By Sola Ogundipe
BELIEVE it or not, but you could be safer ingesting marijuana -the most used illegal drug on Earth – than a prescription pain killer drug. Findings by a brand new first-of-its-kind global study conducted at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, USA, showed that prescription pain killers, though legal, could be the deadliest drug of all.
A publication in The Lancet, revealed that marijuana, though often preferred to other illicit drugs of addiction such as cocaine, heroin and amphetamines are responsible for killing fewer persons than addictive painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodinbe.
Of a total of 78,000 drug deaths, prescription pain pills accounted for more than half. The study does not mention why marijuana has become the most popular drug, controversy over the legalisation of cannabis in some US states rages on.
While marijuana use is still illegal according to federal law, the new global report found that men in their 20s were most likely to abuse any of the drugs studied. Drugs such as Ecstasy and other hallucinogens were not included due to a lack of data.
The study also found that Australia, Russia, the UK and the US were the hardest hit by substance abuse. Those living in these areas were also more likely to use the drugs which originated closer to home.
For instance, persons living in Asia or Australia were more inclined to abuse amphetamines and opioids whereas North Americans used more marijuana and cocaine.
“Even if it is not very solid data, we can say definitely that there are drug problems in most parts of the world,” explained senior author Theo Vos.
Michael Lysnkey with the National Addiction Centre at King’s College in London warned that these numbers are likely to change, saying the world’s preference for drugs may change in the future.
“The illicit use of prescribed opiates in the US has only happened in the last 10 years or so,” said Lysnkey in a statement. “It’s possible in another 20 years, patterns will again change in ways we can’t predict.”
Many continue to debate the potential health benefits and dangers of marijuana usage with constituents on either side pointing to medical studies that reach different conclusions. Earlier this year, researchers from Tel Aviv University say they found smoking marijuana to be beneficial to elder patients who suffer from a variety of chronic ailments.
The Israeli researchers said 19 elderly subjects who smoked marijuana experienced healthy weight gain, an improvement in mood and communication skills and a reduction of chronic pain.
A recent study from the University of Montreal, however, found that pot smoking can lead to addictive behavior in teens who are already predisposed, either due to environmental psychological conditions, to pick up an addictive habit.
Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology recently found that the use of LSD, ecstasy and other psychedelic drugs are not linked to mental illness and, in fact, could improve some individuals’ psychiatric health.