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Jeff Sessions Says Opioid Addiction Starts With Marijuana. Here Are 6 Studies That Say Otherwise

Sessions: "We think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs, too."

AARON P. BERNSTEIN/REUTERS/NewscomAARON P. BERNSTEIN/REUTERS/NewscomAttorney General Jeff Sessions thinks marijuana may be a gateway to prescription opioid and heroin addiction. In fact, a number of academic studies show lower rates of opioid abuse and overdoses in states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Speaking at a Heritage Foundation event last night in honor of the late Ronald Reagan's birthday, Sessions lamented the "permissive rhetoric" and media coverage surrounding marijuana and other drugs.

"We don't think illegal drug use is 'recreation.' Lax enforcement, permissive rhetoric and the media have undermined the essential need to say no to drug use. Don't start," Sessions said. "That's what President Trump said to us the other day in a meeting. What did Nancy Reagan say? Just say no. Don't start this stuff."

Sessions was also asked during a Q&A section about the opioid crisis. "My goal for 2018 is to see a further decline," he replied "We had a 7 percent decline last year in actual prescriptions of opioids. We think doctors are just prescribing too many....These pills become so addictive, and the DEA said a huge percentage of the heroin addiction starts with prescriptions. That may be an exaggerated number—they had it as high as 80 percent—but we think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs, too. We'll see what the facts show, but we need to reduce the prescription abuse and hopefully reduce the addiction that's out there."

If marijuana use leads to opioid abuse, you might expect states where pot can be obtained legally to have a bigger opioid problem. Yet numerous studies have found the opposite:

  • A 2017 study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that states that legalized medical marijuana reported on average 23 percent fewer hospitalizations for opioid addiction and 13 percent fewer hospitalizations for opioid overdoses.
  • A 2017 study found that New Mexico patients with chronic pain who enrolled in the state's medical marijuana program were likely to reduce their opioid dosage or even cease opioid use altogether.
  • A 2017 study in Colorado found that marijuana legalization "was associated with short-term reductions in opioid-related deaths."
  • A 2016 study published by the American Journal of Public Health reported that fatally injured drivers in car crashes were less likely to test positive for opioids in states with legal medical marijuana.
  • A 2016 study looking at prescriptions covered by Medicare found that "the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly once a medical marijuana law was implemented."
  • A 2014 JAMA study found that states with legalized medical marijuana had on average a nearly 25 percent lower mortality rate for opioids.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment or additional information.

Photo Credit: AARON P. BERNSTEIN/REUTERS/Newscom

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  • some guy||

    Jeff Sessions is an ass and probably the worst possible pick for AG. The man can't possibly believe the things he says about the War on Drug Users. He has to know he's ruining the lives of harmless people for the most asinine of reasons. Yet he does it anyway. Why? He's got to be sadistic.

  • Billy Bones||

    You can't teach an old dog new tricks, and Sessions is one old ass dog. Also, you can't teach an Alabamian anything, so there's that, too (spoken as the Georgian I am).

  • Hank Phillips||

    "The progress made over the last three decades against drug abuse is eroding, whether for cultural reasons or for lack of national leadership." God's Own Party said it, Beauregard believes it, that settles it! Same went for Herbert Hoover and his appointee Harry Anslinger.

  • VinniUSMC||

    "He has to know he's ruining the lives"

    I would bet on it. Without people using, misusing, overusing, prescription drugs leading to further opiate abuse of the illegal type, Big Phrama and the "War on Drugs" would be easily shown to be the failures that they are.

  • PaulTheBeav||

    Sessions is a dinosaur. Appointing him is the worst thing Trump has done so far.

  • BigT||

    Correct. He's a bad AG and cost a Senate seat.

