Wellness: Marijuana: Increase in Potency, Increase in Risks

MGN Online

Dr. Ralph E. Jones, Special to the Star

Since there have been States passing measures to legalize Cannabis for recreational use for adults aged 21 years and older within the past year, The legalized growing of Cannabis has led to increased potency of the drug. This highly potent “weed” has swept the market, raising concerns about increased health risks.

Clearly one-third of marijuana has become stronger in THC. In 1995, the potency of THC in all marijuana grown was about 4%. In 2017 this had climbed to 17%; that’s a 300% increase from 1995. The higher levels of THC means higher levels of risk for those who consume the product; such as ER visits, driving under the influence, and a myriad of other problems. Of recent note, and as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and other public and private agencies, has been an upswing in Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome; Severe abdominal pain and vomiting, which have caused increases ER visits, most particularly in those states which have witnessed an increase in potency of the chemical, e.g. California and Colorado. There reportedly been an increased number of other diagnoses in ER visits, to include hallucinations, depression, anxiety, and attempted suicide.

In all of this taking place while the use of Cannabis is still against Federal Law. Also of note was the approval of the use of Cannabis for specific medical diagnosis by 4 more states, bringing that total up to 28 States now. The legislation to allow marijuana for recreational use comes to no surprise to my colleagues and I, as those States have traditionally been comprised of a majority of citizens who place their emotions over their intellect…in short they have the concept of “if it feels good, do it!” They have not thought through the dire consequences that result from their actions. The States that have the legislation already in practice have seen an increase in crime, and increase in school drop-out rates, and other problems that I have previously written about in this column. Yet, driven by the proponent media, organizations concerned with legalization, and other proponents; the majority of the people has spoken, and has voted to maintain and produce more “Stoners.” Yes, my friends, that is what this is really all about…to alter the mind with a psycho-active substance.

Federal law continues to place Cannabis into the Schedule 1 category, which identifies it as a substance with a high potential for abuse and dependency; which prohibits its growing, possession, distributing, and selling as well. And, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has no plans to amend this policy, despite opponents pleading to place Cannabis into a lower drug category. The control of Cannabis for medical purpose, without the psychoactive ingredient of Delta 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), continues to be approved for research and use in those 28 states now, our state being one of those, under strict guidelines for prescribed specific diagnosis.

Former US Surgeon General Richard Carmona, in a statement released at the beginning last year made a statement “Urging against hasty adoption of laws that would legalize Marijuana for recreation and medical uses.” He went on to state, “As of today, it appears that the proverbial cart has been placed before the horse and the horse is blinded by the cloud of smoke.” He continued to point out that “Marijuana impairs normal brain development in those who start using at an early age, and also impairs driving ability…and the short and long term use generates a significant cloud of complications and preventable illness which ultimately we will all pay for.” He further states, “This discussion is neither ‘pro nor con’ for medical or recreational use of Marijuana, it us intended to provide a scientific informed consent discussion with our elected leaders and the public in order that appropriate prospective policy may be promulgated before expanded marijuana use.” The States that passed such legislation ignored his statements as well as other professionals in the field of addiction studies, as well as the American Medical Association…which passed a resolution in 2013 stating that marijuana is a dangerous drug and a threat to public health.

As with alcohol, approximately 10% of those who consume these drugs will become addicted to the substance; meeting the criteria for Cannabis Dependence under the guidelines of the Diagnosis and Statistical Manual (DSM). For every dollar spent on alcohol and marijuana, 10 dollars will be spent on the treatment and preventative efforts. The states that already passed the legalization are coming to grips with that fact. The abuse and dependency to ethyl alcohol already causes many problems in our society, why add to that with yet another drug that has potential for abuse and dependency? One half of our nation’s population says they support legalization of Cannabis. Our Great State of Texas has yet to yield to this, maintaining intellect over emotions we oppose the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. We professionals in the mental health and substance abuse arena, as well as the National Association of Addiction Professionals and other organizations, also take a strict oppositional stand against such legislation…we know firsthand the harm that Cannabis has caused to our youth, adults, the family, and to our nation as a whole.

Children learn primarily through the example of adults; their parents, teachers, and other family members and adult role models. As such, the consumption of abusive chemical substances by those associated with our youth, through their actions, plays a most important role in youth abuse of substances. Most importantly when these chemicals are made available to our youth by significant others, they are often given the substances in different forms by adults, or find other means to take them. Such has often been the experience gained by the States who have legalized Cannabis products, such as in Colorado; the emergency room visits by youth who have ingested cannabis products, the emulation of adults by smoking or ingesting cannabis, traffic accidents and fatalities, etc., all on the rise in that State and the others who have had their laws in place for a few years now.

Are other states to follow suit in the passage to legalize the recreational use of Cannabis? Will the majority of our citizenry continue to promote intellect over emotions? Or will we indeed become a nation of “Stoners.” That measure is entirely in our hands. I know I will continue to oppose legislation for the abuse of this psycho active substance, and I hope that you will also. This is not a political issue; it is an “intellect over emotion,” common sense issue. Until Next Time, Stay Healthy My Friends!