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Cannabis Use: A New Approach to Harm Reduction?

The drug addiction community is now exploring whether it can be used as a new approach to harm reduction for addiction.
The drug addiction community is now exploring whether it can be used as a new approach to harm reduction for addiction.

The topic of marijuana is of growing interest across the world.  At least 10 countries have seen or will see marijuana legalization either recreational or medical use: Spain, Netherlands, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, Ecuador, Israel[1] and Australia.[2] As of 2015, Bangladesh, North Korea, Czech Republic, Portugal, Uruguay, the Netherlands, and the United States (Recreational-Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, Washington D.C) along with 23 medical marijuana states, have the least restrictive cannabis laws. While China, Indonesia, Japan, Sweden, Turkey, France, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Philippines and the United Arab Emirates have the strictest cannabis laws. According to the first ever global study of illicit drug use, published in August 2013 by the Lancet journal, marijuana is the most popularly used illegal drug worldwide.[3]

Harm Reduction?

The drug addiction community is now exploring whether it can be used as a new approach to harm reduction for addiction. For example, Massachusetts with its spiraling opiate addiction problem (mostly heroine) is now considering cannabis use for harm reduction for this addiction. “Cannabis actually can be used as a harm-reduction medicine for patients to reduce their harm if they’re addicted to opiates, if they’re addicted to alcohol, if they’re addicted to cocaine,” said Thor Agustsson, a physician with Integr8 Health, a Burlington clinic that evaluates patients for medical marijuana use. “There have been studies out that have shown cannabis, when they take it appropriately, is able to help them reduce their use of these other substances that are highly more toxic to their body.” [4]

Could Iran be the next country to make cannabis legal under a new drug policy for harm reduction?
Could Iran be the next country to make cannabis legal under a new drug policy for harm reduction?

A Model for Other Countries?

Could Iran be the next country to make cannabis legal under a new drug policy for harm reduction? “Iran has a conspicuous drug addiction problem – which officially accounts for more than 2m addicts (though unofficial figures put this as high as 5-6m)… The current regime already envisages the prescription of opium tincture to drug abusers registered at state addiction centers, therefore the ground for selective legalization is in part paved… During a recent conference on addiction held in Tehran, Saeed Sefatian, a prominent Iranian official and head of the working group on drug demand reduction in the Council for the Discernment of the Expediency of the State (also known as the Expediency Council), illustrated what could become a potential alternative to Iran’s current drug policy – including a move which that could include measures towards legalisation of cannabis and opium.….”[5] “If successful, Iran could become a model for other countries, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, which given the current levels of trauma and distress, are having or will probably witness increasing levels of drug use.”

This new approach will undoubtedly result in much debate with some arguing that cannabis is a gateway drug and should not be introduced to an addict and others arguing that cannabis use is less addictive and assists in reducing addictions to far worse drugs.

What do you think?

Footnotes:

[1] http://www.cheatsheet.com/politics/10-countries-that-have-or-will-see-marijuana-legalization.html/3/

[2] https://www.rt.com/news/310768-australia-marijuana-medical-legalise/

[3] Maria Cheng (28 August 2013). “STUDY: MARIJUANA TOP ILLEGAL DRUG USED WORLDWIDE”. Associated Press. Retrieved 28 July 2014.

[4] http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2014/06/medical-marijuana-opiate-addiction

[5] http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/drug-laws-could-iran-be-the-next-country-to-legalise-cannabis-and-opium-a6710511.html.

[6] http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/drug-laws-could-iran-be-the-next-country-to-legalise-cannabis-and-opium-a6710511.html.

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