Tag Archives: anxiety

Marijuana Can’t Treat the Opiate, Heroin Epidemic

Any marijuana use leads to less intelligence potential, less empathy for life, less motivation and poorer decision making.  A war on drugs is a protection and defense of our brains.   Governor Susana Martinez probably recognizes how Colorado’s marijuana problem leads to the drug epidemic and filters into New Mexico’s substance abuse issues.   Read about her veto in Part 1.

One young man who gave us a testimony explained how his marijuana use led directly to heroin addiction.

In Colorado, Dr. Libby Stuyt, addictions psychiatrist, traces a direct line from marijuana legalization to the heroin epidemic.    Colorado’s recent report on heroin has shown that the number of deaths from heroin overdose have doubled between 2011 and 2015.

In fact, Pueblo County, has suffered from heroin use and addiction more than any other Colorado county.  Pueblo, Denver and Boulder have the highest rates of youth marijuana use.   Southern Colorado is suffering the most from the heroin epidemic. Counties that have banned marijuana dispensaries have been affected the least by the heroin.

Misunderstanding of the Opioid and Heroin Epidemic

Since the government has clamped down on opiate prescriptions, more users have replaced the pain drugs with heroin.  Since the legalization of marijuana, Mexican cartels have replaced much of their marijuana with heroin.  Heroin is now cheaper and addicts find it easier to get heroin than prescription pills.

Politically there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the opioid epidemic. If it was initially caused by over prescribing of medications, that’s no longer primarily the case.   Seth Leibsohn wrote an insightful article on the subject last week. The abuse of opioid prescriptions acquired legitimately constitutes a small portion of the overdose problem, he said. *

A simple crackdown on prescriptions will not solve the problem, according to Maia Szalavitz.  Although Szalavitz misunderstands the  inherent danger in using marijuana,* she explains the underlying causes of substance abuse quite well.  Impulsive children are at high risk of becoming drug users, but so are some highly cautious and anxious young people.   Two thirds of people with opioid addictions have had severely traumatic childhoods, and the more exposure to trauma, the higher the risk.  We need to help abused, neglected, fragile and otherwise traumatized children before they turn to self-medication as teens.  On the other hand, we should also provide tools and teach coping skills to children who are impulsive, ADHD or anxious.   (Overmedicating children doesn’t allow them to develop the skills needed to transition into adulthood.)

Let’s Help People Get off ALL Drugs

Effective treatment for addictions is getting off all drugs, not going to other harmful, brain-altering substances.   “The goal in helping a loved one with a substance use problem is not to reduce their use. It is to stop drug use,” according to Sven-Olov Carlsson of Drug Policy Futures.  He gave the opening address at the World Federation of Drugs Conference in Vienna last year.  As Carlsson said, the current heroin epidemic proves that “harm reduction” is not saving lives.

No one sets out to become an addict.   Fortunately, more people and states are realizing the foolishness of allowing “medical” marijuana for intractable pain.  It opens up a Pandora’s Box of problems, as in California and elsewhere.

Addiction specialists estimate that one in five American adults is addicted to drugs or alcohol.  With such large numbers, there should be no “stigma” attached to addiction or treatment.  A new or revised health care act should maintain the provision to treat addiction.

Those who are addicted have a strong need to protect a secret.  Their brains have been hijacked and there isn’t a straight path back to previous functioning.

Optimum treatment requires a period of time when the person is not using any substance of addiction in order for the brain to heal.  During that time, the person needs to be able to learn new things. The lack of treatment resources which allows this to happen is a big barrier to recovery.   Marijuana cannot be used to treat this current drug epidemic.

___________________________________________________________________________*  Another recent article explains how doctors began to take pain seriously, treating it as a fifth vital sign.  Szalavitz based her 10% addiction rate for marijuana on the weaker pot of the ’70s and ’80s, not the pot of today.  She also disregarded teen users of pot.

