claims are dubious at best, there’s mounting scientific research to back up marijuana’s medical benefits.

Newest among these is a New York University study which gauged the effects of canabidiol, better known as CBD, on various forms of childhood epilepsy. CBD is the second most prevalent chemical in marijuana, falling just short of THC. It’s also the chemical responsible for pot’s analgesic and sedative effects.

medical marijuana childhood epilepsy

Dr. Orrin Devinsky, the director of NYU’s Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, led the study and lauded the results as “extremely important.” He may be onto something, as his research examined CBD’s impact on two of the most extreme forms of epilepsy – Lennox Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome.

Learn how medical marijuana may be an alternative to opioid painkillers!

The Shocking Results

Dr. Devinsky’s twelve-week study was comprised of more than 213 individuals suffering from various forms of epilepsy. In total, the effects of medical marijuana on twelve different types of epilepsy were studied.

Throughout the study, participants recorded positive and negative responses to CBD and medical marijuana in general. A total of 10% of those taking CBD reported “mild to moderate” side effects. These were things like drowsiness and fatigue.

Overall, 137 of the initial participants made it through the whole twelve-weeks. The data gathered from their experience has been nothing short of shocking. What exactly happened? How do CBD and marijuana impact childhood epilepsy?

Well, those with Lennox Gastaut Syndrome reported 55% fewer instances of seizure. Those with Dravet Syndrome reported 53% fewer instances of seizure. The remaining participants reported a 54% drop in epileptic seizures during the study. That’s an average drop of over 50%! That’s real hope for those struggling with all forms of epilepsy. It looks like marijuana may indeed help to end childhood seizures!

What about the side effects of marijuana though? What are the ramifications of giving children CBD? Remember, about 10% reported mild to moderate side effects.

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Is it Safe to Give Children Marijuana?

That, readers, is the question. Do the benefits of CBD and medical marijuana on childhood epilepsy outweigh the negative consequences? What about introducing a mind-altering chemical to still developing brains? Will there be long-term damage?

Well, various studies suggest that prolonged marijuana use can damage young brains. That’s certainly something to consider when discussing the use of CBD to treat childhood epilepsy. It’s worth noting that this study examined a measured dose of CBD over a three-month period. That’s a far cry from prolonged pot abuse. Still, it’s something to take into consideration.

What about the risk of children being given medical marijuana developing an affinity for drug use later in life? Again, that’s certainly something to consider, though I’d wager it’s a rare occurrence. Remember, CBD is different from THC.

Although both produce psychoactive effects, CBD produces much milder ones than THC. CBD primarily acts as an analgesic or painkiller (not to be confused with opioid painkillers) and a sedative (not to be confused with benzodiazepines).

So yes, using CBD to treat childhood seizures has some risks associated with it. We can’t ignore the drastic impact it’s had on epilepsy though. Anything that can reduce the occurrence of seizures by over 50% should be examined further and, perhaps, that’s just what the doctor ordered – further testing on CBD as an effective childhood epilepsy deterrent.

Painkiller Manufacturers’ Shady Marijuana Agenda

The REAL Reason Marijuana’s Illegal

In a story that could come from the corrupt political drama “House of Cards,” some of America’s largest pharmaceutical companies seem to be striking backroom deals to keep marijuana illegal.

medical marijuana painkiller

My previous statement may sound like a bit much. It may sound like the ramblings of someone who’s watched one too many YouTube conspiracy videos. It may sound like the ravings of an anti-government radical. Let me assure you that’s not the case at all.

Over the last several years, more and more information has come to light on powerful academic researchers who’re on the pharmaceutical industry’s payroll. Even more alarming is how opposed to medical marijuana these doctors and scientists are.

Now, this on its own is nothing. Some medical experts disagree that marijuana has medical benefits? So what? What is alarming, however, is when you consider their vocal anti-marijuana views in light of the funding and support they receive from opioid painkiller manufactures.

Find specific examples below and, believe me, there are lots of them.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine

Dr. Stuart Gitlow, the president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), and Dr. Mark Kraus, a board member, are both on the payroll of companies heavy invested in keeping medical marijuana illegal.

Dr. Gitlow is not only on the board of directors for Project SAM, an organization devoted to keeping medical marijuana illegal, but he is also a visible and sensational critic of marijuana’s medical benefits. He once stated in USA Today, “There’s no benefit to marijuana. It’s simply that people want the freedom to be stoned. That’s all it is” (The Nation).

Guess where Dr. Gitlow derives a majority of his money? That’s right, companies that manufacture opioid painkillers. Gitlow is the Medical Director for Orexo, a company that makes a Suboxone like “opioid substitute” that’s also know for its abuse potential.

