Medical Marijuana in California Reduced the State's Suicide Average, Study Reveals
Suicide, sadly, is on the rise across the United States and is now the 10th leading cause of death in this country.
Consider that for a moment… consider just how many ways there are to die from accidents to diseases to everything in between and yet people taking their own lives is now in the Top 10. In 2017 alone, 47,173 Americans took their own lives. That same year, firearms were the method of choice in 50.57% of all suicide deaths.
Some more interesting/disturbing numbers:
White males accounted for 69.67% of all suicide deaths in 2017
Men died by suicide 3.54x as often as women in 2017
14 out of every 100,000 Americans are now dying by suicide
Suicide accounts for 129 deaths every single day in the U.S.
If that is not shocking enough, watch these numbers flip when we look at America’s youth. The 2017 Youth Risk Behaviors Survey revealed that 7.4% of high school students surveyed had attempted suicide at least once in the previous 12 months.
Female students made these attempts twice as often as male students and black students reported the highest rate of suicide attempts.
From kids to adults and across all demographics, suicide remains a scourge on society that seems to only be getting worse in America… but not all parts of America.
For decades now, the state of California has hovered well below the national average of suicide deaths. As that average has unfortunately crept steadily upward, the stats in Cali have remained right around 2009 levels.
But what allowed California to keep its numbers lower than that national trend?
A new study released on the peer reviewed digital journal Taylor & Francis Online, researchers have concluded that the implementation of Proposition 215 in 1996 establishing a (sort of) legal medical marijuana marketplace in the state potentially led to a substantial drop in California’s suicide rate.
The report reads, “In particular, for all suicides, our results demonstrate that California’s 1996 intervention led to an average reduction of 398.9 suicides per year and a cumulative reduction of approximately 3,191 suicides during 1997-2004. Similarly, legalization led to a reduction in gun suicides of 208 per year on average and a cumulative reduction of approximately 1,668 fewer gun suicides during 1997-2004.”
For the record, between 1997 and 2014, the national suicide average jumped up 24%.
The authors of the study remain ambivalent about the results but give a couple of possible explanations for potential causality between cannabis legalization and suicide rate reduction.
Their first one is pretty half baked, claiming that perhaps suicide rates are lower in California post-cannabis legalization because cannabis use is a federal barrier to gun ownership. First of all, just living in Cali is about as big a barrier to legally owning or obtaining a gun as you’ll find in this country. If a person has an otherwise clean record and they are bent on taking their own life by firearm, I highly doubt that lying on one question on an ATF form is going to be the intervention that stops them.
Their more plausible conclusion is simply that two of the main drivers of suicide are depression and alcoholism. The right strain of weed can cure both.
Researchers involved with this study posit that perhaps people’s problems shrunk down to a manageable size after a few puffs of some killer OG Kush.
Toss in the fact that the vast majority of cannabis users find that their chosen natural, plant-based medication can replace countless forms of synthetic prescription drugs each with incredibly dangerous and unknown side effects and you’ve got another line of reasoning in support of cannabis being a valid tool in the effort to reduce suicide.
We can all help prevent suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. From caring people to healing plants, help is available.