 

Stop Living in Denial of the Marijuana – Mental Health Crisis

Wake Up, America, to the Looming Mental Health Crisis

by Lori Robinson, co-founder of Moms Strong    After losing my own kid, I caution parents not to live in denial of marijuana, as I did.  Your child will be exposed to marijuana and is likely to experiment with it.  It is my mission to prevent other young people from going down the same path my son did.

Just because something originates in nature doesn’t mean it’s safe.  Like some people die from a bee sting, a part of mother nature, some people die from the consequences of using marijuana, or they spiral out of control.

If a person who uses today’s highly potent marijuana goes into psychosis (or depression, panic attack, other psychiatric presentation), please get the proper treatment.  The mental health system needs to first address the drug effects and assess the need for addiction treatment.  Next, wait for the drug-induced mental illness to run its course.   Then educate about brain health.

Our California Problem

In California, it’s common to rope young marijuana users with psychotic symptoms into the label of a permanent, debilitating mental illness rather than give them addiction treatment.  When it comes to strong males like my son, they also flood them with powerful, unnecessary pharmaceutical drugs.  In the case of cannabis-induced psychosis, the anti-psychotics are often ineffective against the psychosis.

For some youth, the diagnosis of bipolar disorder may also be devastating.   After all, everyone else is using marijuana and it’s a sign of weakness not to be able to handle pot.   As reported recently in the Desert Sun, “Despite robust scientific research about the negative potential effects of marijuana use, young adults tend to underestimate the risks……Nearly two-thirds (60.5 percent) of young adults surveyed who use marijuana do not think it’s addictive, and just as many (60.8 percent) do not think marijuana can damage the brain.”

Our children and teens need to learn the true harms about today’s pot, especially to their, young, developing brains. The marijuana financiers should stop pretending they know about medicine. Medical marijuana practitioners are doing far more harm than good, as the one who gave pot to my friend Leah’s son, Brandon.

If marijuana is legalized nationally, the need for mental health treatment will explode.  Psychiatry is a tricky field with less success than other medical specialties such as heart disease or emergency medicine. The fallout will be huge.   Wake up, America. We are in uncharted waters.  Marijuana use is growing nationwide and your kid may be the next casualty.

How do We Know Who is Vulnerable?

We don’t know.  There’s no genetic test to discover who is susceptible to adverse mental health problems from pot.   Those who have fancy educations and six-figure incomes frequently brag about their ability to use without negative consequences.  (Their families may see it otherwise.)

This boasting shames people — particularly youth — into feeling they should be just as powerful.   Some people continue even when they know it’s bad for them.

As a child, I was stung by bees several times.  Each time my reaction got progressively worse. The last time it happened was at age 16; the doctor told me I could die if it happens again.  Why is marijuana use like a fatal bee sting that makes some people swell until they implode?

Stop the Denial

So many young  people develop adverse effects from using today’s high-strength pot.  The marijuana advocates are pushing it because there’s so much money to be made.  The don’t want potential users to become aware of these problems.  They preach that nationwide legalization is inevitable and foster denial.

Research around the globe proves that marijuana causes panic attacks, paranoia, severe anxiety and/or depression.  American hospitals often don’t consider marijuana a factor in the picture of mental health, and that’s a tragedy.  There’s an urgent need for psychiatry to train more addiction specialists.  If users quit after the first episode of psychosis or mental health disorder, they probably can avoid a permanent psychological problem.  However, these users must never go back to pot again.  It’s like avoiding the bee stings if someone who’s allergic doesn’t want a fatal reaction.

How many American families have lost a member to suicide, and now suspect it was undiagnosed bipolar disorder?   How many of these loved ones have been marijuana users, or former users?  Rashaan Salaam, the Heisman Trophy winner who killed himself last week, suffered from marijuana addiction which destroyed his career.

Maybe these families placed their denial in the wrong diagnosis.   Youth who use marijuana are 7x more likely to attempt suicide,  as reported in Lancet Psychiatry Journal in September 2014.  How many of these loved ones have been marijuana users, or former users?