Dr. Mark Kraus, the ASAM board member mentioned above, is also on the payroll of Big Pharma. In 2012, Dr. Kraus fought the legalization of medical marijuana in Connecticut. Although he was ultimately unsuccessful, Kraus was a vocal opponent of legalizing marijuana in any form. Perhaps that’s because he’s worked for the Reckitt Benckiser Group. Reckitt Benckiser is the manufacturer of the opioid Nurofen. Dr. Kraus also has tied to Pfizer, which makes narcotic analgesics with both morphine and oxycodone.

Learn a safer alternative to treat chronic pain!

Dr. Herbert Kleber

Dr. Kleber is a professor and scientist from Columbia University. He’s also a vocal opponent of medical marijuana. He’s used his academic reach to decry marijuana on CBS, NPR, and CNBC. He’s quick to warn anyone listening of the numerous abuse and addiction issues that any form of marijuana, medical or recreational, presents.

Dr. Kleber’s testimonials have been far reaching indeed. The New York State Association of Chiefs of Police used some of his writing in their opposition to medical marijuana. So did the American Psychiatric Association in their official statement against medical marijuana.

Fair enough, right? Dr. Kleber believes that marijuana presents no significant medical benefits. He’s a doctor and probably knows more about the subject than I do.

What’s interesting is when you consider some of the companies that Kleber has worked for. He’s been a consultant to numerous opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, Alkermes, and the Reckitt Benckiser Group (it seems like Reckitt Benckiser has quite a few public faces on their payroll).

Purdue Pharma is famous for introducing OxyContin to the American public. They’re also famous for launching a “misleading” marketing campaign aimed at making the public believe that OxyContin was safe and non-habit forming. Alkermes is the primary company producing a new opioid called Zohydro. Zohydro is a stronger version of the blockbuster opioid Vicodin.

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Dr. A. Eden Evins

Lest we think all the opioid advocates in academia are men, let’s take a look at Dr. A. Eden Evins. Dr. Evins is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. She’s a longtime and vocal opponent of any form of marijuana legalization. She’s also on Project SAM’s board of directors.

Dr. Evin’s has received grant and researcher support from Forum (formally EnVivo Pharmaceuticals), GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer. Additionally, Dr. Evin’s has served as a consultant for both Pfier and DLA Piper.

These painkiller manufacturers are largely responsible for the current opioid epidemic America’s found itself in.

Legal marijuana is facing some trouble in Colorado

Anti-Marijuana Groups

As if all of the above information weren’t enough, there are also a number of anti-medical marijuana groups with general ties to the pharmaceutical industry and specific ties to opioid manufacturers.

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids receives large donations annually from Purdue Pharma and Abbott Laboratories (the company which developed Vicodin). Both these companies are among the organization’s primary donors.

Although the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids haven’t publicly endorsed opioid painkillers as safe, it’s naïve to think this pharmaceutical money comes with no strings attached.

pharmaceutical industry

The Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America (also known as the CADCA) = has tied to Purdue Pharma. The infamous company is one of the CADCA’s biggest donors. Another large donor is Alkermes, makers of Zohydro.

The CADCA campaigns aggressively against medical and recreational marijuana. Although it’s understandable for them to advocate against recreational marijuana, you can’t help but wonder about their stance on medical grade pot.

What about their stance on prescription drug abuse? Here’s where things get interesting. The CADCA takes a soft stance approach to painkiller abuse. They’ve called for more educational programs aimed at informing adolescents on the dangers of opioid abuse. While that’s an admirable step, it’s a far cry from their harsh condemnation of medical marijuana.

And then there’s Project SAM. Project SAM was founded in 2013 by Patrick Kennedy, of the famous family, who struggled with addiction to opioids most of his life. His response? Form an anti-marijuana organization which receives major funding and support from the pharmaceutical industry.

We’re in Need of a Rational Approach

We are! The United States is in desperate need of a rational approach to both medical marijuana and painkiller abuse prevention. That is to say, we’re in need of an unbiased and untethered view of the benefits and drawbacks of medical marijuana. We’re also in need of doctors, scientists, researchers, and academics who’re free of all corporate ties.

If by some small blessing that were to occur, if the US were to find reasonable proponents and critics of both medical marijuana and prescription drug reform, then we’d avoid situations like these.

So, what is the solution? How do we find these types of impartial opinions? Unfortunately, I’m not sure. I’m not a policymaker or a medical professional. I’m a man in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse who finds the corporate state of healthcare, be it pharmaceutical or otherwise, appalling.

