Marijuana medical choice dilemma health care concept as a person standing in front of two paths with one offering traditional medicine and the other option with cannabis.

by Paul Fassa
Health Impact News

A study published a few years ago shows that in states where marijuana has been legalized, suicide rates have declined.

The study, Medical Marijuana Laws and Suicides by Gender and Age, was published by the American Journal of Public Health and showed a reduction in suicide rates in states that allowed cannabis for medical use. 

Since this study was published, more states have adopted medical marijuana laws and some of those that have allowed cannabis for medical purposes have expanded to allowing cannabis for “recreational use” with controls and restrictions similar to alcohol consumption.

So, the reduction in suicide rates may be an even greater reduction now than it was when this study was published.

Summarizing the Study’s Methods, Results, and Conclusions

The study’s introduction outlined the purpose of their study:

Opponents of legalizing medical marijuana point to a large number of studies showing that marijuana use is positively associated with depression, the onset of panic attacks, psychosis, schizophrenia, and suicidal ideation. However, the association between marijuana use and outcomes such as these could be attributable to difficult-to-measure confounders such as personality.

Although there have been attempts to account for these potential sources of statistical bias, none have been particularly convincing.

In fact, a recent review of the literature noted that the majority of studies in this area “did not adequately address the problem of reverse causation as a possible alternative explanation for any association observed.”

The “reverse causation” issue mentioned above is a situation where when there is an association observed, the actual cause is unclear.  

For example, did the subjects in those studies experience panic attacks and other adverse psychological events from smoking pot or were they already easily triggered into those events from sub-clinical and preexisting conditions using pot to self medicate? (Source)

Another flaw in a couple of those studies was that injected synthetic cannabinoids were used in animal studies. 

Big Pharma’s version of cannabis, whether CBD or THC, is the usual attempt to rob from nature to create a profitable patented drug that is less effective than the whole plant and much more dangerous.

This study’s researchers statistically analyzed the numbers of suicides reported per population of 100,000 according to yearly populations from the U.S. Census Bureau to determine annual suicide rates per state. 

They compared those statistics among states with some level of legalized marijuana use to states that adhered to the federal laws against cannabis. During that time period used in the study, several more states emerged to allow medical marijuana.

The state-by-state suicide statistics starting at age 15 that were available to them from the National Vital Statistics System’s Mortality Detail Files for 1990–2007. The available data included each individual’s age, gender, and cause of death. 

The study determined that compared to states which have completely forbidden cannabis use, suicide rates among men aged 20 to 29 were reduced by 10.8 percent compared to states not allowing cannabis for any purpose.

According to the study, the suicide rate among men aged 30 to 39 was reduced by 9.4 percent in states that allowed medical marijuana. 

Comparing suicide rates among women in medical cannabis legal states to states that still considered cannabis illegal for all purposes was too close to notice a significant difference until it came to women over 30, for whom there some reduction in suicide rates, which were more significant among women over 60.

These figures were obtained after making statistical adjustments for year-to-year changes in per-capita income, the unemployment rate, and various state policies regarding alcohol regulations.

The researchers concluded with:

Suicides among men aged 20 through 39 years fell after medical marijuana legalization compared with those in states that did not legalize. The negative relationship between legalization and suicides among young men is consistent with the hypothesis that marijuana can be used to cope with stressful life events. 

Possible Reasons for Lowered Suicide Rates in Marijuana Legal States


A factor considered by the researchers included a study showing legalizing medical marijuana was associated with substantial decreases in alcohol participation and binge drinking among young adults. 

Alcoholism is more common among individuals with major depression and is also associated with suicidal ideation as well as attempted and completed suicides.

The researchers also mentioned that older people are driven to suicide due to physical ailments and/or impaired mobility. 

But they didn’t mention how allowing medical marijuana reduced their ailments and gave them a better quality of life than they were experiencing from ever-expanding pharmaceutical prescriptions.

Perhaps because their study was performed during a time period before a more recent movement of older folks taking to cannabis, feeling better, improving their health, and minimizing or abandoning pharmaceutical drugs that were causing more misery.

Also see:

Older Americans Turning to Medical Cannabis to Heal Cancer and Other Diseases

Another factor to consider is the opioid pain-killer crisis. The addictions to opioids lead to depression and either unintentional overdosing or suicide.

It has been determined from other surveys that prescriptions for opioid pain-killers decreased in medical marijuana states.

Using cannabis to wean dangerously-addicted people off opioid pharmaceuticals while offering pain relief results with the right cannabis strains has also been noticed after 2014 when the current study authors had completed this study. See:

How Cannabis Can Be Used for Safe and Effective Opioid Drug Withdrawal

The bottom line is medical cannabis’s empirical evidence for improving and reversing a wide variety of serious ailments is the greatest boon towards escaping the pharmaceutical industry’s grip on mainstream medicine. It has just begun and is continuing to expand exponentially.