Cannabis Addiction

Cannabis leaf artwork

Being natural is normal. Being you without any exogenous chemicals is normal. But when you use a substance to get high while hiding behind the excuse, “it makes me normal,” then something is clearly wrong. No drug can make you normal. People want to see the real you and if you’re saying that drugs make you normal, then there is something that you’re doing wrong. Cannabis addiction is notorious for making users believe that the high makes the normal.

Drugs were never created to make you feel normal. There are many arguments behind the creation of drugs, but almost everyone will agree that drugs are not a replacement of your personality. If your personality is changing while experimenting with a drug, then please stop using the drug. If anything good is to be observed from drugs, it’s perhaps their great ability to make you more creative, allow you to think outside the box and relax more efficiently. But your personality must remain congruent with these drug-induced states, or else you’re allowing the drug to mold your personality into someone you’re not.

Breaking bad cannabis addiction chemistry sign

Cannabis Addiction is Real

Many people are still under the impression that you can’t get addicted to cannabis. Many uneducated people continue to push the line, “weed hasn’t killed anyone.” Cannabis addiction has nothing to do with deaths. Drugs such as cocaine, meth, MDMA and PCP can lead to deaths, but cannabis is not one of them. What cannabis shares in common with all other drugs is the potential for psychological addiction. The fact that cannabis doesn’t cause deaths is even more appealing to users. They believe, “if weed isn’t that bad, then why not keep using it?”

The physical safety net of cannabis acts like a reinforcer for people to keep using the drug. The more a person uses, the more they need to consume to get a similar high. This is because their mind, at the receptor and neurotransmitter level, becomes desensitized to the THC; it needs more of it to feel as high as before. So the user consumes more or spends more money on a higher quality product, until they become tolerant to the new dose. In addition, with practice comes perfection. A user will also learn how to more effectively function under a high state of mind, motivating them to consume the drug in different situations.

Overall, the idea of cannabis addiction is something to keep in the back of your mind if you’re a regular user. Reminding yourself of this possibility can help you regulate your intake, especially if you find yourself toking more. There is no shame in catching yourself smoking more and having to cut back down. Your mental health comes first; having fun always comes second.

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Cannabis Legal States

Green and orange marijuana buds

Boy was that an election! Donald Trump never stopped being the president and Joe Biden’s mental status likely confused him regarding his election win. But guess who has been impressively standing on stage this entire time delivering the most useful message? Marijuana was recreationally legalized in the states of New Jersey, Arizona, South Dakota and Montana this year. Mississippi came in big by legalizing medical marijuana. It seems that with each passing year, cannabis is gaining more supporters who are pro-legalization. This will lead to more cannabis legal states.

The science remains young and we don’t have enough evidence to conclude any long-term health benefits or adverse effects. But we have reached a point where criminalizing cannabis users is no longer sensical. I mean, going to prison for possession of marijuana? That sounds very archaic. Remember, that even though marijuana is being legalized, should not mean that we become naive to its potential mental health side effects such as anxiety, psychological addiction or even psychosis.

Cannabis legal states - drawing of woman holding hair next to cannabis leaves

Are Cannabis Legal States the Future?

I predict that the United States will legalize cannabis in all fifty states within the next ten years. The people want it legalized, it’s no longer taboo to indulge and it’s great as a stress reliever. Not everyone enjoys drinking a glass of wine to unwind. Some people prefer to take a hit of a vape pen or consume an edible and call it a night. As long as cannabis is used in moderation and you’re not experiencing any mental health symptoms, it should be fine to use. The only thing going against cannabis at the present time is that we lack the science behind long-term side effects. But with ongoing clinical research trials, we will have those answers within the next 5-10 years as well.

Cannabis legalization is here to stay.

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Cannabis Legalization

Indoor cannabis farm

The Good, Bad and Ugly

Let’s start off with The Good of cannabis legalization: governments will get to regulate the production and distribution, ensuring quality products in stores asking for an ID just like how it’s asked for alcohol and tobacco. This will ensure that people are not smoking synthetic cannabinoids (such as K2 or Spice) or low quality flowers which provide shorter durations of high, motivating people to smoke more frequently. In addition, the social aspect of legalization is surely a victory; here is a natural product that has been used since ancient China for medicinal and social purposes. It’s finally available (legally).

The Bad: mental health problems will rise. Yes, I know the argument that people who want to smoke already smoke, whether legal or not. But now imagine opening up stores all around your neighborhood with green crosses flashing. It’s going to be much more tempting for people to purchase some flower; even people who never previously smoked. The idea that it’s legal and the psychology of seeing so many people enter the shops on a daily basis will be quite enticing! In addition, the THC content of modern day cannabis is much higher. Research is still ongoing regarding whether THC can cause psychosis vs. an increased susceptibility of developing psychosis in those with genes for psychosis.

