Now that marijuana is legal for treatment purposes in FL, and legal for recreation lots of other places, MANY clients are telling me that marijuana is their treatment of choice for their mental struggles. It’s ironic to me though, because if marijuana were working such healing wonders, it’s unlikely one would want therapy too, no? I am not here to hate on marijuana. In fact, I like marijuana. I think it does a lot of good for a lot of people, and I think that used in moderation, it can be fun recreationally. I even voted for it to be legalized as I see it as MUCH less harmful than alcohol, and alcohol is legal! My bone to pick with marijuana is that I do NOT think it cures mental health issues the way so much of the population tries to say it does.
Let’s get into some of the facts of what goes on…
Marijuana highs generally last about 4 hours. During that time, it is flooding the brain with dopamine, which gives the “high” feeling.
During this time, a person’s ability to shift attention is a problem, learning and retaining new information can also be a problem, and having clear, sharp thinking is a problem (this is the “haze” people refer to). This can make functioning difficult for some. Now, some people “function”, but the question becomes, “How well?” People often THINK they are functioning well, but it’s important to remember that when high, a person is in an altered state of reality, much like the drunk person who thinks he/she can drive or a even a tipsy person who doesn’t realize how loud he/she is talking (we’ve all seen these things, right?). Now, tolerance does play a role in one’s ability to function, meaning that IF a person has a high tolerance, he/she is better able to appear as though he/she is functioning well. However, there’s a possibility he/she is not operating at their maximum capacity. Therefore, we have a person who feels good, but only temporarily, and during that feel good time, the person’s functioning could be negatively affected.
When the marijuana high is over, there is withdrawal. Sometimes it is noticeable, and other times it is not. Some people get the munchies as they come down, some people get sleepy, some people get irritable, and some have all of the above. When the dopamine leaves, the brain is left at a deficit. All the good we thought we were doing for PTSD, Anxiety, ADHD, whatever, is not lingering the way we’d like. This is why marijuana helps with some symptoms on the short term, but it is may not be helpful with the long-term. In fact, some studies indicate that long-term use of marijuana INCREASES anxiety, nausea, etc. Granted, dosing is a big factor in this, which is why I emphasize that the potency of what people use is important to pay attention to.
If a person can go 30 days without using marijuana, most people notice that their thinking clears up, and they are much sharper and clearer in their ability to process things. In fact, most people report that they did not know their thinking was impaired until those 30 days of sobriety were reached. And those who have more serious withdrawal, like difficulty eating, sleeping, vomiting, etc. They usually report that everything is back to normal and even BETTER than before after those 30 days. Believe it or not, this still isn’t my biggest qualm with marijuana. My biggest issue is it’s affect on memory cells. Marijuana burns our memory cells, and unfortunately, they do not operate in the same way our liver or lungs do. The liver and lungs easier recuperate once a harmful substance is ceased; however, memory cells do NOT. Therefore, whatever we burn up, we do not get back. Now some people, perhaps of higher IQ, can afford such a loss, but the general population really cannot. Again, allow me to emphasize, this is particularly true for those chronic, high-potency users.
Before I go off on a few different paths with this, I also want to ask this question. If so many people use marijuana and claim it to be helpful, why isn’t more of the population happy, healthy, and kind? I’m just sayin…we know A LOT of people smoke so…again, I know marijuana does help a lot of people with a lot of things, but I just think a lot of people promote it for the purposes of getting high, not actually treating symptoms.
It’s important to note that everyone’s body is different. We know that we all have cannabinoid receptors throughout our bodies, but where they are and how many there are varies from person to person. Some people can’t get a head-high, because they don’t have the receptors in their brain. Some people do not respond to edibles, because they do not have receptors throughout their body. Metabolism also plays a role, etc. There are a great many factors that contribute to how a person responds to any give THC product. The research is still on-going, and there is a still a lot to be learned. The highlights right now seem to be that high CBD, low THC products have a great affect on mental health without the “haze”. Also, microdosing of THC (5mg or less) can work like that as well. It seems these options are “safer” in regard to negative side affects and ability to function while using. However, I would not recommend for anyone to use the really high potency products. The other information we have now is that the marijuana flower does have a unique effect, delivering an “entourage” of CBD, THC, etc.; however, the smoking of it still has negative consequences. A new product has been released now called “Nano” and that seems to have similar effects as smoking without actually having to smoke. As our information grows, it seem that there are ways to use these products to your advantage and avoid the negative side, but again, the goal should be to treat symptoms, not simply to be high.
My clients know that I am an advocate for psychotropics. I have seen them make night and day differences for people (more so than marijuana), and it makes sense since it’s designed to treat the problem long-term. Psychotropics actually increase our neurotransmitters that need increased without the high/impairment of functioning. Now, finding the right med or combination of meds for you can be a serious journey. I do get that, as I have been on the journey with many people. However, when folks find what works for them, the feedback I hear is, “I just feel normal”. No one should tolerate outrageous side effects, which is the main task of the journey, but most people are able to find psychotropics that don’t impair their life and simply help them to cope. And if you are against big pharma, which I know is a popular stance these days, I have also seen other things work, such as natural supplements, acupuncture, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and hypnosis. Most of those require repetition and natural supplements generally have a risk of side effects as well, BUT my point is, there are things out there that actually help treat the problem without impairing functioning and marijuana is just not one of them.
I think the kicker for Americans is that we like what is instant. Marijuana can provide more instant relief, and I think that’s the true reason that it is so many people’s preference. As Americans we don’t care about the long-term enough…but let me not go there right now… I think you all get my point, but if not, feel free to reach out!