    Rookie politician mistakes by Trump.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Trump was hired to push The Party platform, which calls for another Harry Anslinger, ergo Beauregard. Trump no more thought this up than Hillary decided to make reliable power generation a felony. Their 19th-century political parties wrote the platforms. The GOP wants prohibition and the Comstock Law of 1873 to again ban rubbers, diaphragms and beer, and the Democrats want to bring back human chattel slavery instead of those high-carbon Buckminster Fuller energy slaves that are causing temperatures to fall. Ya can't fool History!

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Christ, what an asshole.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Very few things can unite the commentariat like our collective hate for Jeff Sessions. Is there anyone here who would dare defend this dumbass?

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Yes.

    I mean, I'm not, obviously. Dickhole-fuck him with a rusty scalpel, and all that. But I would totally dare to, if I, like, felt like doing so.

  • ThomasD||

    Not sure 'dumbass' isn't a sort of defense...

    Beyond that I question whether he really gives two shits about any of this or if it's all just a form of bureaucratic inertia. Plenty of deep state warriors depend on this crap for their continued livelihood. Who is Sessions to lead a charge against it? And what incentive would he have to do so?

    Not going to get him to a better class of cocktail parties either.

  • completely impervious||

    How many pharmacology degrees do you have Jeff?

    Then kindly shut the fuck up.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    What did Nancy Reagan say? Just say no. Don't start this stuff.

    Holy crap, that's hilarious. What a douchebag.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    She's who I always look to in my darkest hour.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Fear of slenderman?

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    I'm surprised CJ cut out the Bufferin line: Sometimes you just need to take two Bufferin or something and go to bed.

    Assssshoooooollllllle!

  • silver.||

    I had no idea he said something so profoundly stupid. How old is this guy.

    I hope Sessions has to get surgery, and as he writhes in pain during post-op his doctor says, "just take two Bufferin and go to bed.

    P.S. Aspirin is an anti-platlet, so if blood starts dripping from the surgery site don't worry; it's a normal side-effect. Usually we'd avoid NSAIDs for post-op, but we've already reached our DEA quota for the year."

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Seriously. I don't make it a practice to wish stomach cancer on people, but i'd not cry for Sessions if he spent two months dying in agony with his guts eaten away.

  • completely impervious||

    "What did Nancy Reagan say? "

    Let me ask my astrologer.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    If only Nancy Reagan was there to see how her name was being used...

    ...it would be pretty disturbing, because she's been dead for years.

  • Billy Bones||

    Do you know what a very powerful, addictive drug is, Jeff Sessions? POWER. Power is the most addictive, destructive drug known to man, and you are one strung-out mother fucker.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    He may have held on to the One Ring a little too long.

  • silver.||

    Cutting the gross number of opioid prescriptions even as our population grows is definitely the right way to reduce the number of people switching to unregulated street drugs.

    Heaven forbid somebody be able to take consistent units of a drug to control usage. That would definitely exacerbate overdoses.

  • Longtobefree||

    The opioid crisis is caused by having to listen to Jeff Sessions.
    Nothing else can relieve the pain.

  • silver.||

    Opiate use starts with eating Tide Pods.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Are Tide Pods the new bath salts? I'm still in the dark on this new extreme kick the youth is on.

  • silver.||

    If you mean a make-believe problem, then yes. They are absolutely the new bath salts.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    I mean, I enjoyed the flower before I added opioids to the pleasure triangle. Of course that is all anecdotal.

  • John Thomas||

    All prohibitionists love the "gateway" myth because no matter how many times it has been disproved, those proofs don't register on the public consciousness.

    Another statement Sessions made needs to be focused on. He said:

    >>>"We don't think illegal drug use is 'recreation.'

    So, Beauregard. What magical quality of being "legal" or "illegal" confers "recreational" status on a drug? --- What is it about alcohol (that you probably drink) that makes THAT very harmful drug "recreational" but keeps near harmless marijuana not eligible for "recreational" status?

    Sessions INSISTS on ignoring the fact that marijuana SHOULD NOT BE illegal and that it's prohibition was a HUGE FRAUD. -- Hence, the "illegality' which he hangs all his condemnation of marijuana on, is BOGUS, FALSE and is itself a big CRIME - perpetrated by Harry Anslinger in 1937, and pumped up to a "drug war" by paranoid, criminal President Nixon to use as a weapon against his "enemies" - Blacks and "hippies."