Is Marijuana a Safe Drug?

By  Christine Miller, Ph.D., for Moms Strong.  Dr. Miller was one of many speakers at a rally in front of the state capital in Sacramento, Oct. 4, 2016.  She  also wrote Ten Myths Marijuana Advocates Want You to Believe.

We all know individuals who have been able to use marijuana and be happy, successful and productive members of society. The precise proportion of users who fall into this category is not known, but what is clear is a substantial percentage of people cannot use marijuana with impunity. Unfortunately, you can’t tell ahead of time who that is going to be. There is no genetic test, no psychological profile, no family history screening that is reliable.

The question becomes not how many fatalities does use of marijuana cause, but can a young person use it occasionally, i.e. “responsibly,” like having a single beer once a month or once a week, and be sure that they’ll be O.K.? The answer is no, particularly in regards to psychotic outcomes. Some individuals experience acute psychosis after their first use.

1) Psychosis: hundreds of peer-reviewed, scientific articles show a correlation between marijuana use and psychotic outcomes such as schizophrenia, too numerous to list here. The question of whether marijuana is causal for psychosis has been answered in the affirmative by applying standard principles of causation used in pharmacological and epidemiological research:

  •  Dose response effect, so that heavier use of more potent product results in more users developing schizophrenia(Zammit et al., 2002; van Os et al., 2002; DiForti et al., 2009; DiForti et al., 2015)
  •  Administration of the active ingredient (∆9-THC) in the clinic under controlled conditions causes psychotic symptoms (D’Souza et al., 2004; Morrison et al., 2011; Bhattacharyya et al., 2011; Freeman et al., 2014).
  •  Self-medicating is not that likely, because many will try to quit to avoid the psychotic symptoms before they become too impaired (Fergusson et al., 2005), e.g. comedian Seth McFarlane; but for others it may be too late (as seen in The Other Side of Cannabis, Heartsgate Productions, 2015).
  •  Marijuana use generally comes before the psychosis, not vice-versa (Arseneault et al., 2002; Henquet et al., 2005; Kuepper et al., 2011).
  •  In users who have schizophrenia, the age of onset is earlier than for non-users, similar to the effect of carcinogens in causing an earlier onset of a suite of cancers (Veen et al., 2004; Barnes et al., 2006; Large et al., 2011)
  •  Of all recreational drugs, marijuana use is the most likely to result in chronic psychosis (Niemi-Pynttari et al., 2013).

What percentage experience a psychotic outcome? The low to moderate-strength marijuana available in the last century was shown to trigger single psychotic symptoms (paranoia, racing thoughts, delusions, hallucinations) in 12% to 15% of users (Thomas, 1996; Barkus et al., 2006; Smith et al., 2009). Of those with such “prodromal” symptoms, about 35% can be expected to develop full psychosis, i.e. a constellation of symptoms occurring at once (Cannon et al., 2008). For about half of these individuals, conversion to chronic schizophrenia spectrum disorder occurs irrespective of family history (Arendt et al., 2008; Niemi-Pynttari et al., 2013).

The result for low to moderate-strength marijuana was about a 2.5-fold increased risk of schizophrenia, but for the high strength product available today, the risk for schizophrenia is 5-fold compared to non-users (DiForti et al., 2015). That increase in risk translates into about one out of every twenty users if they don’t quit in time. Is this impact limited to adolescence? Given that the brain continues to develop in males through the late twenties (see figure on back), it seems unlikely that the risk for chronic psychosis is limited to adolescent users. Furthermore, administration of THC to adults in a clinical setting results in psychotic symptoms (D’Souza et al., 2004; Morrison et al., 2011. Bhattacharyya et al., 2011; Freeman et al., 2014).

