Today's marijuana is many times stronger than the marijuana of even a decade ago; and with increasing potency comes increasing addiction and increasing social problems.
A recent Cardiff University study has linked marijuana usage to far greater odds of psychiatric conditions involving psychosis later in life; and yet for every one study such as this, it seems that there are two studies extolling the virtues of medical marijuana. So should we be burning fields of grass, or planting more?
Although marijuana has proven effective in the treatment of AIDS wasting, new research casts doubts about its use for patients with weakened immune systems.
Feelings or lethargy, nausea, irritability and nights of insomnia as experienced during marijuana withdrawal can make the process very unpleasant and increase the likelihood of a relapse back to use. One of the best ways to alleviate the severity of marijuana withdrawal symptoms is through regular and intense exercise.
There's a reason for a portrayal in movies of "stoners" as slow on the uptake half wits, and that's because the reality of frequent and heavy marijuana usage is a significant cognitive impairment, and greatly decreased mental performance.
OK, I know that as soon as I start to talk about marijuana I begin to come across as some kind of governmental propaganda "reefer madness" anti pot fascist, but there are some things that need saying.
A very controversial and contention issue to be sure; if America were to decriminalize marijuana usage, would people smoke more, would we see greater rates of addiction, and other harms, or would we just benefit from a great reduction in law enforcement costs, criminal profiteering and other punitive sanctions?
These were the questions that researchers from the
The study authors have characterized the
Looking at marijuana usage rates, they state that a decriminalization of the plant, and allowing people to grow their own and smoke as they wish without providing legal venues for the sale of marijuana seems to have no effect whatsoever on increasing the rates of drug use.
Legalization and sale in coffee shops has resulted in a dramatic increase in marijuana usage, and the study authors speculate that if such a policy were adopted in
But what about the gateway theory?
One of the real obstacles to marijuana decriminalization is the fear that marijuana tends to increase the chances of experimentation with other harder drugs, and thus if we increases the rates of marijuana use, we may increase our societal problems with harder and more destructive drugs.
Again, looking at the Dutch model of decriminalization and even legalization, it doesn’t appear that this is so, and in fact, although legalization has increased the rates of marijuana use, it seems to have dampened somewhat the association between marijuana use and use of harder drugs.
Virtually all users of harder drugs have smoked marijuana, but most marijuana users do not go on to use harder drugs, so is there a gateway risk?
Well in the Dutch experiment, what seems to have happened is that by legalizing the sale of marijuana, officials have greatly reduced the impact of the street level dealers. The overwhelming majority of
So legalization of sale, although it has increased marijuana usage, seems to have decreased problematic usage of harder drugs.
So what should
It seems pretty clear that decriminalization offers almost all benefits with essentially only very minimal risks. And when these minimal risks are compared in severity to the harms enacted through the punitive enforcement of marijuana drug laws, the benefits of decriminalization become more persuasive.
So, let's decriminalize it. The Dutch experiment shows that making it completely legal does cause some problematic increases in usage, and
So, researchers seem to back decriminalization, public option concurs…government, what's the hold up?
Marijuana is not good for you. It does cause addiction, it does lessen cognitive abilities, and it would be great if people would just stop using it and all other drugs of abuse; but since that's not likely to happen, and we obviously have no real control over its illegal distribution and sale, we should take steps to reduce the harms of a punitive anti marijuana policy.
About 10% of people who experiment with marijuana will develop a problem with dependence, which when you consider how many millions of people smoke marijuana in
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a pill at somehow just stopped your cravings for marijuana…
Well, that would be great, but that one doesn’t yet seem in the works, but as a next best thing scientists are chasing down some promising leads on a new drug that may at least eliminate the high from marijuana, leaving addicts little reason to smoke the drug, and helping them in theory get past their addiction.
Scientists have been looking at a substance in a plant from the buttercup family as a possible active ingredient in a new medication for the treatment of marijuana addiction.
To test the substance, researchers gave rats an unlimited supply of synthetic THC through a feed tube. Over time, the rats came to very much appreciate the drug, and would self medicate frequently with the THC over the course of each day. After the rats were given the methyllycaconitine, which is the active ingredient from the plant, the rats immediately cut down on their self administration for the THC, by as much as 70% on the first day. Importantly, researchers note that the drug didn’t seem to have any adverse effects on the rates other than to dampen their enthusiasm to get high.
