Cannabis Use: Mental Health Consequences

cannabisIn November, a number of states are likely to vote on legalizing adult cannabis use or medical marijuana programs. California is one of the states that many believe will vote in favor of legalization, two decades after it became the first state to pass medical marijuana legislation. With each year that passes, Americans seem to be more in favor of ending the 80 year prohibition that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders being sent to jail or prison. While it can be difficult to compare marijuana to the other illegal drugs, it is important that we have all the facts before decisions are made. Last week, Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), came out against legalization. The “drug czar’s” stance comes from concerns over heightened marijuana use rates among teenagers and young adults, and that cannabis can serve as a “gateway” to harder drugs. His views are in line with the President, who has arguably had the lightest stance on the drug, compared to former commander-in-chiefs. While Botticelli, who is in recovery for addiction himself, has a valid point, there are a number of people in the field of medicine who are in favor of ending the prohibition. This week, the formation of the organization Doctors for Cannabis Regulation (DFCR) was announced, the group of physicians is calling on states and the federal government to legalize and regulate the use of cannabis in the interest of public health. The group includes a former surgeon general and faculty members from some of the nation's most prestigious medical schools. The DFCR argues that legalizing and regulating marijuana is most effective way to:
  • Ensure Public Safety
  • Combat the Illicit Drug Trade
  • Mitigate the Negative Consequences Affecting Disadvantaged Communities
Both the ONDCP and DFCR make good arguments that may impact how people vote this November. However, we can also look to science for guidance on the subject. Decades of prohibition prevented scientists and health experts from conducting cannabis research. There is a lot that is unknown about the drug, such as its effect on the brain. In recent years, medical marijuana and legalization efforts have given researchers the ability to conduct long overdue research. These findings can be an invaluable resource for those considering how they will vote in the 11th hour of 2016. A group of scientists from the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and Australia raise awareness about the potential consequences of cannabis use, primarily with regard to mental health, The Guardian reports. They say that the evidence is clear, that marijuana can cause psychosis in the vulnerable. To be clear the scientists are not claiming that those who use the drug are at risk of psychosis, rather that those who are vulnerable to psychosis could jump start the illness by using marijuana. “Cannabis alone is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause psychosis.” Research published in Biological Psychiatry indicates that deterring heavy use could prevent 8-24% of psychosis cases.
It is important to educate the public about this now,” said Nora Volkow, director of National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). “Kids who start using drugs in their teen years may never know their full potential. This is also true in relation to the risk for psychosis. The risk is significantly higher for people who begin using marijuana during adolescence. And unfortunately at this point, most people don’t know their genetic risk for psychosis or addiction.”
The use of marijuana can become an addiction, negatively impacting one’s life. If you are addicted to marijuana, please contact PACE Recovery Center for help. Our drug abuse treatment program specializes in developing individualized treatment plans to meet the unique needs of all our clients.

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