Marijuana and other drug use on the rise: The War Continues

This past week a lady in Port Isabel was killed in a crash involving a motorcyclist who police allege tested positive for being under the influence of Cannabis and Alcohol.

There is no doubt that the use, mis-use, abuse, and deaths due to both licit and illicit drugs continue to rise in our nation.

The Centers for Disease Control tells us that over 70,000 individuals die each year as a result of Opioid overdose, which are 200 individuals per day.

Alcohol related deaths continue to rise. We have lost more individuals in our nation to drugs and alcohol than all of the wars that we have been involved in since the birth of our nation. The major war we have been fighting for many years is within the borders of our nation…the war on drugs; and despite our well meaning intentions we have made little headway.

Our citizenry becomes quite excited and motivated when a few people have been slain in our public schools and other entities, yet the zeal and ardor is not there for the major problems of drug and alcohol abuse…the deaths and family destruction from which are ignored or go unnoticed by our populous.

I vividly remember the protesting groups during the Vietnam War, protesting the deaths of our military and the War in general; they numbered in the millions. As with other protest groups aimed at our government, there was never one aimed at the tragedies of drug abuse.

It seems that the only persons and groups concerned about the problem were the professionals working in the field of drug abuse and chemical dependency; in their administrative efforts, their writings, public presentations, etc; and of course in their treatment efforts.

For you who know me, and you familiar with my column over time, are well aware that I am an opponent to the legalization of cannabis for recreational use.

Yes my friends, drug and alcohol use, mis-use, and abuse continues to rise in our nation. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), in collaboration with the University of Michigan, just released their annual study of high school students in the U.S.

If we just look at the study of Marijuana among all of the drugs of the study; it tells us that “Marijuana use rises among adolescents.”

Among the study’s marijuana-related findings were: 37.1 percent of 12th graders have used marijuana with the past year; 5.9 percent of 12th graders use marijuana daily; 39.9 percent of high school seniors have used an illicit drug within the past year; and most remarkably, 71 percent of high school seniors say they do not view regular marijuana smoking as harmful, yet quite ironically (and seemingly a contradiction) 64.7 percent say they disapprove of regular marijuana use.

Recent studies have also been released that tell us that marijuana is indeed a “Gateway Drug,” leading to the use of even more potent chemical substances such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, etc. (an issue which was negated in the past).

What are the reasons for this shifting focus on marijuana use and abuse? Why has marijuana reached the point of “normalization” within our society?

There are a number of reasons why there has been an increase in Marijuana use in our nation. One major reason has been the enactment of legislation for the legal “recreational” use of marijuana in 9 states; Alaska, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Colorado, Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts; plus in our Nation’s Capital.

The legislation was proposed and enacted on despite, and in genuine defiance, of Federal Laws prohibiting the growing; distribution, sales, and use of the drug Cannabis in our Nation.

Now, I do not discuss politics in my column, and I want to make it clear that I only deal in truths and realism. The “Cultural Revolution” of the late 1960s and early 1970s led the way to changing cultural values within our society; and were conducted by the liberalized populous of the aforementioned states. Their views have been widespread, and are represented by a great number of individuals in all of the States, and have even trickled down even to our Lower Rio Grande Valley populous.

Our youth are readily aware of those states and their marijuana laws, and many of our youth who smoke/ingest marijuana will cite this as a reason for their use…”it’s legal in (state), so there is nothing wrong with my using it.”

Another major reason for the increase in use of marijuana in our nation, and leading to its dependency is the potency of the drug itself. The psychoactive chemical contained in marijuana is tetrahydrocanabinol delta 9 (THC). Cannabis THC has increased in strength during the past half century.

In the 1960s, cannabis products contained from 1 percent to 5 percent of THC by weight; today, products contain as much as 15 percent to 25 percent by weight, and even 30 percent or greater. This leads to the “immediate high” that the user is looking for; for escape, relaxation, mood enhancement, etc. Yet we in the addictions field our most aware of the complications of use present, and the increase in diagnosable conditions relative to the drug…Cannabis Use Disorders.

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-V), which is the manual used by physicians and others working in the field of Mental Health and Substance Use; lists the diagnostic criteria for Cannabis: Cannabis Intoxication, Cannabis Use Disorder, Cannabis Withdrawal, and Other Cannabis-Induced Disorders ( Cannabis Intoxication delirium, cannabis-induced psychotic disorder, cannabis- induced anxiety disorder, cannabis-induced sleep disorder, and unspecified cannabis-induced disorder).

My colleagues and I are most aware of these diagnoses, and I have counseled and treated many thousands of individuals with these diagnoses over the years. We are equally aware of the destruction Cannabis has caused to the individual, their families, other people, and our society as a whole.

Our youth really need to be made aware of all of the negative consequences of smoking or otherwise ingesting cannabis products. They need to be made aware of the facts, not the myths and misconceptions surrounding the drug.

Until next time, Stay Healthy My Friends!