In a new study, scientists found that legal marijuana may help reduce chronic pain, but it can increase drug abuse, injury due to overdoses, and car accidents.
The research was conducted by a team from UC San Francisco.
According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 117 million people in the U.S. have used cannabis in their lifetime.
In addition, more than 22 million Americans report having used it within the past 30 days.
While its use is a federal crime as a controlled substance, 28 states and the District of Columbia now allow it for treating medical conditions. Nine of those states have legalized it for recreational use.
In this study, the team reviewed more than 28 million hospital records from the two years before and after cannabis was legalized in Colorado.
They found that hospital admissions for cannabis abuse increased after legalization.
In addition, there were fewer diagnoses of chronic pain after legalization, which supports that cannabis can reduce chronic pain.
The team also found that after legalization, Colorado experienced a 10% increase in motor vehicle accidents, as well as a 5% increase in alcohol abuse and overdoses that resulted in injury or death.
The findings suggest the need to caution strongly against driving while under the influence of any mind-altering substance, such as marijuana.
Moreover, combating addiction and abuse of other recreational drugs may become even more important once marijuana has been legalized.
The team hopes the study findings may help guide future decisions regarding cannabis policy.
The senior author of the study is Gregory Marcus, MD, MAS, a UCSF Health cardiologist.
The study is published in the BMJ Open.
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