Polydrug Abuse: A Confounding Factor

Studies have shown that marijuana use frequently occurs with other prescription drug misuse, alcohol, tobacco and prescription stimulants, as well as multiple other substances. The higher rates of marijuana-related hospital discharges and poison control calls may be attributed to polydrug use, and more research is needed on this aspect, said lead study author Jonathan M. Davis, PhD, a research instructor at the University of Colorado in Denver.

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“We found a gradual, but statistically significant increase over time of hospital discharges with abuse and dependence codes for marijuana, but we do not know everything else they took that may have resulted in the hospital visit,” Dr. Davis told Clinical Pain Advisor.

TRENDING ON CPA: Approaching Pain Management from a New Perspective 

Deborah Hasin, PhD, a professor of epidemiology in psychiatry at Columbia University in New York, who was not an author of this study, said the paper is one of the few to directly link health outcomes with changes in marijuana legislation.

“These findings are consistent with national increases in cannabis-related ER visits, fatal car crashes and the prevalence of cannabis use disorder in US adults and veterans in the VA system,” Dr. Hasin told Clinical Pain Advisor. “Many more such studies are needed.”

Not Your Parent’s Marijuana

Clinicians should avoid viewing marijuana use as a “black and white phenomenon,” Dr. Hasin emphasized. “There are risks involved, while there may be benefits associated with medical use.”

“The problem is here is that very little is known about what’s in commercially sold marijuana and a lot more research is needed to understand what’s going on,” Dr. Hasin added.