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Mental Health Treatment and Legalized Cannabis

Mental health treatment is facing a stark decline as more and more states are legalizing cannabis.


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Mental Health in Question: The focus on mental health (and potential solutions for those who are struggling) has become an essential topic amid the ongoing discussions surrounding the federal legalization of weed– particularly about its impact on various aspects of society.

As we delve into the effects of recreational marijuana laws in states that may legalize weed in 2023, a recent study sheds light on the correlation between legalized marijuana and mental health treatment admissions.

Mental Health Treatment Statistics

The study, published in Health Economics, analyzed data from ten states that have embraced legalized marijuana for adult use. According to Alberto Ortega, a professor at the O’Neill School of Public Health at Indiana University and the author of the study, the rising popularity of recreational marijuana laws has raised questions about its effects on mental health treatment.

Using an event-study within a difference-in-differences framework, the research examined the short-run impact of state RMLs on admissions into mental health treatment facilities. The results indicate that shortly after a state adopts an RML, there is a noticeable decrease in the average number of mental health treatment admissions.

This decline is observed across various demographic groups, including white, Black, and Medicaid-funded admissions, as well as both male and female admissions. These findings have been confirmed through alternative specifications and sensitivity analysis, adding robustness to the results.

The Results Are In

Ortega’s estimates suggest that, in the early years following the passage of recreational marijuana laws, there was approximately a 37% decrease in total mental health treatment admissions. This translates to about 92 fewer admissions per 10,000 individuals in a state. Notably, this decline is particularly evident among individuals under 65, Black, and white individuals.

While there is a significant decrease in Medicaid-funded treatment admissions, the effect on non-Medicaid admissions is relatively smaller and statistically insignificant.

Less Mental Health Treatment Is Not an Indicator of Health

Despite these compelling results, the study also raises intriguing questions. Due to data limitations, the researchers were unable to pinpoint the exact mechanisms that led to the decrease in mental health treatment admissions. However, two potential explanations have been proposed.

Firstly, it is possible that recreational marijuana laws may lead to increased marijuana use, which could potentially improve mental health for some individuals. Secondly, it is plausible that those in need of mental health treatment may resort to substituting or self-medicating with marijuana after the enactment of recreational marijuana laws.

Looking For Mental Health Solutions

As states focus on mental health solutions and grapple with the potential implications of legal marijuana in 2023, it becomes crucial to track the impact of these changes over time.

This trend of marijuana legalization is still relatively new in historical terms, and researchers continue to analyze its multifaceted effects on society, including mental health treatment admissions.

In addition to the academic research, surveys have been conducted to understand the behavior of marijuana consumers in states with legal marijuana.

According to New Frontier Data, more than half of marijuana consumers in states with legalized adult-use pot obtained their cannabis from brick-and-mortar dispensaries, while a small percentage still relied on traditional dealers. This information aligns with the ongoing discussions about the federal legalization of weed and its impact on consumer behavior.

Stay Mentally Healthy

If you or a loved one are noticing mental health changes in someone who frequently partakes in cannabis, please get in contact with the appropriate mental health services.

In these cases, it may be possible that THC isn’t the solution (though some claim it is because it works for them). That being said, it may be decided that THC isn’t working out for someone but they’re not ready to quit.

Our question for those in this position: Have you tried CBD? CBD (Cannabidiol) is a compound found in hemp plants that does not have psychoactive effects. But it does deliver the same relaxing effects!

Studies suggest that CBD assists with easing anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, and addiction. Smoking, vaping, or ingesting CBD tinctures or capsules is a good substitute for those who need it. If you would like to check out any CBD products, check out our CBD shop.

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The relationship between marijuana and mental health remains a complex and evolving subject.

As researchers delve deeper into the implications of marijuana legalization on mental health treatment, policymakers and communities must remain vigilant in understanding the potential consequences and exploring effective mental health solutions.

The federal legalization bill of 2023 and the possibility of more states legalizing marijuana in 2023 highlight the need for evidence-based approaches to address mental health challenges in our society.