Dank green cannabis buds

Cannabis Legalization: The Ugly

The Ugly: it makes me normal!” Psychological addiction will increase. The downside with higher THC products is that people will like it more: they will experience a more intense euphoria and increased urges to smoke more and more often. Euphoria is very nice when experiencing the daily hustles and bustles of work, stress and relationship conflicts; marijuana is great at helping you let go and enjoy the moment. With cannabis at a store near you, it will be more enticing to order products delivered to your home, seeking that euphoric high much more conveniently; getting high will become easier than doing your own damn laundry!

There, you have my take on legalization. Do I like it that it’s happening? Yes, I do. Am I realistic? Yes, I am. I truly believe that in the long-run, we will see more mental health problems surrounding cannabis, but only time can tell. What are your thoughts on this matter?

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smiley winking Gif face

Why Do People Use Drugs?

Green marijuana buds in clear plastic bag

Drug Use

Why do people use drugs? Because it turns their world into a 3D-enhanced virtual reality setting. This allows them to play with the controls as they wish, regardless of the consequences. Users lose interest in normality and may forget that they have responsibilities that cannot always be sacrificed for pleasure. Drugs swallow up some people like a black hole, while others casually float about in the surrounding space, without any problems returning back to reality.

No one intends on getting addicted to a substance. Some people start experimenting due to peer pressure, wanting to fit in, trauma or simple curiosity. We are not here to judge why someone experiments with a drug. Everyone comes from a different background and walk of life and had their specific reason for trying drugs. As mental health professionals, we can analyze with the patient why they started using them, but we’re not in the business of judging them. What’s the point of judgment? It’s not going to help them in the present moment.

Why do people use drugs - Papaver Somniferum orange flowers

So Why Do People Use Drugs? I Still Don’t Get It

Because they want to have fun! Regardless of why they started using drugs, it ultimately comes down to altering their perception of reality. When one alters their perception, they gain newfound knowledge or experiences that are euphoric, enticing and entertaining. Even if it’s for a few hours, it sometimes feels like eternity due to the slowing down of time. When in that euphoric spot, the world is perfect and no one can mess with it; they become one with their mind and surroundings. Music is enhanced, Netflix shows are more entertaining, and empathy for others increases with certain drugs such as MDMA and alcohol. This is why people use drugs.

But why do some people get addicted and others don’t? Because everyone’s brain chemistry and personality are different. Some people have better judgment, more motivation or more realistic expectations; this allows them to completely stop or take breaks that prevents an addiction from manifesting. Other people are not as good at holding themselves back from drug use. For these people, drugs overtake their life while attempting to remain functional. The problem is that drugs and functionality are not a good mix; imagine drinking alcohol and water at the same time. You’re either going to give up the booze or the water. The same goes with people who are prone to becoming addicted to drugs. They end up slowly sacrificing their functionality for more drug use, due to tolerance, dependence and withdrawal.

What is your take on drug use and is society headed towards full-blown legalization of all drugs within the next 25 years?

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I am Free of Marijuana

Marijuana leaf symbol with chromatic colors

Positive Affirmation: Cannabis

“I am free of marijuana because I realize that it’s not necessary for me to use it in order to be happy and find joy in life. Even though marijuana may be fun, I find pleasure in socializing in a sober state of mind, enjoying my senses without having the munchies and watching movies and listening to music without experiencing an altered perception of my reality. I also enjoy to not cough up a lung or experience mini panic attacks when I am getting high. I also prefer to have a clear conscience and not feel guilty when I am high. I am free of marijuana!”

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Psychotically Sheltered

Psychotic Indian man wearing glasses sticking tongue out

Three Blunts Later

Many psychotic patients have lost everything or never had much to begin with. Their home is the shelter or a psychiatric supportive house where they spend their days doing whatever they want. Many don’t have any requirements; they can sleep all day, create music, go to work . . . it’s up to them. Many continue to abuse drugs on the streets: popular ones in New York City are crack, cocaine and heroin; don’t count out marijuana.

But this is the problem with these shelters: they don’t drug test and even if they did, would they just kick out psychotic residents? They would all just turn homeless and nothing productive would be accomplished. So they continue to abuse drugs and take advantage of the free room and board. The problem with psychotic patients is that drugs impair their judgment and insight.

In the moment while they’re getting high, they’ll report to you that they feel better and that their symptoms have calmed down, depending on which drug they are using. If it’s crack or meth, their symptoms tend to get worse: they become paranoid, start hearing voices commanding them to commit violent acts and may even start experiencing visual hallucinations.

If it’s marijuana, many psychotic patients will report that the weed relaxes them and clears their mind. It may very well do that, but marijuana is prone to cause and worsen psychosis, especially the highly potent strains going around these days. Three blunts later and many of these patients start hallucinating, experiencing disorganized thoughts and behavior and freaking out.

