• Dr. D

Marijuana - Not So "Natural" Anymore

I have a whole list of subjects that people have asked me to talk about: attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders…


But what I want to talk about today is marijuana. I’m actually doing this because I’m getting pretty worried about what I’m seeing.


I’ve always treated marijuana, or “dope,” or “mary jane” or “pot” or “weed” or whatever the popular name was at the time, as something to ignore. It was pretty safe. It made people mellow. It didn’t seem to cause a lot of trouble.


Plus, I’d much rather deal with someone on marijuana than on alcohol. I’ve never had someone be nasty and threatening when they were high on weed. And I’ve sure had plenty who were scary on alcohol.


So I didn’t stop people from using it back when I was prescribing methadone in a methadone clinic. I don’t stop people from using it now when I’m prescribing buprenorphine for people dependent on opioids.


I also don't insist they stop all alcohol, but it's something I strongly advise against.


And now for the first time, I'm going to be urging people to stop using weed, at least if it has the kind of levels of THC that are being produced by new plant breeders.


I’ve been seeing more and more problems cropping up because of the fact that weed today is so much stronger than anything any generation has seen before. And more people are using THC oils, which have even higher levels of THC.


And what's happening isn't pretty.


It's Natural So It's Okay - Right?


People excuse smoking weed by saying it’s “natural.”


But there’s nothing “natural” about marijuana with 45% or 60% or 90% THC.


There are lots of folks out there who are breeding marijuana plants with higher and higher THC content. But as of this writing, the highest potency of THC that can be taken directly from a plant is about 37%.


97% THC oil is about as ‘natural” as scotch whiskey.


3% THC happens in nature. So does hard cider. But you have to work to extract pure THC, just like you have to distill grain to get whiskey.


And we can make another comparison between types of alcohol and potency of weed.


Let’s look at when we get teenagers smoking weed or drinking alcohol at a young age. If they only have a beer every now and then, or use naturally-occurring marijuana on weekends with friends, there isn’t usually a big problem.


But if they use high potency weed every day or drink a fifth of scotch that often, bad things happen. Their brains are still developing and don’t handle drugs like THC and alcohol well, so they start having trouble with learning, depression, just thinking straight.


And the stronger the drug – either THC or alcohol – the worse the effects can be.


It’s Not Your Grandmother’s Weed


Sometimes I have to remind the younger people I see that they didn’t invent marijuana. My generation smoked a lot of weed. And I was definitely in there with my generation.


But what we were smoking for a floaty kind of high with giggles and the “munchies” (way increased appetite) was only about two or three or maybe as high as four percent THC.


God only knows what else was in the stuff we smoked, but few of us got hurt from using it.


Now, though, with the much higher potency of THC, I’m seeing kids who are getting really crazy and staying that way.


I Smoke Weed to Treat My Headaches


Way back in 1996 (I just realized this was a quarter of a century ago), the first "medical marijuana" dispensaries opened in California.


Since then, they're available throughout the country. And it's easy to understand why. IT WORKS (or used to).


For thousands of years, people have recognized that parts of the cannabis (marijuana) plant can help to relieve many kinds of pain. Childbirth, gout, earaches... you name it and somebody found out that it could help with pain.


But the problem is that the part of the plant that truly does help with pain, the cannabidiol (CBD), is being bred out of a lot of marijuana plants. And the lower the CBD, the less helpful for pain relief.


Instead, plant breeders are going for the high, and increasing THC levels.


Smoking Weed or Drinking Alcohol May be OK –


Sometimes.


And at low doses.


But exposing our brains to highly concentrated THC or alcohol, and certainly doing it often, is causing trouble.


I think we all know that suicide among teenagers and even younger kids is increasing. But they’re also using lots of weed and doing it often.


Is there a relationship there? It looks like the answer is - probably yes.


Emergency rooms are being flooded with kids high on THC, hallucinating, scared, often depressed or fighting angry. This didn’t happen when THC was actually “natural.” It’s only been since nature was left behind and the chemists took over.


And these kids who are being seen are saying more often that they want to die or are seriously thinking about suicide.


A few things I’d like you to consider:

If you know someone – and especially somebody who’s in their teens or early twenties - who is getting super depressed or acting strange and smokes weed on a frequent basis, ask what it is they’re using.

- If it’s high potency weed, encourage them to consider not using for a couple of weeks, just to see how they feel

- If they refuse to consider stopping, encourage them to use something milder

- Don’t buy the “it’s natural” crap. Poison ivy is natural. Quicksand is natural. But both can cause problems. And the “UN-natural” stuff that the chemists out there are making is causing trouble too.


Photo of Marijuana plants by @CanStockPhoto Inc/smithore

Photo of THC oil by @CanStockPhoto Inc/Tinnakorn

Photo of old woman with weed by @CanStockPhoto Inc/creatista