    This stance by Sessions is supreme, willful ignorance of the whole premise of marijuana reform. - Making marijuana fraudulently "illegal" was/is a monstrous crime against humanity. -- It's circular (idiotic) logic.

    Sessions' "argument" is simply marijuana should be illegal because it's illegal.

    We need a movement to bring back reason and science to policy instead of witch-hunts and ignorant, racist, bigoted bureaucrats!

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Sessions doesn't drink alcohol. He only drinks lukewarm tapwater, with a teaspoon of bicarbonate in it if he's feeling poorly. And a glass of skim milk on his birthday.

  • John Thomas||

    He has a glass of skim milk on his birthday? lol - No wonder he's so uptight. - He needs a joint more than anyone.

  • ATXChappy||

    "...those proofs don't register on the public consciousness."

    A lifetime of government propaganda can sure do a lot of damage.

  • John Thomas||

    That's for sure. -- It will take at least a generation to wipe away 80 years of the false, government propaganda and demonizing!

  • Headache||

    Yes, Nixon did, as you say pumped it up. But, the edict came from the U.N.

  • John Thomas||

    Any edicts about marijuana from the U.N. mostly came from us twisting their arm to take those stands.

  • Hank Phillips||

    True Facts, John Thomas. Best regards to Lummox.

  • Juice||

    How does Jeff Sessions manage to look EXACTLY like a caricature of his mindset?

  • Vladilyich||

    I fully expect the next pronouncement that Sessions will inflict on the public is the marijuana is directly responsible for AIDS, TB, and this year's influenza epidemic.

  • Longtobefree||

    And Hillary losing - - - -

  • buybuydandavis||

    Water is a gateway drug to opioid addiction.

  • silver.||

    Ban dihydrogen monoxide. It's in our water!

  • Headache||

    Sessions attitude is common among older citizens. My father had the same position as Session's. My mom on the other hand smoked weed on occasion with one of my nieces. Personally, I don't think weed is a gateway for most, but is for some. The opioid crisis is a different matter. Plus, by examining the bong/pipe weed is as dirty as tobacco. The connection is price and availability. It was much easier to acquire stronger substances at a lower price simply because it is easier(less risk) to transport $100,000 worth of heroin than the same value of marijuana. And the penalty is the same.

    Just say'n

  • Kaze||

    You would be surprised how many of us "older citizens" disagree with Sessions. None of us who smoked back when (some of us still do) wanted to do any type of hard drugs. We were happy with weed. The gateway thing is a myth for most! Cigarettes and alcohol were the first things that everyone tried back then.

  • IceTrey||

    California will push through federal legalization because they won't want to collect the taxes in cash.

  • MichaelL||

    The same ignorant rhetoric is preventing pain patients from getting adequate treatment. The overdose rate is going up as fewer prescriptions are written. He and a group of ignorant doctors and "addictionologists" who see dollar signs, are a big problem!The pain patients overdose and addiction rate is, honestly, low! It is much less that the addicts that are abusing the drugs. If they told the truth, and quoted the scientific studies, this stupidity would not be tolerated, by people smart enough to read! The "opiod epidemic" is largely due to non-prescription, clandestinely manufactured, opioid drugs! It is diamorphine (heroin) and dirty Fentanyl! His quote of 60,000 overdose deaths were also not just the "opiods", either. And, it has been said that half of the overdoses were intentional! Now, we see that the lies are getting bigger! The more I hear about the crap going on with the breakdown at the FBI and DOJ, the more I am inclined to believe our freedom is in danger. The DEA is doing the same damned thing! We get more lies, and our prisons will get more full! And, sadly, alcohol and cigarettes, that cause the most damage, are ignored!