Keep in mind that many psychotic patients are noncompliant with medications because they believe that they don’t have a mental illness. Add three blunts a day on top of poor insight and it turns into a recipe for a mental health disaster. It’s not usually the patient that brings himself into the hospital; it’s the residents or staff at the shelter that escalate the process due to their disruptive and dysregulated behavior.

There is no psychotic patient or mental health patient who I have met that benefited from drug use, including marijuana. They may tell me that they like weed and it calms them down, but then why are they in the hospital in the first place? What’s surprising is that many schizophrenic patients inform me that they’ll probably go back to using marijuana despite being hospitalized.

This is how powerful drugs are and we must continue to spread awareness for drug addiction and advocate for more resources devoted to the treatment and healing of drug addicts. But first we must continue to call on all the drug addicts to come out of the shadows and provide them with a safe and supportive environment and this platform is known as The DSM Ready Community.

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Weedhead Gone Psychotic

Young man with tattoo on neck smoking marijuana joint

When Weed Plants Psychotic Seeds

It’s just weed! It doesn’t harm you and it’s better than alcohol! Alcohol gets you into fights and makes you do stupid things. Weed just makes you sit on the couch and watch Harold and Kumar! What people usually think about weed right? It’s time to snap out of this mentality because weed can cause psychosis in many users, especially those who are genetically vulnerable or those who smoke a ton. Marijuana enjoys planting seeds within your mind. Oftentimes, these seeds won’t sprout, but when they do, they can turn into psychosis.

The thing about marijuana is that the THC potency is much greater than it was 10-20 years ago. Growers are interbreeding various types of marijuana plants such as indicas and sativas, resulting in more potent strains. As with any drug, a user gains confidence based on his or her past tolerance, ending up smoking more of the drug until an unexpected adverse reaction develops.

In the case of cannabis, this adverse mental reaction is oftentimes paranoia or psychosis. The problem is that you can’t just turn off a paranoid or psychotic state of mind once it kicks in; the high has to dissipate before the paranoia subsides. If the paranoia kicks in within the first 15 minutes, the user has another 45-60 minutes to go before the marijuana calls it quits on his or her mental journey.

With psychosis however, this state can last even 1-2 weeks after the marijuana high is gone. It just depends on the person and how psychotic he or she has become during the high. For instance, imagine eating an edible at 7 pm and then experiencing no high by 7:45 pm. Many users who are inexperienced will indulge in a second edible, thinking that a second dose will do the trick.

By 8: 15 pm, the high from the first edible will start to kick in. The user will think, “I knew I just needed two doses!” But around 8:40 pm, the second edible will also start to kick in and the high will intensify during the whole night. At this point, a user is very vulnerable to becoming psychotic if they have ingested a very large dose of THC.

Depending on their state of mind, the psychosis may intensify during the night, causing their mind to fall deeper down the rabbit hole, sometimes to the point of no return. Now that is something scary to think about! In the field of psychiatry, we see many people who become psychotic from marijuana.

Please stop thinking that this drug is innocent; comparing it to alcohol does not make you sound any smarter! Every drug has its pitfalls. Period.

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Cannabis Holiday

Clear jar of marijuana buds on table next to pencil and notebooks

The World Celebrates 4/20

April 20th marks the international cannabis celebration day where people all over the world light up to appreciate the substance known as marijuana. 4/20 is based on the the story of five California high school students who would meet at 4:20 pm to consume marijuana back in 1971. Ever since then, 4/20 has been code for “smoking weed” in the cannabis culture. Marijuana is unique because no other drug involves such a worldwide appreciation for everything related to a substance.

I guess if you consider St. Patty’s day a worldwide appreciation for alcohol, but it’s still not the same as marijuana. Marijuana is unique because it’s just starting to become legalized. Part of the allure with marijuana has been its consumption while still classified as a schedule I drug under U.S. federal law. This makes smoking the drug and partaking in activities surrounding it much more exciting and stimulating than alcohol.

What also makes marijuana exciting is that the celebration of 4/20 is unique because people are cheering for its liberation; they want to be able to be in that intoxicated state of mind without worrying about “the cops” busting them. Marijuana is known for providing a very relaxing high that is not often associated with violence or indecent behavior; people want to prove a point on 4/20 that marijuana should be legalized and consumed in peace.

While there are many consequences to getting involved with marijuana as a teenager and even as an adult, that’s not the point of 4/20. This holiday is more about appreciating the substance and the culture surrounding it. Marijuana is associated with humor and fun activities because the high makes the user interpret many ordinary events as funny; hence, why many who smoke it end up giggling and laughing out loud.

