Skip to main content

As Texas lawmakers debated an expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program, one lawmaker fabricated a research study on veteran suicides in her opposition to adding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a covered condition.

According to the Statesman, state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, found success, as PTSD was not included in the legislation.

What did Campbell make up?

“A study was done, a post-mortem, so a retrospective study done, looking at autopsies and drug levels, what drugs were in the blood of veterans that committed suicide, and 70 percent had THC,” she offered during a debate on the issue.

But the Statesman, which rated her claim “Pants on Fire,” found zero evidence that such a study exists.

The publication noted that some research does exist examining a possible link between marijuana use and suicide in general, though no conclusions have been drawn from those studies.

Sharon Gilmartin, deputy director of injury and violence prevention national nonprofit Safe States Alliance, told the Statesman she was unaware of the statistic Campbell provided.

Gilmartin’s group conducted a study in 2018 using “data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Violent Death Reporting System to analyze U.S. veteran and armed forces deaths from suicide.”

The group found that 9 percent of those who died had marijuana in their system, but the report did not indicate if other drugs were present as well.

On top of that, Gilmartin suggested using caution when interpreting the results of such studies:

“It’s not quite like alcohol where you have a certain BAC (blood alcohol content), and that directly links to impairment, then it goes away and you’re kind of back to sobriety more or less,” Gilmartin told the Statesman. “When you think about THC, it’s a different dose-response relationship, and it also has a different latency period, so it stays in your blood long after you’re impaired.”

She also reminded that correlation does not imply causation.

As for Campbell, her office did not respond to the Statesman’s multiple requests for comment.

Read the full report.