I think the first step to any meaningful reform is through both politicians and medical advocates cutting ties with the business world. I realize that every project needs funding, be it a scientific project or a social services one. However, when corporate America comes to save the day, well, there’s always a price tag attached.

Will this organization end prescription drug abuse?

Can Medical Marijuana Save Lives?

Will Marijuana End the Painkiller Epidemic?

I recently stumbled across a great article that explored how medical marijuana can be used to treat patients with chronic pain. The article argued that, among other things, medical grade pot may be a safer alternative to prescription painkillers.

I’m not a doctor and don’t know whether that claim has any basis in fact. What I do know is the article painted a pretty accurate picture of the state of pain medicine in America. It also tugged on my heartstrings and sent me down a rabbit hole of information gathering.

medical marijuana painkiller
image via Wikimedia Commons

Enter Ian Young, a fortysomething man who’s had chronic pain for over a decade. Young was in a car accident in the mid-90’s and was left with pain in his neck and a nasty addiction to opioid pills.

At the height of his doctor-sanctioned addiction, Young was taking 240 milligrams of Vicodin and 225 milligrams of Percocet each day. Those are some pretty high doses. He was also on a slew of pills to counteract the side effects of his painkillers (think constipation, etc.).

Young estimates that he was taking as many as fifteen different medications each day. He said, “I was probably taking more prescriptions than my grandfather” (Aljazeera America).

After reaching his breaking point, or rock bottom if you prefer, Young began to wean himself off of narcotic painkillers. He was soon taking a significantly lower dose of painkillers, but was left with neck pain. His solution? Medical marijuana.

Young lives in Washington State which, in 2012, legalized pot for recreational use. Young began to buy recreational marijuana and use it for medical purposes (less red tape than going a strictly medical route, I assume). He’s now a member of the approximately two million American’s who uses some form of medical marijuana.

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Marijuana’s Painkilling Benefits

Marijuana has a number of medical benefits. While not all of these, or even most, relate to decreasing pain, there are some known positives about using marijuana as a painkiller.

In the early 2000’s, California budgeted $10 million for medical marijuana study. Barth Wilsey was one of the first to conduct research on whether pot had any painkilling effects. Wilsey, a pain specialist at the Davis Medical Center at the University of California, started looking into how pot may reduce neuropathic pain.

His findings concluded that yes, marijuana does have painkilling effects. Interestingly enough, the short-term analgesic properties displayed by marijuana can occur after consuming marijuana with a very low THC concentration.

Consider that recreational weed has anywhere from a 6 to 20% THC concentration. Painkilling marijuana can contain as little as 1.3% THC. This small amount of THC will produce no psychoactive effects. Imagine a medication that can relieve pain without any psychoactive effects. Sounds good to me!

Ian Young abundantly confirms this. His preferred strain of analgesic marijuana is something called “20:1.” This strain is named for its concentration of CBD (marijuana’s primary “sedative” chemical) to THC. Young has stated, “I don’t get high off of it, but I get extreme pain relief immediately, like an opioid” (Aljazeera America).

It’s worth noting that chronic pain is one of the main reasons that people opt for medical marijuana in the first place. In fact, in 2013 a survey was conducted at a Michigan medical marijuana dispensary. The results confirm that pot and painkilling go hand-in-hand.

Over 85% of the patients receiving medical marijuana use it to relieve chronic pain. Again, that’s a stark first-person testimonial to the analgesic effects of marijuana.

Another benefit of marijuana used for medical purposes is the general quality of life improvement it offers over opioids. According to Ken Mackie, a neuroscientist at Indiana University,

“Medical marijuana is probably better for treating chronic pain, where the goal is to increase a person’s quality of life, ability to communicate with family and friends and hold down a job” (Aljazeera America).

Learn how Obama wants to end the painkiller epidemic!

Medical Marijuana > Prescription Opioids

In addition to the general benefits that analgesic marijuana offers, there’s one specific fact that may make it preferable to opioids. Simply put, states with medical or recreational marijuana have fewer opioid overdose deaths.

That’s not a typo, I said fewer overdose deaths. In the midst of a painkiller epidemic, these states have figured out a way to reduce the mortality rate of prescription painkillers. Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont have a cumulative 24.8% lower annual overdose death rate than the rest of the country.

marijuana and opioids
image via Wikimedia Commons

What about patients that want to use both opioids and marijuana as painkillers? Well, here we get into some really interesting research. A study was conducted on individuals with chronic pain and prescriptions for sustained release morphine and oxycodone.

