There is an abundance of research literature highlighting the harmful effects of cannabis (marijuana), yet a large number of psychiatrists still advocate for additional research in the hope that they can find some beneficial use for it.
Some Cannabis History
The demonization of cannabis was an extension of the demonization of Mexican immigrants in the early 1900’s. The idea was to have an excuse to search, detain and deport Mexican immigrants. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 effectively banned its use and sales. While the Act was ruled unconstitutional in 1969, it was replaced with the Controlled Substances Act in 1970 which established Schedules for ranking substances according to their dangerousness and potential for addiction. Cannabis was placed in the most restrictive category (Schedule I.)
In 1967, a group of prominent psychiatrists and doctors met in Puerto Rico to discuss their objectives for psychotropic drug use on “normal humans” in the year 2000. In what could well be a sequel to Huxley’s novel — only it wasn’t fiction — their plan included manufactured “intoxicants” that would create the same appeal as alcohol, marijuana, opiates and amphetamines, producing “disassociation and euphoria.” The rise of such psychotropics was likely related to the illegality and relative unavailability of other psychedelic drugs.
Psychiatry Promoting Cannabis
Partly due to the questionable legality of marijuana, it was not generally available as a psychiatric treatment, although various psychiatrists have promoted it for such.
In the 1840’s French psychiatrist Jacques-Joseph Moreau promoted marijuana as a medicine. Psychedelic drugs were studied for mental health conditions in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and a renewed push for their research and use is currently underway. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), was founded in 1986 by Rick Doblin specifically to promote marijuana and psychedelics as “medicines.”
In 1992, Australian psychiatrists called for heroin, cocaine and marijuana to be sold legally in liquor stores.
Another example is the psychiatric research paper “Therapeutic Potential of Cannabinoids in Psychosis” from 2016.
This quote expresses the psychiatric hope for cannabis: “Australian psychiatrist Patrick McGorry, renowned for his debunked and dangerous theory that pre-drugging adolescents with antipsychotics can prevent psychosis, now plans to prescribe medical cannabis to treat ‘anxious’ 12 year olds.”
This quote expresses another point of view: “…medicinal marijuana research suggests a joint a day might keep your psychiatrist away,” said Dr. Jeremy Spiegel, a psychiatrist on the east coast.
Rachna J. Patel, a psychiatrist in California, treats patients with marijuana.
The Harm that Cannabis Does
However, in 2013 the American Psychiatric Association said, “There is no current scientific evidence that marijuana is in any way beneficial for the treatment of any psychiatric disorder.” The research was starting to show significant harm from cannabis use.
Here are some relevant quotes about the harmful effects of cannabis:
“There’s consistent evidence showing a relationship over time between heavy or repeated cannabis use (or those diagnosed with cannabis use disorder) and an experience of psychosis for the first time.”
“The heaviest users of cannabis are around four times as likely to develop schizophrenia (a psychotic disorder that affects a person’s ability to think, feel and behave clearly) than non-users. Even the ‘average cannabis user’ (for which the definition varies from study to study) is around twice as likely as a non-user to develop a psychotic disorder.”
“Use of cannabis to treat depression appears to exacerbate depression over time.”
“Cannabis can activate latent psychiatric issues.”
“Cannabis is not a safe drug. Depending on how often someone uses, the age of onset, the potency of the cannabis that is used and someone’s individual sensitivity, the recreational use of cannabis may cause permanent psychological disorders.”
Today, psychiatrists are embracing all things marijuana because they are getting so many patients with marijuana-related problems such as addiction and psychosis. “Marijuana-related problems fall well within the scope of psychiatric practice: many patients use marijuana, which is likely to affect their psychiatric symptoms and response to treatment.”
