The use of illicit drugs to self-medicate by people who have suffer depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, mental illness of any other kind, childhood trauma or physical and emotional abuse is considered common, but certainly should not be seen as the only explanation for illicit drug use, where the pursuit of pleasure, relaxation, curiosity, peer pressure and rebellion are alternative factors.
Illicit drugs are illegal precisely because they are harmful and most often addictive, leading to many who
self-medicate for pain or mental health issues becoming addicted and unable to escape the harms these drugs inevitable cause.
The fact that the abuse and wrong use of prescription drugs still cause a tremendous amount of harm within our societies gives the lie to the assertion that it is the illegality of the illicit drugs which make them harmful. It is not uncommon for the abuse of prescription opiates to cause more deaths to users than the use of illegal opiates such as heroin or fentanyl. The fact that pharmaceutical drugs are of standardised dose, purity and strength does not in any way remove their harms when abused.
Cannabis is the most commonly abused drug for the sake of ‘self-medication’, given that the false excuse of self-mediation is most often used to cover for recreational use. It is notable that while many claim that cannabis is effective in alleviating a particular condition, the claims most often do not stand when subjected to clinical trials. US statistics, for instance, show how recreational users have been able to use medical cannabis availability for self-reported ‘chronic pain’ to feed their recreational use. For instance, 90% of medical cannabis patients in Arizona claim pain as their malady, while 4% use it for cancer.
[i] In Colorado, it is 94% for pain and 3% for cancer,
[ii] while in Oregon 94% claim to use it for pain.
[iii] Only 2% of patients across 7 US states in 2014 used cannabis for verifiable illnesses such as AIDS wasting or MS.
.[iv] It must be recognised that there are no laboratory tests for pain, which makes it a prime candidate for ruse and deception due to its subjective nature and the impossibility of objectively verifying or disproving it.
There are, in fact, well established profiles for patients of chronic pain across all Western countries, where patients are more predominantly women and those aged 60 and above. For instance, a 2001 study by Sydney University’s Pain Management Research Centre found 54% of patients were women, with men suffering in their sixties and women in their eighties.
[v] Yet the profile for medical cannabis pain patients in the USA is very different. A 2007 study of 4,000 medical cannabis patients in California found that their average age was 32, three quarters were male and 90% had started using cannabis while teenagers,
[vi] an identical age and gender profile to that of recreational users across the US.
[vii] This discordant profile means that medical cannabis in the various states of the US has mainly amounted to a quasi-legalisation strategy for recreational use of cannabis via subterfuge and ruse. Added to this, one of the largest reviews of 103 medicinal cannabis studies on use of the substance for chronic pain involving a total of almost 10,000 patients, found that cannabis has only mild analgesic properties and only useful as an adjunct to other forms of pain relief such as opiates.