Marijuana is much stronger than it was when I was smoking pot in the 80s. Most findings suggest on average it is 20 times stronger. While we believe that it is clearly the least harmful drug available to people today, alcohol not withstanding, pot can have extremely detrimental effects on people who use over the long term. It is not so much a gateway drug. That myth has been debunked because most researchers have found that people who smoke pot first were genetically more likely to use any drugs to begin with and therefore they just started with weed since it’s the most benign and most readily available. Then they moved on to harder substances but it’s not the weed that acted as a gateway and “caused” them to graduate to heavier drugs. It was this inherited predisposition to use drugs and multiple drugs in the first place. As this is still debated some, from a parents perspective we want to delay delay delay our kids exposure to pot and alcohol for that matter.
Weed does pack a wallop these days. In general researchers and professionals agree that marijuana affects most people in three ways negatively. First, it affects and hampers short term memory. Second, it can zap motivation. Third, marijuana can exacerbate a tendency towards mental illness. It doesn’t cause mental illness but if you have a predilection towards bipolar, anxiety, depression etc., then smoking weed can make that worse.
Pot clearly affects everyone differently. Some of our clients say it makes them anxious and some of them say that if they don’t smoke pot in the morning before going to work then they get sick and throw up with anxiety. Over time though, our experience is that most people find that there are considerable consequences from smoking weed. That said, we practice harm reduction and since times are changing and marijuana is used medically and in recreational ways in many states, it is also being used to allay anxiety for some patients and as an aid in withdrawal from alcohol, heroin and other drug use. This is controversial at best but it is common.
While we would encourage clients to stop or cut back their use of pot many of our clients want to continue to use weed while they work on staying clean from other harder and more dangerous drugs. From a harm reduction standpoint this is still a valid approach and we will support folks with whichever approach on which they wish to embark.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse’s Research Report Series, discusses the consequences of marijuana abuse, its impact on the brain, health and more.
From The University of Maryland Center for Substance Abuse Research, a detailed profile of marijuana.
Support Groups – 12 Step
Marijuana Is Gateway Drug for Two Debates (Kershaw, Sarah and Cathcart, Rebecca, The New York Times 7/17/09)
The debate of increase in potency of marijuana when comparing today’s strains with that of the 1970’s, is there really anything to worry about?
Marijuana Smokers Who Start Early Are at Greatest Risk, Study Finds (Rabin, Roni Caryn, The New York Times, 11/15/10)
McLean Hospital researchers found that young adults who began consistently smoking regularly in their early teens performed significantly worse on cognitive tests assessing brain function when compared to subjects who were at least 16 when they started smoking.