Marijuana has a reputation as harmless but its not.
Marijuana has been used by so many people and is so immersed in our culture that people don’t respect it dangers. Working with adolescents with mental illness, marijuana is the biggest problem, I face as a psychiatrist.
Every adolescent tells me the same thing: “It’s natural”, “They are going to make it legal”, “Marijuana helps me sleep”, “Marijuana relaxes me”, Marijuana is harmless”, “Nobody gets in trouble on marijuana”, “It’s not as bad as alcohol” and “Nothing is fun without marijuana”.
Then there is always the arguments what it’s not: “Marijuana is not addicting”, “People can stop anytime they want”, “Marijuana doesn’t make you violent or aggressive”, “You cant over dose on marijuana”, “You can smoke all the marijuana you want and nothing happens”, “Nobody steals to get a marijuana fix”, “Marijuana is not a hard drug”, and “No one gets rushed to the hospital because they used marijuana”.
Groups of people are organized around using marijuana. The glue that holds these people together is smoking marijuana and listening to musical groups like Dave Matthews, Phish and Grateful Dead. Those things are maybe true but that’s not the whole truth. Marijuana is subtle and effective in addicting people. The addiction is psychological in nature but powerful. Marijuana users usually become regular users. People tell me, “I use once a week, maybe every ten days.” That means you have marijuana in your blood stream most of the time. Marijuana may take 7-10 days to leave the body. Chronic smokers may have marijuana in their system for up to six week, so even infrequent use results in marijuana/THC in your system all the time.
Having marijuana or the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol or THC in your system has serious psychological consequences. Marijuana makes psychological pain, hardships, and emotional stress less. Sounds good, but not really, because the individual uses marijuana to cope instead of dealing with the offending problem. Let’s take a woman in an abusive relationship. Instead of leaving the relationship and moving on marijuana keeps her there. Let’s take a 20 year old man working at a dead end job, a job that’s short term and not a career. Marijuana lets you stay there. How about being in a high stress job you hate. Marijuana lets you stay there. Let’s say once you start marijuana, not much changes. Whatever you are doing then will continue.
Marijuana blocks ambition, drive, motivation and energy levels. People on marijuana talk a big game but nothing happens in their life. They are dulled, slowed and numbed.
Getting high can make anxiety and depression appear or seem better. Over time marijuana use makes mood, anxiety and psychotic illness worse. Depression or mania becomes worse. Anxiety episodes become much more severe and long lasting psychosis for sure is worsened. Paranoid, delusions, hallucinations and breaks from reality occur.
Marijuana impairs memory, attention, judgment, concentration and learning skills. The sixties crowd that has been using marijuana for 40-50 years may find they have permanent and severe cognitive defects. I have individuals who can’t remember why they went into the next room. They are totally incapacitated. People in school who use marijuana are totally handicapping themselves.
How about some physical problems associated with marijuana. Respiratory problems from breathing in the smoke. Marijuana weakness the immune system so individuals get sick more often. Individuals who smokes marijuana have a higher rate of getting head, neck and lung cancer. Marijuana affects coordination and movement.
Some other little tidbits. Marijuana slows the perception of time down. Makes pain seem less. May increase the fear response or make someone paranoid. Marijuana may alter the perception of colors making them seem brighter.
Here is the kicker. Use of marijuana alters judgment. People on marijuana have no clue anything is wrong. They can live their whole life in this altered impaired reality. It takes six weeks to just clear marijuana out of your system. People off marijuana at one month, two months and three months, look back at each month and realize how out of it they were. Marijuana is a real trap. The high is seductive; it lures people in and prevents them from ever getting out.
Marijuana is not worth it. Individuals with mental health issues for definitely should leave it alone. Looking at it from a mental health standpoint makes me recommend to all my patients, to keep away from it.
One last point, marijuana conditions the psyche to crave getting high. Over a period of time, like kindling to a fire, the psyche will crave different types of highs which are more intense. This may be a prelude to other addictions.