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As more and more states move towards legalizing marijuana, professionals such as those in the mental health field need to contribute to the round table discussions to complete the "health" debate. Since marijuana has been endorsed by the medical industry as a helpful medicine for certain illnesses, a lot of young people tend to think that it is has healing properties for the body. If it was so harmful why do doctors think it is ok for their patients? They make a good point.
Yes, it is true that medicinal marijuana has been endorsed by the medical industry for its benefits in terminal or debilitating illnesses such as, HIV, cancer (reducing nausea from chemotherapy and increasing appetite), chronic pain, anorexia (due to the "munchies") and multiple sclerosis (reduces muscle spasticity). However, research has shown that it has unfavorable and inhibiting effects on healthy individuals, especially those under the age of 25, who consume recreational marijuana.
How can the same substance cause opposite effects?
I know, it is mind boggling but what we don't know is that medical marijuana is a controlled substance bought with a prescription. Whereas recreational marijuana is grown locally sometimes in homes with no control for THC levels (the psychoactive substance that gives you a high). Although marijuana has been around for centuries, the nature of this drug has evolved with THC levels going from approximately 4 (back in the day) to now- up to 40. What does this mean?
That is why it is becoming a problem now than ever before especially with adolescents and young adults.
What are some perceived harms and benefits in users and non-users?
Marijuana is a sensitive topic for many, especially if the dichotomy remains users and non-users. It's almost like vanilla and chocolate. You do or you don't. There is a huge discrepancy between those who consume and those who don't. First of all, the person who consumes will most likely read this and immediately get defensive. Why did she say "use?" It's not like its heroin or cocaine. Those who enjoy smoking weed hate to be compared to those who do "hard drugs." But what is a hard drug? If we know that THC levels are uncontrolled for and surpassing the amount we considered normal years ago- and we have evidence of dependence to this substance and impairment or that this may lead to smoking weed with crack sprinkled on it- does this make it a hard drug? For sure, we see more and more people defending the subject matter because they do not want to be associated with the terms "drug use" or "addicts"- both words have negative connotations and they have not seen the whole picture due to the ambiguity around the topic. I think this has proved most harmful to adolescents who think they have got their hands on the lesser of two evils or college students who use this to manage anxiety. It certainly has impairing effects on productivity or motivation in addition to sleep, anxiety, and depression.
In my experience, what has worked best to approach conversations like these, is to have an open conversation about the topic. Don't present as judgmental. They won't stop just because you want them to. So don't focus your energy on getting them -
"on your side."
It is important to understand what they have already done their homework, and are ready for you to challenge them. Therefore, refrain from preaching because-
they really don't want to hear it. Instead, invite them to have a dialogue so that you can understand their perspective on the subject matter.
I always say- it’s kind of like chocolate cake. Some people can have it and get fat while others can have it and it won’t affect their weight. Both may love it but the effects on their body are different. The exposure to toxins in the body from a health perspective remain, as well as damage done to your lungs, heart etc. from smoking.
I have seen an increasing amount of clients deny or refuse to pay attention to how this substance affects their productivity, hygiene, mood, etc. If you want to be the better judge of whether weed serves you or not, pay attention to the nature of your thoughts, elicited emotions, routine, hygiene, food consumption, and overall functioning with it and then without it. Also record the amount and times you consume. Record it in writing in a journal and do this for 3 weeks. Most importantly, get some outside perspective about your behavior from people close to you in your environment, who watch you or interact with you regularly.
There is no better science than the science of our own body.