Re: “Maine Voices: Bill to address opiate crisis in Maine is a step in the right direction” by Becky DeKeuster (Jan. 23):

The letter below was written by a doctor in response to an article suggesting that  marijuana could be used to get people  off heroin.  Note that in Maine, before so-called medical marijuana was made legal it ranked 28th in teen use; seven years later, it was No. 1.


The recent op-ed by a spokesperson for the marijuana industry saying that pot can be used for people trying to get off heroin, is both wrong and dangerous.

I’m a doctor who has spent 30 years treating drug addicts, starting in my residency at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

The aim in treating addicts is to get them off all addictive drugs, including alcohol and marijuana, not substitute one for another. And the reason is that addicts and alcoholics are happiest clean and sober. It is bad medical practice to prescribe marijuana or any other addictive drug to a recovering addict. Pope Francis probably said it best: “The problem of drug use is not solved with drugs!”

It’s actually bad practice to recommend marijuana for any medical condition. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry opposes medical marijuana laws because they make the drug widely available to teenagers. In 1999, shortly before Maine became one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana, it ranked 28th in teen use; seven years later, it was No. 1.

Yes, cannabinoids help with certain medical conditions, but the prescription cannabinoids Marinol and Cesamet work just as well as pot, have fewer side effects and are much longer-acting, so people don’t have to dose every few hours. No one needs to smoke pot, and we don’t need to make it so widely available that we create an epidemic of teenage use.

Medical marijuana laws are both unnecessary and bad for public health.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR  Ed Gogek, M.D., of Prescott, Ariz., is an addiction psychiatrist.

Source:   Feb. 2016

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