The study found that when a small amount of medical grade marijuana (remember, this isn’t potent pot but rather pot with a low THC percentage) was added to a sustained release morphine or oxycodone regiment, pain was decreased by 27% without increasing the concentration of opioids in patients’ blood.

This means that medical grade marijuana, when taken in small amounts (up to three hits of vaporized pot per day), can be used to reduce prescription painkiller doses while still maintaining analgesic levels.

Up to now we’ve been looking at potential medical and scientific benefits of marijuana’s painkilling abilities. But what about the very human benefits? What about individuals who are finally offered a choice? Individuals who are finally offered way out from doctor-approved opioid addiction?

Well, once again we return to Ian Young. When asked about how using marijuana for pain relief has affected him, Young said, “In the past six months, I’ve taken one oxycodone. The rest of the time I’ve been taking cannabis. Even today, I can’t believe I’ve gotten here” (Aljazeera America).

Remember, this is someone who was taking over 200 milligrams of two different painkillers each day. This is someone who was taking more than fifteen different medications at once. If medical marijuana can offer someone freedom from that level of doctor-sanctioned addiction, well, it may be worth considering.

Is there a heroin addiction vaccine?

Weed is Legal Where?!

Which New States Legalized Marijuana?

where is marijuana legal

On November 4th, 2014, voters in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC made their voices heard. They voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

This is a historic day for lawmakers, marijuana advocates, and most importantly the citizens of Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC. This is a triumph of democracy. Regardless of your personal opinion on marijuana, the voters in these states have spoken.

Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC join Washington state and Colorado as the latest states to legalize recreational marijuana use. That’s to say nothing of the twenty-three states were medical marijuana is legal, or the seventeen states which have decriminalized its use.

Is the War on Drugs Over?

Marijuana advocates all over the country are celebrating this wave of legislation. They’re taking to the streets, spliffs in hand, rejoicing over “the end of the war on drugs.”

Okay, that’s a bit of hyperbole, both the spliffs and the end of the war on drugs. Still, this trend of legalizing marijuana has far reaching implications. It almost certainly is the beginning of the end for the war on drugs.

What exactly do I mean by that? It’s simple. By and large, Americans favor the federal legalization of marijuana. According to a 2014 Pew Research poll, 54% of the country thinks marijuana should be legal.

Legalizing marijuana’s one thing, but what about hard drugs? What about heroin, methamphetamine, and crack? What about those and the war on drugs? Well, things get a bit more complicated when hard drugs come in to play.

I don’t foresee a day when heroin is legal or crack is sold at CVS. Still, a progressive attitude towards drugs in general will benefit those who’re addicted to hard drugs. After all, if a majority of the country wants to legalize marijuana, they’re likely to support increased treatment for heroin addiction, meth abuse, and the like.

What are the REAL facts about marijuana abuse?

A Brief History of Legal Marijuana

  • 1930’s – Marijuana, along with many other drugs, is made illegal in the United States
  • 1964 – Scientists begin studying the effects of marijuana use in Jamaican communities
  • 1970’s – The drug Marinol, a synthetic version of THC, is approved for medical use in the United States
  • Mid to late 90’s – Eight states legalize marijuana for medical use
  • 2000’s – Fifteen more states legalize marijuana for medical use. Also, several states begin to decriminalize recreational marijuana possession and use
  • 2010 on – Four states and Washington DC legalize recreational marijuana use and possession. Twenty-three states allow medical marijuana use. Seventeen states have decriminalized marijuana

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What Does This Mean for Those in Recovery?

This is where the conversation around legalizing marijuana gets a bit dicey. What does legal access to a drug, which many consider to be safe, mean for recovering addicts and alcoholics?

I don’t think it changes all that much, actually. Alcohol is legal. Prescription medication is legal. Over-the-counter drugs with a high potential for abuse are legal. Substances like “spice” and Kratom are legal (in most states).

So, the growing number of states that have legal weed doesn’t change much for us sober folks. It allows us legal access to one more mind and mood altering chemical, but that’s it.

Besides, if you’ve read recovery literature, you know that we can go anywhere in sobriety. The tenth step promises state,

“We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame…We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation…Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition” (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84-85).

Now that marijuana’s legal in an increasing number of states, those in recovery, myself included, need to work our programs harder.

I know that if I’m going to meetings, I’m in no danger if someone walks past me smoking a joint. I know that if I’m praying and meditating, I’m in no danger if I see people with weed. I know that if I’m helping others, I’m in no danger of relapsing. Period.

Learn another way to avoid relapse

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