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Marijuana and Other Drugs: A Link We Can’t Ignore

by SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana)   Smart Approaches to Marijuana’s 2017 publication references academic studies which suggest that marijuana primes the brain for other types of drug usage.  Here’s the summary on that subject from page 4, Marijuana and Other Drugs: A Link We Can’t Ignore :

MORE THAN FOUR in 10 people who ever use marijuana will go on to use other illicit drugs, per a large, nationally representative sample of U.S. adults.(1) The CDC also says that marijuana users are three times more likely to become addicted to heroin.(2)

Although 92% of heroin users first used marijuana before going to heroin, less than half used painkillers before going to heroin.

And according to the seminal 2017 National Academy of Sciences report, “There is moderate evidence of a statistical association between cannabis use and the development of substance dependence and/or a substance abuse disorder for substances including alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit drugs.”(3)

RECENT STUDIES WITH animals also indicate that marijuana use is connected to use and abuse of other drugs. A 2007 Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology study found that rats given THC later self administered heroin as adults, and increased their heroin usage, while those rats that had not been treated with THC maintained a steady level of heroin intake.(4) Another 2014 study found that adolescent THC exposure in rats seemed to change the rodents’ brains, as they subsequently displayed “heroin-seeking” behavior. Youth marijuana use could thus lead to “increased vulnerability to drug relapse in adulthood.”(5)

National Institutes of Health Report

The National Institutes of Health says that research in this area is “consistent with animal experiments showing THC’s ability to ‘prime’ the brain for enhanced responses to other drugs. For example, rats previously administered THC show heightened behavioral response not only when further exposed to THC, but also when exposed to other drugs such as morphine—a phenomenon called cross-sensitization.”(6)

Suggestions that one addictive substance replaces another ignores the problem of polysubstance abuse, the common addiction of today.

ADDITIONALLY, THE MAJORITY of studies find that marijuana users are often polysubstance users, despite a few studies finding limited evidence that some people substitute marijuana for opiate medication. That is, people generally do not substitute marijuana for other drugs. Indeed, the National Academy of Sciences report found that “with regard to opioids, cannabis use predicted continued opioid prescriptions 1 year after injury.  Finally, cannabis use was associated with reduced odds of achieving abstinence from alcohol, cocaine, or polysubstance use after inpatient hospitalization and treatment for substance use disorders” [emphasis added].(7)

Moreover, a three-year 2016 study of adults also found that marijuana compounds problems with alcohol. Those who reported marijuana use during the first wave of the survey were more likely than adults who did not use marijuana to develop an alcohol use disorder within three years.(8) Similarly, alcohol consumption in Colorado has increased slightly since legalization. (9)

Data on Marijuana Policy for 2017

Here’s the complete Data on Marijuana Policy for 2017 in pdf form.

FOOTNOTES:

  1. Secades-Villa R, Garcia-Rodríguez O, Jin CJ, Wang S, Blanco C Probability and predictors of the cannabis gateway effect: a national study. Int J Drug Policy. 2015;26(2):135-142

2. Centers for Disease Control. Today’s heroin epidemic Infographics more people at risk, multiple drugs abused. CDC, 7 July 2015.

3. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Board on Population Health andPublic Health Practice; Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda (“2017 NAS Report”).

4. Ellgren, Maria et al. “Adolescent Cannabis Exposure Alters Opiate Intake and Opioid Limbic Neuronal Populations in Adult Rats.”Neuropsychopharmacology 32.3 (2006): 607–615.

5. Stropponi, Serena et al. Chronic THC during adolescence increases the vulnerability to stress-induced relapse to heroin seeking in adult rats. European Neuropsychopharmacology Volume 24 , Issue 7 (2014), 1037 – 1045.

