Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Why Smoking Marijuana is Bad

     There are good and bad things about marijuana.  These are the bad things, and they're forbidding enough for a physician, to recommend against all recreational use of the drug.
     1.   It engenders lassitude.  Though translated by users as "mellowing out," the emotional vacuity incurred by using marijuana leaves them with a sense of not having to do anything.  Prior stated ambitions and dreams fall by the wayside.  Among those of my patients who enjoyed getting high there was a high degree of stasis in their lives.  I'd ask, "Where do you see yourself in one year, five years and ten years?" and they'd answer with high-minded aspirations.  "I'm going to finish college."  "I think I'll become an engineer."  "I'd like to start a band."  "I plan to get a job, buy a house, have a family."   But time passed and they made minimal efforts in the direction of their goals.  I would ask, over the years, "What happened to your plan to go back to college?"  Oddly, they didn't know, they had no substitute ambitions, and they weren't worrying about it.
     The opposite of lassitude is concern, maybe even worry.  Worry may not be such a bad thing, if it spurs one to problem-solving and action.  I have watched many privileged lives drift into marijuana-laced nullity.  In light of the suffering of humanity and our need for solutions, this seems a dire loss;  and given the panoply of emotional experience that might flavor and scintillate life, it's regrettable that anyone should choose neutrality, which is a kind of death.
     2.  It worsens forgetfulness.  Our brains are programmed to fall into forgetfulness, an adaptive mechanism which allows life-sustaining subject matter to occupy the forefront of our attention as inessential impressions fall away.  Using marijuana seems to enhance the forgetfulness function of the brain.  Many studies have confirmed the loss of short-term memory when smoking marijuana, but I was able to observe long-term memory loss in my patients as well, especially the odd circumstance of forgetting who one truly is.  Not the details, like name, birthdate or social security number, but the big who-am-I that serves as a reference point for everything we undertake.  I have to assume that one of the chemical effects of cannabanoids is to sedate the inspiration-sustained compartments of memory, the ones that give us identity and propel us into our futures.  "Who are you?" I would ask, and they answer might as well have been, "I forget."
     3.  It causes dysregulation of one's rational apparatus.  Imagine a rabbit on weed.  How long would it survive in a tree-studded meadow where a family of hawks was circling overhead?  Would it take note, and run for cover, or would it slacken into a euphoric haze and get snatched for supper?  Imagine a fish whose circulation was infused with cannabis:  could it make those abrupt about-faces and dart instantaneously under a reef when a bigger fish appears, or not?   GIs going into battle had better not be high, because the subtle reflexes that make or break a person in treacherous circumstances are slowed by marijuana.  Humans depend less on quick reflexes to survive, and more on our capacity for rational thought.   When patients under the influence of marijuana came to see me I had great difficulty getting them to represent their symptoms in a rational way, nor could I appeal to them on the basis of logic.  They were like people with half a frontal lobe, half the part of the brain that commands and controls.  How can this be conducive to survival?
     4.  It makes people boring and trite.  A party where partygoers start smoking marijuana quickly becomes a huge bore to anyone who doesn't partake.  The smokers think they have portentous things to impart, but what comes out is lackluster, or insensible.  They want to communicate deep feeling, but whatever they're feeling, it's impossible to share because they can't carry on intelligible conversation.  PET scans in marijuana users show decreased circulation to the temporal lobes of the brain, accompanied by impaired cognition.  Marijuana has a dumbing-down effect, and smokers seem self-involved and self-important.  They talk a lot, say very little, and ask no questions--the definition of boring.
     5.  It causes dry mouth, which leads to tooth decay and loss of teeth.  Many drugs, including marijuana, slow saliva production, cause bad breath, and increase the risk for cavities.  Combined with the who-cares mentality that typifies regular marijuana users, dental hygiene suffers.
     6.  It leads to dependency.   Medical studies of marijuana have demonstrated long-term changes in brain function that are typical of addicts.  Marijuana dependency is especially prevalent in those who start smoking in their teens:  the earlier, the worse.   The DSM-IV definition of substance abuse applies to "people who use a substance repeatedly and to their personal detriment."  It has been shown that marijuana users have a diminished ability to plan ahead or control self-defeating behaviors, and therefore fit the psychiatric definition of addicts.  The risk of true marijuana addiction (9%) is lower than with tobacco (38%) or heroin (23%), but it's not zero.  When marijuana smokers try to quit, they realize how habituated to the chemical they really are.  For most, even when they say, "I can quit any time," it ends up being very difficult to do.
     7.  It's can be a substitute for psychological counseling and self-understanding.  Sometimes marijuana smokers justify using the drug as a path to self-knowledge.  Others aver that they're self-treating for anxiety.  In fact, marijuana can cause anxiety, panic, paranoia, depression, and delusions.  Those who use it to treat anxiety find that when they reduce their marijuana use even a little, they experience anxiety that is worse than it ever was in that distant past prior to ever smoking.  Anxiety, depression, panic and paranoia are calls from the deeper sectors of one's personality to come to terms with aspects of the self that have been repressed.  Self-knowledge is a good thing, but it is best achieved in psychotherapy with an expert, or in empathic counseling with anyone who has suffered and come through that suffering with greater consciousness.
