Reports of increasing cases of STD’s appear to correlate with the legalization of marijuana.
Could marijuana be leading to a complacency when it comes to handwashing and condom use?
This Fall the CDC reported a continued rise in cases of sexually transmitted diseases by the following:
Nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were diagnosed in the United States in 2017, according to preliminary data released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the National STD Prevention Conference in Washington, D.C. This surpassed the previous record set in 2016 by more than 200,000 cases and marked the fourth consecutive year of sharp increases in these sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
And this week, the World Health Organization sounded the alarm of rising HIV cases in Eastern Europe.
At the same time more countries are easing up on legal restrictions when it comes to marijuana. Which leads to the question, has the legalization of marijuana led to the rise in STD’s?
BackgroundChecks.org released this graphic displaying STD rates by state.
Strikingly, there are some similarities to a map outlining state cannabis programs.
Cannabis use is known to decrease anxiety and motivation and so an unintended consequence of increasing access to its use may be the decrease in precautionary thinking when it comes to unprotected sex.
On that same note, multiple outbreaks have been reported in the food industry when it comes to pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli, Hepatitis A and Listeria. Could complacency with proper food handling and hand washing be related to marijuana use?
This could easily be analyzed by screening those with an STD for marijuana use, as well as those involved in a foodborne illness outbreak.
Now the legalization of marijuana allows more studies to be done to to determine its health benefits. I suggest, however, we also study, any links to complacency issues when it comes to home and workplace safety and exposures.
Why is food borne illness on the rise?
Multiple issues could be playing a role.
- Fresh produce is not cooked like meat and can therefore harbor more germs
- Preservatives, used in fast food, help to deter pathogen growth, and more people are shying away from fast food than in the past, opting for “fresh”, healthier options.
- On-the-go produce may not be washed after packaging due to a false sense of security that the vegetables are “clean.”
- As our population ages, and as more people suffer from immunocompromising disease such as diabetes and cancer, they may be more susceptible to food borne illness.
- Our gut microbiome has changed as our diets have shifted to food with more preservatives, hence possibly being less resilient to new pathogens that enter.
- In regards to the ground turkey, it is not the same as ground beef and leaving the patties pink in the center mean you are consuming raw poultry. Turkey meat may need to cook longer until no pink is seen and core temperature is at least 165 degrees for at least 15 seconds
- We’re less strict about cleaning than we used to be. Counter tops used to be bleached and scrubbed for longer periods of time than we do now-a-days with antimicrobial wipes.
Therefore be diligent about cleaning counter tops, cook your food thoroughly, wash produce before eating and be aware of any reported recalls.
A Review of Syphilis
Syphilis is also called “the great imitator”. Many don’t realize they have syphilis as the symptoms mimic so many other diseases. Syphilis has been on the rise and hasn’t been routinely tested in STD/STI panels. It’s caused by a spirochete (spiral bacteria) called Treponema pallidum, and can cause infection in stages.
Primary Syphilis can manifest as a painless ulcer on the genitals, mouth or skin.
Secondary Syphilis can manifest as a rash, along with fever, joint pain, malaise…mimicking other illnesses. In this stage it can also manifest as warts on the genitals called condylomata lata.
As the course progresses, syphilis may become latent. For years one may have no symptoms at all. The patient may mistakenly feel they suffered the flu and think nothing more of it. But if left untreated, syphilis can enter the final stage, Tertiary Syphilis, which can cause severe neurological disability (neurosyphilis) and can also severely affect the heart.
Penicillin is the treatment of choice for any stage of syphilis, including the latent stage of the illness.
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, and iHeart Radio.
She is also a Board Certified Family Physician and Assistant Professor at Touro University Nevada