There are many positive things related to marijuana:

  • It makes spending time with friends fun and enjoyable
  • It makes activities more fun and enjoyable
  • It enhances the senses making food taste better, music sound better and sexual activities feel better
  • It increases introspection, allowing you to go deeper within yourself
  • It enhances sleep and appetite
  • It makes you think outside the box and appreciate newfound knowledge

. . . and the list goes on. I am not here to promote the use of marijuana as I know very well that there are many potential mental adverse effects, but I do appreciate the positives associated with it, such as the points provided in the list above as well as the culture associated with marijuana. Every person is different regarding their relationship with substances and each individual should come up with their own conclusion as to whether they should indulge.

What are your thoughts on marijuana and 4/20?

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Mind Stolen By Marijuana

Teenage boy wearing black hoodie smoking marijuana joint

Marijuana Turned Me Into A Schizophrenic

In the field of psychiatry, you see it all when it comes to mental illness and the various factors that contribute to it. Marijuana affecting mental health should be no surprise, despite the media not really talking much about it. Why is that? Because there’s an agenda to legalize it. I am not against legalization but it’s important that humanity is educated on the influence of marijuana on mental health.

Many teens and young adults have experienced their mind stolen by marijuana. What does this mean? Some of the stories you’ll hear is that they started smoking weed in high school and fell in love with it; their usage escalated beyond smoking joints on social occasions to smoking bowls multiple times a day by themselves at home.

Some of these patients identified as being introverted in high school to begin with. They are not afraid to admit that once they started using marijuana, they became more introverted, spending more time by themselves in isolation, lost in the internal world that marijuana dug out for them.

At some point in time, whether under the influence or not, they slowly began to feel different in regards to the way they thought and interpreted the world. Their families would clearly notice a change in behavior, eventually calling EMS to take them to the emergency room. Not all patients can pinpoint the details of the changes brought upon by marijuana.

But some of the changes noticed by family and friends is amotivation, apathy, odd beliefs, self-isolation and even responding to internal stimuli. What once was a fairly normal kid attending science class was now a socially awkward, disheveled kid who struggled to express himself; it’s very sad!

It’s not known whether the high concentration of THC in modern strains of marijuana causes schizophrenia or just helps accelerate it in predisposed individuals with a family history and genetic loading. Even if a user doesn’t become schizophrenic, transient psychosis is quite common with modern day strains; people either consume an edible or smoke too much and cannot handle the high for those 2-3 hours, eventually losing their mind in the process.

Some return back to reality after they come back down from the high and after receiving a dose of an antipsychotic, while some have permanently become schizophrenic. For those who have become schizophrenic, their lives have now entirely changed just because they chose to consume marijuana. It’s very important to find out if you have a family history of mental illness before you try marijuana.

As a psychiatrist, I want my patients to be as physically and mentally healthy as possible and this involves no consumption of marijuana or other drugs. Even drinking is dangerous and should be done in moderation! At the end of the day, education is important and remember that just because you’re witnessing legalization of marijuana in a lot of states and around the world, does not mean that it can’t harm your mental health!

If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your family and friends!

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The Gateway Drug

Person passing marijuana joint to another person's hand near outdoor trees

From Marijuana To Other Drugs

When people hear marijuana being the gateway drug, they are quick to become offended and dismiss the saying right away. But what they fail to admit is how marijuana increases one’s curiosity to either get higher or try a new substance that will provide a new effect. The gateway theory is not as farfetched as many would like you to believe.

Marijuana does an amazing job at enhancing your senses, making you think outside the box and helping you escape reality. Your perception while high is significantly altered: movies become more interesting, Netflix becomes your best friend, iTunes glows louder than ever before, hooking up feels better than ever before, etc.

Guess what happens when one starts coming down from a high, especially after having a good time? They want to get right back up. And that’s what they often do. The reinforcer is all the pleasurable activities that are enhanced by marijuana itself. But many eventually give up on marijuana, and not for a good reason.

They give up on it because they have lost their taste buds for the substance. They want something more potent that will take them to Pluto instead of Saturn (even though Saturn might be more safe and fun). And so that’s when marijuana users become influenced by others around them, “Hey man, have you ever tripped on acid before?”

In general, the use of marijuana can lead to an interest in recreational psychedelic use. Because high doses of marijuana itself can be a little trippy, it’s not unusual for many users to be attracted by the allure of tripping on magic mushrooms (psilocybin), LSD or even DMT.

But tripping is not done very often; nobody dedicates every weekend to using hallucinogens. So now the user scratches his or her head and thinks of a new drug to try. That’s when they become influenced by others around them again, “Hey man, there’s a party this weekend. Have you ever tried coke?”

In conclusion, that is what is meant by the gateway drug. People might wrongfully believe that “one hit of marijuana means hit one of something else”, but that’s incorrect. The gateway theory is based on the idea that regular use of marijuana can slowly spark one’s curiosity to alter his or her mind with a more powerful substance, or a substance that provides a different effect in general; not necessarily a stronger high.

That’s the gateway theory.

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