Mary Jane comes to psychiatry
There has been a lot in the news recently about marijuana — “medical” marijuana, synthetic marijuana, legalizing marijuana, human interest stories about someone smoking marijuana, rants about the horrors of marijuana smoking — in short, every possible human reaction and little to none of the facts, especially how this brouhaha ties in to psychiatry.
Listening to a radio talk show today, we heard many cogent arguments both for and against legalizing marijuana with or without “medical use.” It was obvious there were not going to be any agreements made among those discussing the issues. However, this is not the real issue, which is hidden behind the psychiatric influence — or should we say, the issue IS the hidden psychiatric influence. Suddenly we have an entirely new crop of potential psychiatric patients, ripe for “stress relief” programs, “substance abuse” programs, psychiatric drugs to “treat” the side effects of smoking pot, and mental health “research” projects about how pot smoking affects mental health or vice versa.
A Google search for “marijuana” produced nearly 62 million results. The NFL is debating marijuana use. About 20 states and the District of Columbia allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Various factions within Oregon, Colorado, Nevada and Washington are either extolling or condemning its virtues. Around 25 million people in the U.S. are active marijuana users. The U.S. marijuana business is worth $113 billion. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug according to the FDA, meaning the drug has “no currently accepted medical use” and a “high potential for abuse.” The heat is on to change the FDA’s mind. Even Saturday Night Live has jumped into the fray.
Over 60% of Americans in drug treatment programs (of which 19% are aged 12 to 17) need treatment for marijuana. According to a National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, kids who frequently use marijuana are almost four times more likely to act violently or damage property. They are five times more likely to steal than those who do not use the drug.
Marijuana is often more potent today than it used to be, due to growing techniques and selective breeding. The THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana) concentration has increased by as much as 12% over the past 30 years. Correspondingly, there has been a sharp increase in the number of marijuana-related emergency room visits by young pot smokers. Even pets are showing up in veterinary emergency rooms with marijuana intoxication.
Because a tolerance builds up, marijuana can lead users to consume stronger drugs to achieve the same high. When the effects start to wear off, the person may turn to more potent drugs to rid himself of the unwanted conditions that prompted him to take marijuana in the first place. Marijuana itself does not lead the person to other drugs; people take drugs to get rid of unwanted situations or feelings. The drug masks the problem for a time. When the high fades, the problem, unwanted condition or situation returns more intensely than before. The user may then turn to stronger drugs since marijuana no longer “works.”
- Short-term Effects
- Loss of coordination and distortions in the sense of time, vision and hearing
- Sleepiness, reddening of the eyes, increased appetite, relaxed muscles
- Sped up heart rate, up to five-fold in the first hour after smoking
- Reduced performance through impaired memory and lessened ability to solve problems
- Long-term Effects
- Psychotic symptoms
- Damage to heart and lungs, worsening the symptoms of bronchitis and causing coughing and wheezing
- Reduction of the body’s ability to fight lung infections and illness
How Do Drugs Work?
Drugs are essentially poisons. The amount taken determines the effect. A small amount acts as a stimulant. A greater amount acts as a sedative. A still larger amount poisons and can kill. This is true of any drug. Only the amount needed to achieve the effect differs.
Drugs block off all sensations, the desirable ones along with the unwanted ones. While drugs might be of short-term value in the handling of pain, they wipe out ability, alertness, and muddy one’s thinking. One always has a choice between being dead with drugs or alive without them.
Drugs affect the mind and destroy creativity. Drug residues lodge in the fatty tissues of the body and stay there, continuing to affect the individual adversely long after the effect of the drug has apparently worn off.
How is psychiatry involved?
Stephen Hinshaw, professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, said marijuana is a “cognitive disorganizer” that produces roughly the same effect in users as those associated with ADHD. However, psychiatrists are now starting to prescribe medical marijuana for children and adults diagnosed with ADHD.
Heavy marijuana users are more likely than non-users to be diagnosed with schizophrenia later in life, placing them squarely into the mental health care system. A recent study found that people who had used marijuana more than 50 times before the age of 18, had a threefold increased risk of developing symptoms diagnosed as schizophrenia later in life. Once diagnosed with schizophrenia, they are prescribed anti-psychotic drugs. Never mind that schizophrenia is a fake disease; the symptoms are decidedly uncomfortable.
Smokeable herbal products, so-called synthetic marijuana, have been marketed as being “legal” and as providing a marijuana-like high. These products consist of plant material that has been coated with research chemicals that claim to mimic THC. Brands such as “Spice,” “K2,” “Blaze,” and “Red X Dawn” are labeled as herbal incense or bath salts to mask their intended purpose. Emergency room physicians report that individuals that use these types of products experience serious side effects such as anxiety attacks and other psychotic behavior. Psychiatrists may fraudulently diagnose these symptoms as a mental illness and prescribe psychotropic drugs.
Psychiatrists already have a name for marijuana addiction, “Cannabis Use Disorder.” A recent British study published in Schizophrenia Bulletin claims that mental illnesses are triggered six years earlier in patients who have smoked high-strength cannabis every day. Dr. Marti Di Forti, who led the study, wrote: “Daily use, especially of high-potency cannabis, drives the earlier onset of psychosis in cannabis users.”
Let’s not forget the withdrawal symptoms, which are similar to those of withdrawal from smoking and include irritability, sleep difficulties and anxiety, all of which can be mistaken for psychiatric symptoms leading to the prescription of psychotropic drugs.
We are already seeing many more articles discussing the chicken or egg question — that is, which came first, the mental illness or the marijuana? Of course, this wrong target ignores the real reason for drug use, described above as an unwanted condition, situation or feeling.
We are already seeing massive wasted research dollars going to psychiatrists to investigate the connections between marijuana and schizophrenia, or between marijuana and bipolar, or between marijuana and PTSD, or between…you get the idea.
The psychopharmaceutical industry is already salivating over the new crop of “Cannabis Use Disorder” patients who will be needing “substance abuse treatment.”
What do we do?
Rather, what do YOU do? What CAN you do? Something can ALWAYS be done about it!
Find Out! Fight Back!
That’s right. Educate yourself, your family, your friends, your associates, your school board, your church, your Chamber of Commerce, your Lions Club. Spread the word. Forward this newsletter. Challenge the proliferation of false information. Distribute the CCHR booklets and DVDs on the dangers of psychotropic drugs. Have a CCHR DVD party and show a DVD to your peers. Donate to CCHR so that we can continue to distribute the true information — CCHR St. Louis needs donations to give Missouri legislators CCHR documentary DVDs. Write letters to your local, state and federal officials. Write Letters to the Editor of your local radio, TV, and newspapers. Come to the CCHR St. Louis Public Seminars and bring your friends.
Or, you could always just do nothing, and watch this nation’s children grow up smoking pot and becoming patients for life in the mental health care system.