     8.  It causes lung disease, cancer and infections.  Like tobacco and other particulate substances, marijuana causes emphysema.  But marijuana has higher concentrations than tobacco of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that cause cancer.  Marijuana smoke increases the enzymes in alveolar tissue that convert these polycarbons into carcinogens, which in turn give rise to cellular chromosomal changes that trigger cancer.  Marijuana smokers have higher rates of lung, mouth, throat and prostate cancer than nonsmokers.  There is increased mortality in AIDS patients who smoke marijuana because of the toxicity of marijuana to the immune system.  Marijuana smokers in general have five times the rate of bronchitis as nonsmokers, and lower performance on lung capacity tests.  In mice who were infected with herpes, THC caused pneumonia and death.
     9.  It worsens heart disease.  The right heart pumps blood to the lungs for oxygenation, then draws it back to the left heart where it is pumped through the aorta to the general circulation.  Any substance that damages the lungs can worsen heart disease.  Marijuana is an irritant to lung alveoli--smokers have twice the number of macrophages in their airways as nonsmokers, and four times as many if they use both tobacco and marijuana.  Macrophages are cells that are commissioned by an overwhelmed immune system to "clean up" toxins and dead tissue, and therefore signify a crisis in whatever part of the body they populate.  Marijuana increases heart rate and inhibits the natural mechanism that helps us regulate blood pressure when we change position, which may account for the dizzying effect some people experience when they smoke it.
    10.  It affects production of reproductive hormones.  Therefore, it reduces fertility.  In addition, when women smoke marijuana during pregnancy, they have lower birthweight babies and poorer pregnancy outcomes.
    11.  It impairs driving.  Many of my marijuana-smoking patients claimed that, unlike alcohol, marijuana was safe to use when driving.  But medical studies don't substantiate this.  Marijuana has an affect on the temporal lobes that reduces sensitivity to sounds and affects driving by altering the user's ability to respond to environmental cues.  It slows attention and reduces muscular coordination, qualities necessary for safe driving.  In flight simulation tests pilots who smoked marijuana demonstrated reduced flying performance, even when they claimed certainty that their performance wouldn't be affected, indicating an unawareness in smokers of how the drug alters their sensibilities.  Would you want the commercial pilot on your next flight to smoke a joint or two before getting in the cockpit?
     12.  It increases appetite and decreases the desire to move.  In a nation that is fat and indolent, by comparison to others, any substance that makes us eat more and exercise less has to be bad.
     13.  It is a "reinforcer."  Reinforcers are drugs that make us want to use them more.  Xanax (alprazolam) is the most addictive prescription medicine in the world, because it works so well.  It's a reinforcer, and is therefore very dangerous.  The better a drug makes someone feel, the more the person wants to use it.  It may be the effect of increasing dopamine in the brain that makes marijuana act as a reinforcer, but the dependency marijuana users experience (and deny) is probably a direct result of its reinforcing effect.
     14.  It is commonly used by people who also smoke cigarettes and use alcohol.  Seventy percent of marijuana users also smoke tobacco.  A significant proportion have more than one or two alcoholic drinks a day.  The combined toxicities of these substances is more than additive, making it far more likely that marijuana users will suffer health problems than nonusers.
     15.  It causes lipomas, or fatty tumors.  The chemicals in marijuana are lipophilic, a term that means they have an affinity for fat and settle in fatty tissue.  I have removed many large, sometimes painful lipomas from patients, and although I didn't keep track of the numbers, it seemed to my staff and me that a very high proportion were in marijuana users.  The fatty growths may be a way for the human body to consolidate toxins that are otherwise difficult to excrete.  Lipomas are lumps like encapsulated globs of yellow chicken fat under the skin.  They grow, over time, and can be unsightly and uncomfortable, requiring surgical excision.
     
     If you'd like to download a free PDF book on all the research on marijuana, check out the following.

14 comments:

  1. Excellent post. It is interesting how potheads will reject peer-reviewed studies that identify harms while embracing any flimsy study that suggests a medicinal benefit.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I hope you are not going to tell us the good things about marijuana. I do not know anyone who smokes, anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does not appear that you can read and comprehend English.

      Delete
  3. The good things, such as they are, may be found in the PDF link provided at the end of the article on marijuana.

    ReplyDelete
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  7. A long boring post with inaccurate everything. None of these points are valid, and some don't even make sense! I've been smoking for over 10 years while being able to hold a steady job and going through college. I know a LOT of potheads - most of them are intelligent and smart people. Parties that have weed are anything but boring lol. This whole nonsense seems to be written by ignorant people expressing their opinion without having done any research, or even trying weed!

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