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    On the contrary, that alcohol and cigarettes are being "ignored" by the state (to the extent that they actually are being ignored by the state), is the one good thing about all this.

  • ThomasD||

    They are not being ignored. They've simply paid the Danegeld.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Which is why I specified to the extent that they are.

    Although I think that with the former, it's also got a lot to do with the ease with which the term "Prohibition" can be thrown in the statists' faces...

  • BigT||

    "And, sadly, alcohol and cigarettes, that cause the most damage, are ignored!"

    You don't get out much, do you? Have you tried to find a place to have a cigarette recently?

  • Devastator||

    Get out of here with your facts. I -feel- that marijuana use is wrong and I won't be blinded by your science.

  • Art Gecko||

    Does he realize that, back in the late 1800s, it was the Progressive Movement that pushed for drug laws, and that conservatives and Christians were against them?

  • Mac61||

    Wow. Facts really *don't* matter.

  • Hank Phillips||

    God's Own Party platform says: "Along with diversion of first-time, nonviolent offenders to community sentencing, accountability courts, drug courts, veterans treatment courts, and guidance by faith- based institutions with proven track records of rehabilitation, our platform emphasized restorative justice... The progress made over the last three decades (=since the Reagan-Bush Crash and Depression) against drug abuse is eroding, whether for cultural reasons or for lack of national leadership." Enter Beauregard Sessions to Lead us to Salvation through asset forfeiture, incarceration and deadly force!

  • VinniUSMC||

    "Sessions was also asked during a Q&A section about the opioid crisis. "My goal for 2018 is to see a further decline," he replied "We had a 7 percent decline last year in actual prescriptions of opioids. We think doctors are just prescribing too many....These pills become so addictive, and the DEA said a huge percentage of the heroin addiction starts with prescriptions. That may be an exaggerated number—they had it as high as 80 percent—but we think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs, too. We'll see what the facts show, but we need to reduce the prescription abuse and hopefully reduce the addiction that's out there.""

    What a doofus. The fact's are exactly what the DEA said (what your dumbass actually said). We've become a society that over-prescribed opioids, got people hooked, and then cut them off after they were hooked. People need alternatives to opioids for pain management, and for the myriad of other symptoms that marijuana has been shown, experimentally and anecodetally, to alleviate. That's how we "reduce the addiction that's out there".

    Piss off Big Brother.

  • ThomasD||

    An even greater percentage of heroin addicts start with childhood immunizations.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    I believe I read that the decrease in prescriptions of opioids have correlated with an increase in the number of people starting out with heroin. Addicts don't generally "get hooked" on innocent pain meds- they're crazies and petty criminals who seek it out.

    Not that it matters. The pain of tens of millions easily exceeds the deaths of tens of thousands in moral weight, especially since it directly causes an increase in suicides: and that's under our current, still relatively permissive prescription regime. Tighten access further, and even the major decrease in opioid deaths that you will not get wouldn't come close to balancing out the screaming agony of an entire nation denied relief. Marijuana, kratom, bufferin, and every other non-opioid alternative in existence cannot do all of the things that opioids can- probably not even most.

  • Hank Phillips||

    Without prohibition's ban on distillers, Fleischmann's, Budweiser and the Glucose Trust could not have sold enough yeast, malt extract and corn sugar to be able to buy a majority in Congress for 14 years. Without troops in Afghanistan to bring home the heroin in their coffins, the DEA would not have heroin addicts to point to when asking for billions of dollars and thousands of assault weapons with which to rob and kill potheads while collecting government paychecks. In a mixed economy, the initiation of deadly force is the jiggerful that packs the wallop.

  • ThomasD||

    Sucrose Trust.

    Get it right or I'll stop subscribing.

  • SovereignMary||

    AG Jeff Sessions is pathetically ignorant on the U.S. Constitution.
    Where the U.S. Constitution is SILENT on Federal Authority then the mandate in the 10th Amendment only gives the Authority to the various States and their people to make the decisions on whether or not to create a law.
    The Federal Attorney General has no Constitutional authority whatsoever over prescriptions, drugs or herbs.