When the researchers looked at what was happening in the brains of the rats given the medication, they found that the methyllycaconitine seemed to reduce the dopaminergic reaction normally associated with the use of THC down to essentially zero. It took all of the pleasure out of the THC high, and the rats had far less inclination to use the THC after the dopaminergic response was eliminated.
Importantly, the levels of dopamine functioning for other activities did not seem affected, which is very important if it's to be considered as a possible medication for human subjects. A reduction in dopamine from baseline levels is associated with depression.
Many tens of thousands seek professional treatment help for their marijuana addictions each year in America. There is no shame in getting help when you can’t do it on your own, and it’s a far more courageous and sensible thing to do than ignoring the reality of your addiction, and continuing to lower your quality of life and health through ever more heavy marijuana usage.
But when you do make the decision to get help…where do you go, and what do you need?
Here is a basic overview of some of the available treatment options.
12 Steps Group Meetings, Such as NA or MA (Marijuana Anonymous)
These free peer support meetings can be a great venue to explore your compulsion to use and to gain insight and strength towards recovery. Learning what you need to know from other people also dealing with an addiction to marijuana or other drugs of abuse.
Like AA, marijuana and narcotics anonymous use the 12 steps to sobriety as a philosophical framework to recovery, and as with AA, you must subscribe to certain core beliefs for the steps to work. You can’t fake it, and you either believe in and the process and approach it with commitment or dedication, or you don’t, and if you don’t it's not likely going to work for you.
One on one sessions with an experienced addictions therapist or psychologist can also help a lot as you grapple with getting and staying off marijuana. These can be expensive, but getting some individual attention and help with your particular issues does have real value, and the insights gained from a few sessions can offer you a very solid foundation for your attempt at getting clean.
Working with a therapist you should expect to explore any personal issues that lead you to seek such intoxication, and also explore why it is that you turn to marijuana as a coping mechanism. You may also want to explore any unresolved personal issues that linger and contribute to your drug seeking behaviors.
A trained therapist can also help you to devise a tailored relapse prevention plan, help you to identify those things in your life that led you to crave marijuana and help you to understand just what you can do to beat these temptations.
Group Support Therapy
A generally more affordable alternative to individual therapy is the participation in a peer support group. Ideally, you will join a group of people with similar world views and facing similar life challenges, and explore together what works and what doesn’t on the road to long term recovery and sobriety.
Group therapy generally occurs with 6-10 others, and there is most commonly a trained group leader who guides the sessions and offers insights where appropriate. Group sessions offer a number of benefits to addicts in recovery. Firstly, no one in this world is quicker to spot dishonesty or denial faster than another addict in recovery. You may get away with a lot of your manipulations (even the one's you're not aware of) in a lot of places, but in group they're going to call you on it, and you can’t deny their expertise either!
You can also learn effective and concrete strategies for staying clean. Exploring together what seems to help gives you some real world workable options to try when you feel you can’t go on anymore. Additionally, recovering together with a group of people you can get to know pretty intimately can offer a lot of encouragement and inspiration. Nothing keeps you going more than watching someone that you know struggles as you do, break free from addiction and really reap the benefits of sobriety.
A lot of people just can’t do it on their own, and either can't do it on an outpatient basis, or are just so tired of their problem that they want to start with the most intensive and effective therapeutic option to recovery.
Getting into a drug rehab program offers a lot, and although it is disruptive and it is expensive, sometimes you just need to get out of the environment of abuse, get into a safe and sober environment and start to learn what you'll need to know to stay sober over the long term.
In drug rehab you will get a comprehensive blend of individual and group therapy, MA style 12 steps meetings and drug and relapse prevention education. You also get the time away from abuse to gain self awareness over those things in your life that lead you to need to use. Without outside distractions you have the opportunity to focus all of your attentions on getting better, without all of the everyday concerns that normally distract your attention.
Drug rehab is a big commitment, but it also offers the best chance at recovery and a long future without marijuana.
Get Some Help
There is no shame whatsoever in getting help when you can’t do it on your own. Marijuana is a very addictive drug, and the cravings and temptations to use can overwhelm even the best of intentions. Through therapies and support, you can learn what you need to know to get off and stay off marijuana for good.
Marijuana is no big deal…if you only smoke it in real moderation and if you wait until you are 21 to do so.
