Weed and the SMI population… What we don’t really know

By John Gulka

July 7, 2019

It is not unusual for me to talk to a family who is distressed about their loved one who is suffering with a severe mental illness compounded by the fact they know they’re smoking weed.  And not occasionally, but frequently. Some even are working and hold security clearances. The family knows how badly this movie can go. Self-medicating with marijuana is not new for the severely mentally ill.  But we are learning that this may pose a far bigger risk than we previously thought.

It is almost impossible to convince someone with SMI to stop, especially since virtually all of the ‘news’ is telling us it’s being legalized across the country, even outside my area, in Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital. The common theme is that “of course it’s safe and natural”.  That just fuels your loved one’s conviction that they have a right to smoke it, eat it, and soon, drink it in an assortment of beverages coming to your town.

Rather than taking our scientific knowledge and expertise from politicians and lobbyists who have lots to gain and no risk, why isn’t there any type of FDA, NIMH or CDC series of clinical studies conducted first?

How about demanding real medical research that provides us a sound basis to decide on the merits of legalizing marijuana before letting the horse out of the barn with the official stamp of government approval?

This research would be something similar to all the research the government invested in and actually conducted to finally determine the real risks of tobacco, and specifically cigarettes, after the lobbyists and politicians made buckets of money and generations of Americans suffered with lung cancer and death.  These subsequent government actions resulted in tightened access and basically significantly reduced the product from the market. Much of this reduction in demand is due to public awareness of the risks.

The difference I ask is; shouldn’t we do this research first?

Yet, the reverse is happening with marijuana legalization with potentially damaging impact on those who cannot rationally refuse, their families and their local communities.  Here is why I raise this concern;

First, the current type of marijuana on the market in the U.S. is somewhere between 10 and 16 times more powerful than the marijuana of the 60’s and ‘70’s. The amount of the active ingredient in marijuana, delta-9 THC, during the 60-70’s was roughly 2.5%, now it is 25% to 40%.  This weed is an entirely different beast. 

There are some preliminary findings that indicate that with heavy use, this high-potency product can cause permanent brain damage to young people.  (see “POT HOLES” By Judith Grisel, May 25, 2018 in the Washington Post)https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/05/25/feature/legalizing-marijuana-is-fine-but-dont-ignore-the-science-on-its-dangers/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2217c0cce7f5

Second, why aren’t we examining and discussing western Europe’s recent
findings on the long-term effects of marijuana on its urban communities?

They’ve studied the availability of this high-potency version of weed on their populations, especially in Amsterdam, Paris, and London a lot longer than we have in the U.S. (see link to NPR twitter story March 19, 2019- Daily Marijuana Use And Highly Potent Weed Linked To Psychosis by Rhitu Chatterjee https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/03/19/704948217/daily-marijuana-use-and-highly-potent-weed-linked-to-psychosis )

  • The European studies found that heavy use of high-potency marijuana consumption and a 4-fold increase in psychosis in each of their respective populations,
  • Increased related mental health and criminal justice activities and costs to their communities
  • But these findings are not supportive of the legalization agenda and hence are not even being considered

Before we legalize this stuff, why don’t we complete a series of deep-dive clinical studies on the effects of this super-potent variety of marijuana on the market with specific human populations?

Here are a few groups that deserve consideration;

  • Young people, 18-25 and maybe another younger pool (if it can be done legally and safely)
  • Adults suffering with specific types of severe mental illnesses
    • Schizophrenia
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Clinical depression
  • Another to examine these types of  brain disorders such as:
    • Severe Anxiety
    • ADD/ADHD
    • OCD
    • Anorexia / Bulimia
  • Adults suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer’s

What can you do? Email/write to your U.S. Congressional Representative and Senator and your State representatives and Governor and get funding and action started on this research.

Get this issue made public, put on the table for research funding and hopefully, properly addressed.

About admin

I've been helping a loved one suffering with SMI for over 35 years in my family. Over the last fifteen years I've discovered and developed paths for hundreds of others across the country to secure help within the complex system of our local city and county government-based mental health programs to help get your loved one to a more stable life and hopeful improvement in their lives and yours. I am doing this as a special service through my business consulting firm in order to reach you and offer a path.

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