  • ThomasD||

    Articles like this are mildly annoying, not because any of the information presented is inaccurate, but because it displays a willingness to fight on their terms. A battle you will never, ever win.

    It simply does not matter if X Drug is a 'gateway' to Y Drug.

    Any more than it matters if pork belly is a gateway to foie gras.

    We are libertarians not scientarians.

    Stop playing their fucking games.

  • ohdelilah||

    The word "abuse," which drug warriors have long used to define any illegal use of drugs, means to "misuse," or to use something for a purpose other than its intended one. Like using an axe to dig a hole, for example, or your girlfriend as a punching bag. People who use drugs to change the way they feel, whether or not one understands or approves, are not "abusing" drugs. They're USING them. In fact, if I were to define drug abuse, it would be using drugs as weapons or tools to control people, like they do in jails and prisons and court-mandated travesty of treatment programs.

    "Drug abuse" in general, and "opioid abuse" in particular, are drug warriors' terms, used to foster the impression that drug use is somehow "bad," and used interchangeably with "addiction," foster the impression that all illegal drug users are addicts, and if they don't need punishment, they need help, even it means killing them to save them. Anyone who wants to effect a change in this country's drug policy would do well to not use the terminology that justifies and supports it.

  • TxJack 112||

    Claiming that marijuana is a gateway drug is as stupid as claiming it is not. The simple truth is for some it is a gateway drug and for others it is not. For those people with addictive personalities, it is easy to find research showing they almost all started by using marijuana and them moved to harder drugs looking for a better high. For those without addictive personalities, there are just as many studies showing no correlation. Regardless if it is a gateway drug or not, I find it ironic what so many people who oppose cigarette smoking for any reason are often the ones screaming the loudest about legalizing marijuana. Smoking is smoking. Your body is not supposed to ingest smoke which is why you cough. My only question is for all those wanting to legalize marijuana, who pays for the cancer treatment and other medical cost when smokers get sick, which tobacco has already shown us is inevitable.

  • jmlandry||

    Too lazy to look it up. Studies show zero correlation between smoking weed and lung cancer. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  • Kaze||

    I have said for years that people like Sessions would want to outlaw a cure for cancer if someone might be able to get high using it "recreationally"

  • operagost||

    Government's circular reasoning: drugs are bad because they're illegal. And they're illegal because they're bad.

  • jhcampbe||

    This is one of the most widely cited case studies from the American Pain Society Journal of Pain showing a decrease in chronic pain patients opioid use when substituting with medical cannabis.

    http://www.omofmedicine.org/wp.....f-Pain.pdf

  • Hank Phillips||

    Has ANYONE as Reason noticed how people are dumping U.S. securities in step with Beauregard's braying? Jeffery Beauregard Sessions and the Don start making Republican asset-forfeiture prohibitionist noises and the worldly world is now dumping stocks so fast that the dollar is appreciating visibly in currency exchanges. Writers at Reason may have forgotten the Bush-Reagan prohibition-fired Crash and Depression, and the G. Waffen Bush faith-based asset-forfeiture crash and depression, but the rest of the world has realized at last that the Herbert Hoover party has not learned any economics since 1928.

  • ||

    This AG is from old school where people were closed minded about anything new, went to church on Sunday to ask forgiveness of the their past weekly sins. All hypocrites and racist to say the least! I am 67 yrs old and can say cannabis is not a gateway drug if your that damn weak when it comes to substances then stay away from them. This attorney general is in bed with big name pharm, FDA and private prisons lobbyist to gain monetary gain from making cannabis illegal and keeping it on scheduled 1 narcotics list which for no earthy reason it should be classified as a schedule 1 narcotic.As citizens we must vote out the old people and vote in fresh new minds that speak for the will of people.

  • LEAPGuyAZ||

    How does someone who knows nothing about drugs become the top law enforcement officer enforcing laws he doesn't understand?

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