Other Adverse Psychological Outcomes

2)  Risks for anxiety, panic, and depression are increased by marijuana use: Zuardi et al., 1982; Thomas, 1996; Patton et al., 2002; Dannon et al., 2004; Hayatbakhsh et al., 2007; Medina et al., 2007; Hasin et al., 2008; Zvolensky et al., 2010; Fairman and Anthony, 2012; Silins et al., 2014; Cougle et al., 2015; with some studies showing that correction for confounding variables lessens the association with anxiety and depression, while others report the effect remains. For a review see: Miller CL, The Impact of Marijuana on Mental Health in: Contemporary Health Issues on Marijuana (Winters KC and Sabet K, eds), Oxford University Press, in press.

3)  Risk for suicidal ideation is increased on average 7-fold: Arendt et al., 2006; Silins et al., 2014; Kvitland et al., 2016 , even after correcting for a prior history of depression: Clarke et al., 2014.  In 2014 (the report specific for 2015 data is not yet available), the 2nd year after legalization of recreational use of marijuana, Colorado experienced the highest suicide rate in state history: “In 2014, there were 1,058 suicides among Colorado residents and the age-adjusted suicide rate was 19.4 per 100,000. This is the highest number of suicide deaths ever recorded in Colorado.” Office of Suicide Prevention Annual Report 2014-2015, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Particularly alarming, the Colorado media has reported sudden onset suicidal ideation or completed suicide in consumers of commercial edibles: Levi Thamba Pongi, Denver, 2014; Richard Kirk, Denver, 2014; Luke Goodman, Keystone, 2015, but also reported following the smoking of potent marijuana: Brant Clark, Boulder, 2007; Daniel Juarez, Brighton, 2012.  (Editor’s note: In Seattle, 16-year-old Hamza Warsame jumped six floors to his death after smoking marijuana in December, 2015.)   These responses can happen so quickly in individuals who were not previously suicidal that intervention may be impossible. 

4)  Lack of educational achievement and decreases in motivation – after covariate adjustment, the odds for marijuana users completing high school are reduced to about 0.37-fold that of controls (Silins et al., 2014); accounting for demographics and other factors, marijuana use adversely affected college academic outcomes, both directly and indirectly through poorer class attendance (Arria et al., 2015); decreases in motivation with marijuana use have been documented in clinical studies of humans (Bloomfield et al., 2014) and in animal models (Silveira et al., 2016).

5)  Negative impacts on IQ: up to an approx. 7 point drop in IQ from childhood scores by age 38 in marijuana users who have been abstinent for 24 hours prior to testing; but only an approx. 5 point drop in those abstinent for a week prior to testing (Meier MH et al., 2012); a subsequent study of twins by Jackson et al., 2016, yielded mixed results, with an average decline of 4 points in marijuana users by late adolescence, however restricting the comparison to the matched twins (thereby controlling for genetics and a myriad of environmental factors), the effect of marijuana largely disappeared. The limitation of this later study is that brain development is not complete by late adolescence, particularly the wiring of the all-important cortex is still ongoing through the late twenties (see Figure below). There is no controversy, however, about the negative, real-time impact of marijuana use during tests of cognition and memory: Curran HV et al., 2002; Ranganathan and D’Souza, 2006; Morrison et al., 2009; Solowj et al., 2010; Pavisian et al., 2014.

See 10 Myths Marijuana Advocates Want You to Believe for complete information, footnotes and the bibliography

Marijuana-Truth

Filmmaker Explains the Marijuana Truth

Filmmaker Sets Record Straight in Statement About Marijuana

by Jody Belsher, filmmaker, The Other Side of Cannabis

TOP TEN THINGS marijuana enthusiasts say to defend this psychoactive drug:
1. It’s natural
2. It cures cancer, cannabis is good for anxiety and depression
3. It’s never killed anyone
4. I have studies to prove how good it is.
5. The anti-pot people are all prohibitionists, propagandists
6. It’s safer than alcohol
7. What’s the big deal already, let’s just legalize
8. Marijuana will make a lot of money from taxes
9. The Cartel will go away if we legalize
10. We imprison 1000’s of people from marijuana not being legal Continue reading