6. “Is marijuana a gateway drug?” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Jan. 2017. See also Panlilio LV, Zanettini C, Barnes C, Solinas M, Goldberg SR. Prior exposure to THC increases the addictive effects of nicotine in rats. Neuropsychopharmacol Off Publ Am Coll Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013;38(7):1198-1208; Cadoni C, Pisanu A, Solinas M, Acquas E, Di Chiara G. Behavioural sensitization after repeated exposure to Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cross-sensitization with morphine. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001;158(3):259-266.

7.  2017 NAS report.

8.  Weinberger AH, Platt J, Goodwin RD. Is cannabis use associated with an increased risk of onset and persistence of alcohol use disorders? A three-year prospective study among adults in the United States. Drug Alcohol Depend. February 2016.

This is the second recent article on the gateway effects of marijuana use.   Since marijuana has already primed the brains of most people who get addicted to opioids, marijuana cannot replace pain pills.

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The Common Element in These Suicides: Marijuana

The common element in all these suicides or self-inflicted deaths was marijuana.   Marijuana was the factor, not alcohol or other drugs…………in all cases.  (Read Part 1 and Part 2)

Marc Bullard, 23      Colorado

Brant Clark, 17        Colorado

Tron Dohse, 26        Colorado

Luke Goodman, 23      Colorado, traveling from Oklahoma

Daniel Juarez, 18     Colorado

Shane Robinson, 25      California

Rashaan Salaam, 41      Colorado

Levy Thamba, 19         Colorado, traveling from Wyoming

Hamza Warsame, 16       Washington

Andy Zorn, 31          Arizona

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These four young men died in marijuana-related suicides. Clockwise from left, Daniel Juarez, Colorado, (photo, CBS News), Shane Robinson, California, Hamza Warsame, Washington (photo, Seattle Times, from the family) and Andy Zorn, Arizona.

Four of these victims — Warsame, Thamba, Juarez, Clark — had experienced pot-induced psychosis during the period leading to their deaths.  Juarez was an outstanding soccer player who got very high with a friend the night he stabbed himself 20 times.   The suicide report showed he had 38.2 ng of marijuana in his blood, eight times the limit for Colorado drivers. Toxicologists tested him for methamphetamine and other substances, but the results turned out to be negative. Although the death occurred in 2012, CBS News obtained the police report in 2015 and made it public at that time.  Juarez´s sister claims he would not have killed himself had he not gotten stoned that night.

Suicidal thoughts can come on very quickly while under the influence in individuals who were not previously suicidal. The suddenness of suicidal ideation means that intervention may be impossible. 

Dohse’s death was determined to have been an accident. Unable to find his keys, Dohse climbed up the apartment building and fell.  The toxicology report 27.3 ng. of marijuana in his blood, but no other drugs or alcohol in his system.  As his sister told CBS, she believes marijuana impairment led her brother to make poor decisions the night of his death.  (Read Part 1 for more background on Warsame, Dohse, Juarez and Clark)

Levy Thamba, left, and Kristine Kirk, right. Both died shortly after marijuana edibles went on sale in Colorado.

The story of Levy Thamba is particularly tragic since he was on a student visa to this country.  He came from the Democratic Republic of Congo to study engineering in Wyoming.  While visiting Denver with friends, he tried a marijuana edible for the first time.  It was a pot-infused cookie, the effects of which don´t appear immediately. About two hours later, he became acutely psychotic, thinking pictures were jumping off the wall. The friends calmed him down before going to sleep, but his psychosis returned.   He ran from his room to the sixth floor balcony, jumping to his death.

Thamba’s death is often described along with the death of Kristine Kirk.  She called 911 because her husband, Richard Kirk, wanted her to shoot him, after he ate a marijuana candy.  By the time, help came, he shot Kristine, mother of their three children, instead.

Bullard, Salaam and Robinson appear to have been suffering from depression as a result of heavy and/or extended pot use.  Marc Bullard was “dabbing.”  Andy Zorn, a veteran who had been taking medical marijuana, knew he had to quit marijuana to survive.  But he couldn’t quit and so took his own life. (Many people begin smoking pot after being told “it’s not addictive.”)

