12

Dec

(Read the second entry in the series here)

The use of mood altering substances for recreational purposes has been present since recorded history.

Whether it was the use of Opium by the Sumerians in 5000BC or the current trend of Gray Death (highly potent combination of heroin, fentanyl, cafentanil and synthetic opioid), humans have a propensity in pursuing mood altering experiences. This seems to be wired into our DNA.

Distinguishing between the recreational use of drugs (for the sake of discussion alcohol is included in this category) and drug abuse is not a simple discussion. There is not always going to be a clear line people cross in using substances recreationally or abusing them. For instance, if we look at the frequency of use to determine a problem, having a glass of wine at dinner is certainly different than injecting a single dose of heroin. Another thought to consider is our environment (family, friends, neighborhood). If we are surrounded by individuals who have similar use patterns as we do, problematic use might not be easily detected. To further complicate this discussion, we can not always determine a problem by quantity or amount of use. For instance, the country of Denmark has the 6th highest alcohol related death rate per 100,000 people (source) yet is not in the top 25 countries for alcohol consumption (source). The question we can ask if frequency, peers, friends, and amount of use of a mood-altering substance are not always gauges we can use to determine a substance abuse problem, what can?

The same question we can ask regarding marijuana.

For many years, American society has looked at marijuana as a harmful drug. Currently it is listed as a Schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration (FDA). Schedule 1 drugs are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. As we discussed in previous articles, this most likely will change soon. The last few years the view on marijuana has almost gone full circle. Now we struggle with finding a place for marijuana and how it fits into our society, workplace and homes.

A good starting point in determining how harmful marijuana could be is considering the purpose someone is using marijuana for. There can be a variety of reasons someone uses. Recreational, celebratory, social situations, stress, to escape problems, medical reasons, or relaxation are among the reasons individuals would use marijuana. Users look at these reasons as beneficial. If there are no consequences or costs attached to their use, they most likely will continue their use. Consequences could be external (employment, courts, school, parents, family) or internal.

The costs that could present themselves with marijuana use are usually not physical.

However, difficulties in breathing, increased heart rate, risks in pregnancy, and memory and brain development concerns are considerations that need to be taken into account for users (source) There has been a rise in traffic accidents in some of the states that have legalized marijuana (source).It is difficult to determine what higher THC levels and better cultivation of cannabis plants we are now seeing in marijuana, will have on our impressions about pot a few years but for now, that does not seem like a consequence we need to spend much time on.

That does not mean that we can view marijuana as safe. The psychological effects (the high) can be felt within a minute in most cases. The high can last up to three hours. These all could vary depending on a person’s makeup and potency of the marijuana.  Although there is some discussion on this effect of marijuana use, amotivational symptoms can present themselves with some users. These symptoms include: apathy, isolation, lethargy, and decrease of motivation. Memory and concentration problems (study) as well as impact on our brain(study) have been known to happen with users.

If a user is faced with external factors, their investment in change may be limited.

The hope that they may be invested in recovery, in some cases, is unrealistic. For example, a youth who is stopping his use because of external pressure (consequences) from his parents may not agree on the importance of abstaining from marijuana as opposed to his parents. However, they may be equally committed to the teenager staying abstinent but for different reasons.

One of several criteria’s we use to determine if someone is addicted if there is compulsive use despite negative consequences. For marijuana use consequences are not always clear. A parent, employer, and spouse may view someone’s marijuana use as more problematic than the user. Money and time spent revolving around the user can also be subjective. The marijuana user may feel content in this area, however, family and/or friends may not.

Marijuana use is not an easy topic to tackle.

It is mired in controversy. There are medical benefits from marijuana. However, these benefits must be evaluated for each person and weighed out against the consequences of use. Not every marijuana user will become addicted. However, it does not rule out the possibility it can become a problem for users. Youth are particularly vulnerable to problems with marijuana because their brains are still developing(source) Educating yourself and family members is helpful in deciding about using. Each person/family will have to make their own determination about their use and risks/consequences associated with it.


We have included signs and symptoms of marijuana abuse/addiction individual and families can look for in addressing marijuana use:

  • Increase of tolerance. It is taking more to get you high than it did in the past.
  • Daily use
  • Irritability and anxiety increase if you go without it for a period of time
  • Using more than you intended, inability to set limits for your use
  • Previous attempts at quitting
  • Arguments with others centered around you using
  • Great deal of time spent around using or getting high
  • Decrease of activities due to your use
  • Broken promises about stopping use
  • Legal or employment problems related to your use.
  • Relying on the marijuana high to avoid problems or responsibilities
  • Relationships impacted by your use
  • Lack of motivation to attend to your responsibilities at home, work, or school