I tell people who don’t believe marijuana is addictive to go to a Marijuana Anonymous meeting, where they will see and hear people whose lives have been ruined by marijuana.
Anytime you smoke something, it’s harmful. When you inhale smoke, whether it’s tobacco smoke or marijuana smoke, inhaling heated smoke is inherently unhealthy. In addition, since, along with alcohol, marijuana is often a so-called gateway drug that people begin using in adolescence or even in latency age, we must ask ourselves how marijuana affects kids’ development. We know that the marijuana being used today is many times more potent than it was in the sixties and seventies. We used to believe that the human brain was structurally complete at birth, that it had all of the neurons it would ever have, and that while these brain cells could die through damage or aging, more could never be added. We know now that the human brain is not fully formed until people are in their mid-twenties, and that it can continue to grow, evolve, and add neurons throughout one’s lifespan. The question is, exactly what is in the high-dose cannabinoids that contemporary, highly potent marijuana contains? We really don’t know what kind of negative impact these chemicals have on growing brains. we know that it leads to amotivational syndrome where users don’t feel like doing much of anything, whether going to school, doing schoolwork, doing chores, going to work, or taking care of other responsibilities. From a research perspective related to marijuana, one of the most important issues is to understand the vulnerability of young, developing brains to cannabis. So despite the public’s perception that marijuana is relatively harmless, the numbers clearly tell us that it is an addictive drug. I tell people who don’t believe marijuana is addictive to go to a Marijuana Anonymous meeting, where they will see and hear people whose lives have been ruined by marijuana. There is no question that marijuana can be addictive. That argument is over. Add to this the marijuana withdrawal syndrome. It’s not so severe that we have to use medications for it, but its symptoms include irritability, anger, depression, difficulty sleeping, cravings, and decreased appetite. The withdrawal symptoms adversely impact attempts to quit and also motivate the use of marijuana or other drugs for relief of the discomfort of withdrawal. This is especially relevant because more and more states have decriminalized marijuana and some have even moved toward legalizing it, often for medical purposes—both legitimate and concocted— including California where I practice. You just go to a “marijuana doctor” and walk in the door, where the only criterion for giving you a prescription is that you walked through the door. This is comparable to the old “snake oil salesmen” who used to travel from town to town and sell “miracle cures” for whatever ailed people. The Pure Food and Drug Act was launched in 1906 because these traveling salesmen would make absurd and false claims that their products could cure everything from hemorrhoids to dandruff and everything in-between. Unfortunately, marijuana has become the latest version of snake oil in the sense that you can go into a medical marijuana clinic, claim virtually any compliant or ailment, and come out with a marijuana card—the equivalent of a prescription that gives you legalized access to pot. You have a headache, you get a marijuana card. You have stomach problems, you get a marijuana card. You have occasional back pain, you get a marijuana card. You have anxiety, you get a marijuana card. You’re a little depressed, you get a marijuana card. And a lot of people do this with a nod and a wink because we know that most of the people that go to “clinics” to get their marijuana don’t really have any medical problem at all. This blog post is an excerpt from The therapist’s Guide to Addiction Medicine – A Handbook for Addiction Counselors and Therapists – by Barry Solof, MD, FASAM; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).
If you or someone you love needs help for a substance use disorder, Las Vegas Recovery Center can help. We offer a holistic alcohol and drug addiction treatment program in Southern Nevada. Call today to learn more.