Marijuana Withdrawal is a Risk, Too

Although Shane Robinson had experienced two periods of pot-induced psychosis, he was having marijuana withdrawal syndrome at the time of his death.   According to a program of Dr. Drew Pinsky back in 2003, there is “an extraordinarily high incident of suicide in the first six months of marijuana abstinence.”

Most striking about the youths we describe is that they did not begin pot use because of depression.  All of these deaths occurred in marijuana-friendly states where the social situation was an influence on their pot use.  Lori Robinson, Shane’s mother, warns that educating against drugs and modelling a healthy lifestyle without drug use doesn’t work today.  It is no match for current  cultural trends and government policy which normalizes pot use.

Most who die in marijuana-related suicides are male, but women and girls are still at risk.  One of our supporters attempted suicide in her 20s after years of daily pot use, failed relationships and domestic violence.  Her attempt was not successful.  Today she is 29 years sober and her survival is a blessing.   Not all people will be as lucky. Males are generally more successful in suicide attempts, because their methods are often more efficient.

Pot is the Common Element, not an Underlying Mental Health Issue

These youths banish the claim that mental health problems always come before the marijuana use.   (A strong misconception is that mental illness after using pot only affects those with previous mental health issues.)  The deaths described here include active psychotic reactions at the time of marijuana use, as well as depression from long-term use.

The lives of these young men need to be a warning to states trying to legalize marijuana.  Suicide rates in Colorado have reached all-time highs and each one of Colorado’s 21 health regions had a suicide rate higher than the national average, according to a February report by the Colorado Health Institute.

When the pot industry tells us that “no one ever died from marijuana,” they’re lying.   Maybe it is time for the CDC to start tracking marijuana-related deaths.

These 10 deaths are just a few of the many self-inflicted deaths related to marijuana use.  Lori Robinson has assembled more stories of marijuana-related deaths and psychosis on the website of Moms Strong.  Read these stories on momsstrong.org.

A View Into Legalized Marijuana 20 Years from Now

Drug Policy Alliance, NORML and Marijuana Policy Project are optimistic. They’re huffing and puffing now, having won  7 out of 8 states with marijuana ballots in the November election. They also smirk knowing that President-elect Trump supports states’ rights for marijuana.  In 20 or 30 years, they’ll have freedom and no one else really matters.  Pot lobbyists don’t explain the real picture. What if the whole country ends up just like Humboldt County?

Photo Credit: Weed bust photo comes from the sheriff’s department, originally published by Lost Coast Outpost.

 

Humboldt County Leads the Way

The oldest, strongest marijuana culture in the USA is not in Colorado, but in Humboldt County,  California.  Humboldt, Mendocino County and Trinity County also form this region called the Emerald Triangle.   When Sabrina Rubin Erdely set out to write about rape culture for High Times Magazine, she missed the boat by not going to Humboldt County.  Instead she wrote a fabricated story about a gang rape at a highly academic East Coast college campus.  What an irony that a magazine promoting marijuana legalization for years fails to notice that rape is taking place in its community!  There’s politically-motivated denial and deflection, but heavy weed smokers tends to have lots of delusions.

There were 2,000 domestic violence calls in 2015, an increase of 80% over the previous four years.*  A routine domestic violence call in December led to a huge bust for guns and weed.  Marijuana gained a foothold in Humboldt nearly 50  years ago, and it seems guns and weed are a way of life since that time.

Humboldt County leads the way in environmental destruction, too. The area used to be dominated by the logging and fishing industries.   Now the marijuana growers have polluted the streams and dried up many river beds.

See the video about the ecological damage from illicit marijuana grows

Environmental Damage

Environmentalists convinced politicians that the logging industry must stop cutting down the redwoods.  So the marijuana growers found an opening and they’re clearing out the trees!  Aerial views show the redwood forests pockmarked by marijuana grows.  It doesn’t seem that High Times and Alternet have caught on to the irony that marijuana green is not environmentally green.

