Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A new first-of-its-kind global study found that marijuana is the most used illegal drug in on the planet. However, prescription pain killers, though legal, were found to be the deadliest drug of all.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington (UW) conducted the study and published their results in the journal The Lancet. According to their results, which are based on data from 2010, people all around the world choose pot over cocaine, heroin and amphetamines. Moreover, addictive painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin are responsible for killing more people than illegal drugs. Of the total 78,000 drug deaths, prescription pain pills accounted for more than half.
The study does not mention why marijuana has become the most popular drug, but the controversy over the legalization of cannabis in some US states rages on, largely due to the rift between state and federal law. Though marijuana use is legal in Colorado and Washington, smoking marijuana is still illegal according to federal law.
The new global report found that men in their 20s were most likely to abuse any of the drugs studied. Ecstasy and other hallucinogens were not included, however, due to a lack of data. The study also found that Australia, Russia, the UK and the US were the hardest hit by substance abuse. Those living in these areas were also more likely to use the drugs which originated closer to home. For instance, those living in Asia or Australia were more inclined to abuse amphetamines and opioids whereas North Americans used more marijuana and cocaine.
There were other issues with their data, however. According to the Associated Press, the UW researchers had to build out mathematical models to reach their conclusions. “Even if it is not very solid data, we can say definitely that there are drug problems in most parts of the world,” explained senior author Theo Vos.
Michael Lysnkey with the National Addiction Centre at King’s College in London warned that these numbers are likely to change, saying the world’s preference for drugs may change in the future.
“The illicit use of prescribed opiates in the US has only happened in the last 10 years or so,” said Lysnkey in a statement. “It’s possible in another 20 years, patterns will again change in ways we can’t predict.”
Many continue to debate the potential health benefits and dangers of marijuana usage with constituents on either side pointing to medical studies that reach different conclusions. Earlier this year, researchers from Tel Aviv University say they found smoking marijuana to be beneficial to elder patients who suffer from a variety of chronic ailments. According to the Israeli researchers, 19 elderly subjects who smoked marijuana experienced healthy weight gain, an improvement in mood and communication skills and a reduction of chronic pain.
A recent study from the University of Montreal, however, found that pot smoking can lead to addictive behavior in teens who are already predisposed, either due to environmental psychological conditions, to pick up an addictive habit.
Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology recently found that the use of LSD, ecstasy and other psychedelic drugs are not linked to mental illness and, in fact, could improve some individuals’ psychiatric health.