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Legalized Pot Tied to Rise in Young Men’s Suicide Attempts – Consumer Health News

4 min read

MONDAY, March 22, 2021 (HealthDay News) – States making marijuana an easily available retail item may see increases in self-harm in younger men, according to a new study.

The researchers found a correlation between changing marijuana policies in the U.S. and the rate of self-harm among men under 40. This rate – including suicide attempts and non-suicidal behavior such as cutting – rose in legalized states and, in some cases, “commercialized” recreational marijuana.

The results cannot demonstrate a cause-and-effect relationship, said lead researcher Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford University.

It is possible that there are other general trends in these states that affect self-harm rates.

However, Humphreys said the findings should be taken into account in the debate on states’ marijuana recreational policies.

Currently, most US states allow the use of marijuana for medical reasons, while 15 states and Washington, DC have legalized it for recreational use as well.

These latter policy changes have been controversial, with some research suggesting that they may have increased marijuana use among young adults and even teenagers (who are not legally allowed to use the drug).

For the new study, Humphreys and colleagues looked at whether the rate of self-harming harm in the states changed after a change in marijuana laws.

Some previous studies have linked marijuana use to an increased risk of self-harm, which includes behaviors such as burning or cutting your skin, as well as thoughts or attempts at suicide. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, people who have intentionally harmed themselves may be at increased risk of suicide and require treatment.

“There were two competing thoughts [marijuana] Politics and self-harm, “said Humphreys.

One stated that self-harm rates will rise in states that legalize the drug, while the other argues that self-harm could become less common if marijuana use reduces alcohol use – itself a risk factor for self-harm.

The relationship turned out to be more nuanced, the researchers report in the March 18 issue of JAMA network open.

Overall, they did not find a clear increase in self-harm injuries in states where the recreational pot was legalized – including those where pot pharmacies could sell the drug to people aged 21 and over.

However, there was a correlation in one population group: men under 40 years of age. In states that allowed commercial marijuana sales, the rate of self-harm among men ages 21 to 39 increased by 46%.

In states that legalized pot but did not have pharmacies, self-harm increased 70% in men under the age of 21.

“Young men are the group you’d expect to have an effect in,” said Humphreys.

Humphreys noted that they are the greatest users of “substances”, including pot and alcohol. They also have relatively higher rates of certain mental or behavioral disorders that increase the risk of self-harm.

“Studies show that people with mental illness can consume cannabis [marijuana] to relieve symptoms, “said Pat Aussem, vice president of clinical consumer content development for the nonprofit partnership to end addiction. She reviewed the study but was not part of the research.

Aussem added that over time, marijuana use can worsen these symptoms – including depression and self-harm behavior.

Aussem said more research should examine the link between marijuana and self-harm, as well as other potential health effects, and the results should sway state laws.

“As with other substances, marijuana is not commonly experienced by humans in the same way,” said Aussem.

The current results are based on health insurance claims for more than 75 million Americans collected between 2003 and 2017. During the study period, 29 states legalized medical marijuana use, while 11 legalized recreational use.

Nationwide, there were an average of 80 self-harm injuries per 100,000 people per year.

“There was no evidence to link medical marijuana to rates of self-harm,” Humphreys said.

But when it came to legal recreational use, the picture changed.

Humphreys said commercializing pots through pharmacies could be particularly problematic: not only will the drug be easier to buy, but it will also be more enticing.

“Advertising works,” he said, and that includes raising the general awareness that marijuana is risk-free.

“There is no drug that does no harm,” said Humphreys. “Aspirin can do harm.”

He stressed that the purpose of the study was not to argue against legal marijuana use. Humphreys added that better regulation may be needed – similar to tobacco and alcohol policy, which seeks to limit “excessive commercialization”.

More information

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more to offer health effects of marijuana.

SOURCES: Keith Humphreys, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California; Pat Aussem, LPC, MAC, Vice President, Consumer Clinical Content Development, Addiction Ending Partnership, New York City; JAMA Network Open, March 18, 2021, online