In May of 2008, approximately 1000 of gallons of red diesel overflowed from an indoor marijuana grow’s fuel room into a creek.  The marijuana grower had left a valve open when pouring a larger diesel tank into a smaller one.  The fuel had spread so far down the rugged stream bed when a neighbor smelled the pungent odor and investigated.  He found “20 to 30 pools of red diesel” far below the spill.  The environmental cleanup was a massive operation, from damage which rivals the impact of an oil spill in the ocean.

Marijuana and Fire Damages

Fires are frequent throughout California, and marijuana sometimes causes these fires, including hash oil (BHO) explosions.  The massive Soberanes fire this summer uncovered several illegal marijuana sites.  Marijuana growers may have started the fire.

Humboldt County has had at least three BHO fires from marijuana labs since California legalized pot two months ago.   A home exploded on November 9 in Rio Dell, the first day after the election. The Redheaded Blackbelt noticed “how ironic that on the first day that it is legal to smoke recreational marijuana… that one of the side effects of marijuana prohibition, a black market BHO lab, exploded.”  The flames burned 90 percent of the bodies of two victims who were airlifted to Davis.   There are rumors that one or both men have died.

The true irony is that when recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado, these home explosions grew more frequent, rather than less. In one week of April 2014, there were four BHO explosions.   BHO fires didn’t occur in California before 2010, so liberalizing pot laws and expanding marijuana access created a new problem.  (In 2010, pot was decriminalized in California.)

mckinleyville-fire2
The man who started a fire in McKinleyville on December 26 fled the scene. It’s thought to be a hash oil lab fire. Photo above and on top by Marc Davis, published on the Redheaded Blackbelt.

Murders, Suicides and Missing People

If a tv news magazine were to expose the murder, rape and sex trafficking in Humboldt, reporters may be at risk.  An investigative journalism report released in September revealed that some trimmigrants and girls end up getting abused or raped.  The marijuana apologists mislead by insisting that murders and rapes happen because prohibition forces growers into hiding.

There were at least 22 murders in Humboldt County in 2016.   Only 134,000 people live in the county.  (Often it’s difficult to distinguish murder from suicide, which occurs at a rate twice the national norm.)  Humboldt reported 352 missing people in 2015, more per capita than any other county in the state.

Missing persons include trimmigrants, those who come to the region only in the Fall to work on marijuana farms.  Growers also are known to murder these migrant workers, but sometimes the trimmers turn on their growers. There’s even an area of Humboldt called “Murder Mountain.”  The site is where a notorious couple who carried out cult-like murders in the 1980s, but the tradition seems to continue today.

Nonetheless, Humboldt County has wonderful examples of love and community spirit.   Recently, residents of Eureka came out in the heavy rain to honorJennika Suazo, a teen girl who died suspiciously.

marijuanagrowap-photo

An AP photo shows how marijuana growers have bulldozed trees in northern California to make room for pot grows. The environmental damage is worse than from the timber industry.

Domestic Violence, DUIs and Humboldt’s Other Problems

Humboldt County district attorney Maggie Fleming sat down for an interview with Paul Mann of the Mad River Union recently. (The entire article is in Lost Coast Outpost.)   “We see DUIs all day long in this community …. There are people who are drinking or using prescription meds or smoking marijuana or using methamphetamine or heroin and driving at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Some of our fatalities are in the middle of the day,” Fleming explained.

She listed multiple factors powering Humboldt crime: high rates of driving while intoxicated; the county’s nightmarish marijuana, drug and alcohol culture; the prevalence of domestic violence and the deep-rooted poverty that inflicts childhood trauma and impairs children’s health, often with lifelong afflictions, including criminal behavior.  She definitely sees the crime is a result of the drug culture. Both those  with substance abuse problems and those selling drugs for financial gain instigate the crime.