Unfortunately, a lot of teens are smoking it in great quantities…a lot of teens are addicted to the drug. Also, since by definition teens are not 21 years of age, they are doing great harms to their still developing minds.
If parents can keep kids from using the drug until after the age of 18 the risks that they will ever have a real problem with it decline dramatically. Additionally, since the risks of mental illness related to marijuana usage rise greatly with earlier ages of experimentation, the younger teens start smoking, the greater the damage done.
Prevention is the key, and preempting a problem before it emerges is always the best course of action, but even after experimentation ensues, the earlier you intervene and you earlier you stop that drug use, the better the eventual outcome, and if needed, the easier the treatment.
What are the Teen Specific Risks of Marijuana Usage?
Teens seem especially vulnerable to the addictive properties of marijuana, and with the strength of today's marijuana, too many teens get caught up in what begins as casual experimentation and ends us in dependency and pain.
Teens who smoke marijuana don’t do as well in school. Marijuana smoking teens are less likely to finish high school, less likely to get good grades and less likely to go to college. Smoking marijuana can seriously derail academic performance, and during a time in life when school success has such a great influence on later life success.
The teen years are a time of exploration, a time to have a lot of fun, but also a time when your job is to go to school, get good grades and move on into successful adulthood. Marijuana lowers the chances.
Marijuana decreases cognitive performance for about 24 hours after it is smoked; decreases the ability to consolidate memories and concentrate, and on tests of mathematical and verbal reasoning, marijuana smokers perform significantly worse. If you smoke daily, you are never as smart as you would otherwise be and even if you are still a motivated student (something that seems less likely with greater marijuana usage) you are not as able to perform well, not as able to learn what you need to know.
The damage done is not permanent and your mind can recover, but at the same time you can't get those years back, and if you do poorly in high school there can be long lasting and serious life consequences.
The Risks of Mental Illness
The earlier you start using marijuana, the greater your risks of suffering from psychosis later in life. Teens who smoke before the age of 18 have 2-3 times the chances of experiencing a schizophrenic like condition in their 20's. Marijuana use also seems linked with later in life depression and anxiety disorders, although the link has been less casually proven.
Marijuana usage is also linked with increased rates of teen depression, especially depression in teen girls. Teen girls who do develop marijuana prompted depression are very likely to self medicate their condition with ever more drug and alcohol abuse, further compounding the problem.
Marijuana decreases your ability to learn, and what you do learn tends to be state dependant learning. Essentially, you can learn while high on marijuana, but you need to be high once again to retrieve that information and to make full use of stored marijuana consolidated memory.
Marijuana also blunts emotional experiences. While high on marijuana you do not accurately experience social and emotional challenges that are essential for full emotional and social development. If you are high on marijuana enough of the time, you never learn how to deal with the challenges and social situations of life, and you never mature into a real developmentally appropriate adult. The earlier you start smoking the greater the delay, and the more you smoke the less social learning that is accomplished. If a teen starts smoking at 13 and becomes a daily user throughout their teens, even where they to ultimately stop in their 20's, they would present in many ways with the emotional and psychosocial maturity of a 13 year old.
Don’t want your teen to drink, smoke or do drugs? Well, there's no easy one answer, but one easy step in the right direction is as simple as sitting down at the dinner table together, as a family, 5 or more times a week.
Recent research from the University of McMaster in Ontario Canada adds to the body of data indicating that the age of first use of illicit drugs, tobacco and alcohol is strongly correlated with later in life problems with drug addiction and alcoholism.
Barak Obama has admitted to using drugs.
Half of all Americans have admitted to using drugs.
For the people, of the people.
So which drug is the most addictive? Is heroin worse than crack, or was meth the terrible winner?
Actually, the most addictive drug, as determined by a survey of addiction experts, was a legal one - in fact the only drug to get a score of 100 was nicotine. Check out the list and the addiction scores of commonly abused drugs.
Marijuana today is not what it was, and when people say they're having trouble giving it up, it may be because it's twice as strong as it was only 20 years ago.
Marijuana addiction is real. Just ask the 15% of people entering a drug-abuse program that reported Marijuana as their "preferred" drug of abuse. To some, the growing number of people smoking pot may be distressing – primarily to parents, many of whom may have had some experience of their own with the drug. Yet, the times have changed. The plant and its consumption is not what it used to be back in the good old hairy days of Woodstock.