In fact, marijuana addiction is such a significant problem that there are 31 entries in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) related to this addiction:
Cannabis intoxication delirium
Cannabis intoxication delirium, With mild use disorder
Cannabis intoxication delirium, With moderate or severe use disorder
Cannabis intoxication delirium, Without use disorder
Cannabis intoxication, With perceptual disturbances
Cannabis intoxication, With perceptual disturbances, With mild use disorder
Cannabis intoxication, With perceptual disturbances, With moderate or severe use disorder
Cannabis intoxication, With perceptual disturbances, Without use disorder
Cannabis intoxication, Without perceptual disturbances
Cannabis intoxication, Without perceptual disturbances, With mild use disorder
Cannabis intoxication, Without perceptual disturbances, With moderate or severe use disorder
Cannabis intoxication, Without perceptual disturbances, Without use disorder
Cannabis use disorder
Cannabis use disorder, Mild
Cannabis use disorder, Moderate
Cannabis use disorder, Severe
Cannabis-induced anxiety disorder
Cannabis-induced anxiety disorder, With mild use disorder
Cannabis-induced anxiety disorder, With moderate or severe use disorder
Cannabis-induced anxiety disorder, Without use disorder
Cannabis-induced psychotic disorder
Cannabis-induced psychotic disorder, With mild use disorder
Cannabis-induced psychotic disorder, With moderate or severe use disorder
Cannabis-induced psychotic disorder, Without use disorder
Cannabis-induced sleep disorder
Cannabis-induced sleep disorder, With mild use disorder
Cannabis-induced sleep disorder, With moderate or severe use disorder
Cannabis-induced sleep disorder, Without use disorder
Unspecified cannabis-related disorder
So there is a shift in psychiatry from treatment of mental health problems with cannabis to treatment of cannabis addiction. They go where the money is.
“Psychiatrists and other behavioral health professionals need to better understand the relationship between cannabis and mental disorders so that they can respond to increasing medical and recreational marijuana use among their patients.”
Unfortunately, the last thing any psychiatric treatment has achieved is rehabilitation from addiction.
Since the 1950’s, psychiatry has monopolized the field of drug rehabilitation research and treatments. Its long list of failed cures has included lobotomies, insulin shock, psychoanalysis and LSD.
Due to their drug rehabilitation failures, psychiatry redefined drug addiction as a “treatable brain disease,” making it conveniently “incurable” and requiring massive additional funds for “research” and to maintain treatment for the addiction. This has led to Medication-Assisted Treatment, where the drugs used to treat addiction are as addictive as the original ones.
The Latest Bandwagon, CBD
Since there is so much harm done by the THC in cannabis, many psychiatric researchers are putting their bets on cannabidiol (CBD), which is a cannabinoid lacking THC — such as psychiatrist José Alexandre S. Crippa of Brazil, who says “that cannabinoids may, in the future, become an important option in the treatment of psychiatric symptoms and disorders.”
Research findings in “Cannabidiol (CBD) as an Adjunctive Therapy in Schizophrenia: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial” “suggest that CBD has beneficial effects in patients with schizophrenia.”
Diana Martinez, Columbia professor of psychiatry, said, “If cannabidiol is moved off of Schedule I, a lot more research will be able to happen.”
Robert D. McMullen, a psychiatrist in New York, “remains hopeful that we will be able to develop substances that are going to target types of anxiety and depression with these cannabinoids but we haven’t reached that point yet.”
“While there are trials that suggest potential benefit of cannabinoids for [various psychiatric conditions], insufficient conclusion could be made due to the low quality of evidence…” [November 30, 2017]
Again, expressing the psychiatric hope: “While it is still unclear exactly how CBD works, we know that it acts in a different way to antipsychotic medication, so it could represent a new class of treatment.”
The jury is still out about the science and any potential benefit (or harm) of CBD, but the competition to get there first is intense, due to the potential of billions of dollars in taxes, pharmaceuticals, research funds, and other economic and psychiatric vested interests.
Psychiatric Drug Pushers
The history of psychiatry makes it clear that over many, many years they have been pushing dangerous drugs as “medicines.”
LSD moved into psychiatric ranks in the 1950’s as a “cure” for everything from schizophrenia to criminal behavior, sexual perversions and alcoholism. Ecstasy was used in the 1950’s as an adjunct to psychotherapy. Benzodiazepine tranquilizers became known as “Mother’s Little Helper” in the 1960’s. The cocaine-like addictive stimulant Ritalin (known among children as “Vitamin R”) is still in use for childhood behavioral problems, and suicide is a major complication of withdrawal from this and similar amphetamine-like drugs.
Today at least 17 million people worldwide are prescribed minor tranquilizers. Coincidentally, the world today is suffering from massive social problems including drug abuse and violence. We don’t have enough data yet about CBD to know its long-term effects; but then, we didn’t originally know about the long-term destructive effects of LSD, Ecstasy, benzodiazepines, Ritalin, and so on when they were first pushed onto an unsuspecting society.
These drugs can only chemically mask problems and symptoms, they cannot and never will be able to solve problems. The true resolution of many mental difficulties begins, not with a checklist of symptoms, but with ensuring that a competent, non-psychiatric physician completes a thorough physical examination.
People in desperate circumstances must be provided proper and effective medical care. Medical, not psychiatric, attention, good nutrition, a healthy, safe environment and activity that promotes confidence will do far more than the brutality of psychiatry’s unproven drug treatments.