“I see firsthand how marijuana is a social and environmental disaster,” a policeman from the Emerald Triangle wrote to PopPot.org. “Youth access, abuse, transient population moving in to grow or trim, associated criminal behavior all rising.”

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The homeless population in Humboldt creates a dilemma. Here’s what was left when several squatters were forced out of a Eureka home on Oct. 31, 2016.

 

“Where there is pot …there are other drugs…..and all the behavior associated with lives less enabled,” he said.  “The money isn’t worth the social cost to our world.”

–Emerald Triangle policeman

It’s clear that having a marijuana culture adds to the use of other drugs. Those laid back from smoking too much dope will try amphetamines to get them back up again.  It also leads to rampant alcohol abuse, since booze just enhances the effect of the drugs.  People think the homelessness problem in Humboldt is caused by mental illness, but one social worker in the area disagrees.  He is certain that rampant drug/alcohol abuse precipitates the problem. Politicians in both parties remain clueless of how drug use creates mental health problems. Their ignorance will continue as long as it’s politically incorrect to blame pot for anything.

Seven hundred homeless children without parents or guardians in nearby Mendocino County, also part of California’s “Emerald Triangle” growing region. These street kids sometimes work on the pot farms, but basically no one has ever loved them enough to care for them.  They’re likely to become drug users too, and the cycle of multi-generation drug use will continue.

Pueblo is a Warning to Other Places

Four years after Colorado legalized marijuana, the small city of Pueblo is another example of how pot commercialization can destroy life for the residents. “I can no longer allow my 13-year-old to walk the dog, one mother said. There was recently a murder 3 blocks from our house.”  Pueblo failed to pass two referendums which would have closed dispensaries and growing sites in the city and county.  Some people think of marijuana as an economic panacea for lost jobs in the steel industry.  However,  it has created a huge increase in the homeless population. Pueblo doctors recently made videos showing the damage marijuana is doing to the health care in the community.

Buyers in Pueblo West, Colo., line up on Jan. 1, 2014 to legally buy marijuana after it was approved for recreational use. (Source: AP Photo/John Wark)
Buyers in Pueblo West, Co line up on Jan. 1, 2014 to legally buy marijuana when the state’s first pot shops opened. (Source: AP Photo/John Wark).  The Press prefers to emphasize that so much money can be made, rather than the destruction with legal pot. It hasn’t turned out as orderly as this photo.

International cartels have moved into Pueblo and bought up property for their marijuana grows.  The black market is booming.   Russians, Cubans, Argentinians and Cambodians have come to town. Pueblo, Boulder and Denver lead the state in percentage of high school students using pot, but in Pueblo there are more problems. Fully 12% of high school seniors have also used heroin.

Is marijuana growing also going to replace tobacco growing  in Kentucky and Tennessee?  Will it be a substitute for the coal mines that shut down in West Virginia and Pennsylvania?  When policy is driven by knee-jerk reactions without careful planning, chaos follows.

At this time, the United States has more than half of the world’s illicit drug users.  Six percent of America’s high school seniors are daily marijuana users.  It appears that the legacy of drug use is going to continue creating this problem for America’s children.  Humboldt County is the future of our country if we continue to believe marijuana use is perfectly harmless and normal.

* This statistic and much of the information on sexual abuse, missing persons, domestic violence, rape and abuse of trimmigants comes from the massive report by Shoshana Walter, published in Reveal, The Center for Investigative Reporting on September 8, 2016.

The Dark Side of Marijuana

Mother Changes her Mind about Marijuana after Experiencing it in Colorado

(By a Colorado resident)  My son went into psychosis and I’m lucky he is still here.  The drug that is being advertised and promoted is part of an irresponsible industry that provides no education to our youth, and actually makes marijuana look cool and harmless.

When I tell pro-pot people my story and post the evidence that pot can cause psychosis, I’m bullied and verbally abused. I was actually kind of ok with recreational pot if the THC levels were low, but now I am totally against it all together. Continue reading