Can Using Marijuana Actually Prevent Suicide?
Suicide Rates Have Dropped Since Medical Marijuana Legalization
As of 2013, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the US (data for 2014 is not yet available). With so many states passing laws to legalize medical marijuana, it is natural to wonder if pot has had any effect on suicide rates. In 2012, a group of researchers from Montana State University, University of Colorado Denver and San Diego State University set out to answer this question. The results are astonishing.
Based on a variety of factors, the researchers concluded that medical marijuana legalization has resulted in a 5% overall reduction in suicide rates. Breaking down these rates further, they determined that marijuana is responsible for a 10.8% reduction in suicides among 20-29 year old men and a 9.4% reduction among 30-39 year old men. They also concluded that the factors affecting suicide in women are too varied to determine how much difference marijuana has made, so the final findings are based primarily on men.
Medical marijuana opponents have argued for years that pot use increases depression and suicidal ideation, but this data clearly contradicts that. They also claim that marijuana use encourages substance abuse, which is a leading cause of suicide in the US. Apparently, the nay-sayers are wrong.
The study also takes into account alcohol use. According to the report, “alcoholism is associated with suicidal ideation as well as attempted and completed suicides”. Since the legalization of medical marijuana, the average number of drinks consumed by 20-29 year old males has dropped by 21.6%.
Medical marijuana affects more than just suicide rates, however. A separate study conducted by Montana State University, University of Colorado Denver and the University of Oregon examined the effects of medical marijuana on traffic fatalities, the leading cause of death in the US today. The research concluded that the legalization of medical marijuana, “is associated with an 8-11 percent decrease in traffic fatalities”.
They also point out that this data, “does not necessarily imply that driving under the influence of marijuana is safer than driving under the influence of alcohol”. They attribute the decrease in DUI-related deaths to the private nature of marijuana use- “If marijuana consumption typically takes place at home or other private locations, then legalization could reduce traffic fatalities simply because marijuana users are less likely to drive while impaired.”
Researchers will continue to look into correlations between medical marijuana and death in the US, but these results are more than promising. A variety of ongoing studies are currently looking at the potential of marijuana as an antipsychotic and antidepressant, which could crush many of the anti-pot arguments. So far, medical marijuana looks like a promising component for a safer, healthier and happier world.