Cannabis data ap­pear con­tra­dic­tory

The News-Times - - ADVICE/GAMES - Keith Roach, M.D.

Dear Dr. Roach: In a re­cent col­umn, you men­tioned that “Cannabis ad­versely af­fects driv­ing abil­ity.” Yet, fur­ther on in the ar­ti­cle, you state that, “Early data from ar­eas that le­gal­ized recre­ational mar­i­juana sug­gest re­duced rates of mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents.”

These two state­ments seem to con­tra­dict each other. I be­lieve I’ve read sev­eral ar­ti­cles that state the ve­hic­u­lar ac­ci­dent rate in Colorado has risen since the le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana there. I think it would be ben­e­fi­cial to know which is more in­dica­tive of the true ef­fects of mar­i­juana on a per­son’s driv­ing abil­ity.

Full dis­clo­sure: I am against le­gal­iz­ing the drug but have no prob­lem with its con­trolled use for medic­i­nal pur­poses. How­ever, you know as well as I do that many health pre­scribers and users abuse the drug for medic­i­nal pur­poses. I’m sim­ply against the use of ANY drug that can im­pair a per­son’s abil­ity to drive!


An­swer: I see the ap­par­ent con­tra­dic­tion, and hope I can ex­plain it.

The an­swer is that while, as you say, it’s cer­tainly best not to drive on any sub­stance, it ap­pears that states with le­gal­ized cannabis use have less un­safe al­co­hol use. The col­li­sion data is more com­plex than I had space to dis­cuss. While col­li­sions have in­creased by about 3 per­cent, fa­tal­i­ties have gone down by about 10 per­cent. These re­sults are par­tic­u­larly strong in younger age groups.

I cer­tainly agree that use of any per­for­mance-af­fect­ing drug be­fore driv­ing is a very bad idea. How­ever, al­co­hol ap­pears to be much more dan­ger­ous, so the net ef­fect is less mor­tal­ity with re­spect to traf­fic ac­ci­dents.

Fi­nally, any drug, pre­scrip­tion, over-the-counter or recre­ational, can be abused. I think the data are clear that cannabis has le­git­i­mate med­i­cal uses, and that recre­ational use of cannabis may re­duce over­all mor­bid­ity and mor­tal­ity, if users are us­ing less al­co­hol, which is re­spon­si­ble for far more deaths than cannabis is.

There is a great deal of un­con­trolled cannabis use, both recre­ation­ally and to treat symp­toms. More con­trol and more data both are good ideas.

Read­ers may email ques­tions to: ToYourGoodHealth@med .cor­ or mail ques­tions to 628 Vir­ginia Dr., Or­lando, FL 32803.

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