President Obama’s comments regarding marijuana, as he compared it to smoking cigarettes and stating that it is no more dangerous than alcohol “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer” concerns me as a Psychotherapist, as a parent, as a person. It concerns me when a person who is in such a position of power to be heard by so many, plays a part in leading many into darkness. Or perhaps he is simply following the many down the dark path we have created for ourselves, rather than trying to help us to steer the other way. Below you will find my interview on FOX News Channel’s Your World With Neil Cavuto which aired LIVE on Monday evening 1/20/14, where I shared my insights on President Obama’s marijuana comments. In addition, you will also find below my blog article sharing my additional thoughts and commentary on this important topic. I decided to write this particular blog, as I have received much reaction to my appearance via email, Facebook, and twitter. Reaction ranged from much appreciation of my stance to stark disagreement. For the many that shared with me how helpful they found my insight and asked if I would share more information on my thoughts regarding marijuana so that they can become further informed, this blog is for you! I hope the various talking points below you find informative.
Since 1993 I have been providing talk therapy for individuals (adults and youth), families, and couples – I see the destructive effects marijuana has on the individual, and on their family. Dependency * escapism * isolation * addiction * de-motivation * impulsive reactive response * lack of coping productively with life’s challenges * a lack of confronting life’s challenges * gateway- the yearning for a stronger drug for a higher high and taking action on that… these are just but a few of the effects I have seen over the course of my 20+ years in talking with real people.
Accepting and promoting unhealthy choices
From an overall perspective – we have become a culture of not only accepting unhealthy choices, but promoting it. We are a society with a problem! A big problem! What some view as a vice and/or a part of socializing (e.g., alcohol), others self destruct when they use that very same drug and destroy lives around them. Marijuana, alcohol, heroine, cocaine, pain killers, the over-medication of our youth culture, the over-medication of adults . . . What about addiction to the games some play on their cell phone and other unhealthy choices like texting while driving due to the “need” to respond right away? What about having a marital affair to escape emotionally from our current relationship instead of confronting the problem and working hard on the relationship? This too is yet another example of acceptance and promotion of unhealthy choices.
Indeed, we are a society with a problem and the problem is that far too many are accepting and promoting what the actual problem is – disguising it as acceptable – furthering our problem. Our problem is one of addictive dependency which is destructive to the individual self and one’s relationships (e.g., spouse, partner, family, children). It is the very denial of this addictive dependency that furthers the acceptance and promotion of it.
Too many are acting like it is no big deal to legalize marijuana. It is a big deal. For this leads youth to view it as safe. Further accessibility and tolerance leads to increased consumption and acceptance of what is not healthy. Changes in beliefs and attitudes drives changes in drug use.
Do not turn a blind eye and accept marijuana use in your teen, simply because other teens are using. And/or because of the growing acceptance as legalization continues to be on the forefront. The more accepting we become as adults, as parents, the more accepting our children become, their children and their children’s children. What will future generations look like? Marijuana addiction for the youth population is a growing risk as society become more tolerant. Rasmussen report: More 12th graders are smoking marijuana than cigarettes since the 1970’s and marijuana is stronger. (Prime example of the growing acceptance among our youth culture as the years move onward- disturbing).
Subjective vs. objective commentary
President Obama’s statement about marijuana is subjective not objective, let’s be mindful of this. His subjectivity is based on his own experience stating that he smoked pot as a kid. His inference is that his experience is what is the reality for all. Which is certainly not the case. Do know, far too many don’t stop smoking marijuana once they start, it becomes a lifestyle of increase in quantity of how often and/or increase in quantity per smoking session. Do know for far too many marijuana is an addiction, a dependency – as it is their lifestyle. Those who live a lifestyle of marijuana as being a regular part of their life do not view it as an addiction, and rather, just normal. But… that IS addiction- if you need to use a drug with consistency to feel normal, then you are addicted, you are dependent on that drug- to feel normal! You can live a lifestyle of a new norm – without marijuana, I dare you. Do know far too many start with marijuana and enter into a lifestyle of harder drugs. Do know far too many are not meeting their fullest potential as they are drugged down.
President Obama’s statement suggests this is a race issue. He stated that “minority kids” are arrested for marijuana but that “middle class” kids are not. We have a drug problem on our hands here- race, religion, gender, age, socio-economic status, size, shape – drugs does not discriminate and drugs are powerful in that they can hurt anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Research shows marijuana can cause problems in one’s daily life and/or exacerbate already existing problems. (It is always so sad the far too many cases of families where the 20 something year old who had so much promise as a youngster lives at home with his parents not working, not going to school, smokes pot, and does not believe there is something wrong with that picture of reliance on his parents).
Research shows that long term marijuana abuse can lead to compulsive drug seeking, despite the harmful effects it has on functioning in all contexts of one’s life (e.g., family, recreation, school, work).
Research explains that people exposed to marijuana as young teens are more likely to become dependent on other drugs (e.g., cocaine, heroin, pain killers). This is indeed an example of marijuana being a gateway drug for far too many.
Are we living in a science fiction/comedy movie? Logical/Intellectual Mind VS. Emotional Mind – It’s a battle to the finish!
If this weren’t such a serious problem, and if we were watching this story of ‘the life of marijuana’ in the lives of people unfold via a science fiction movie with a comedic twist- perhaps we as the audience would be laughing at the insanity of this, the lunacy, the ridiculousness of it all. Imagine- we as human beings understand logically and intellectually that chemical substances are bad for us. Even if we don’t know all the details of how it is bad. Even if we don’t have all the specifics, we comprehend, our mind understands that drugs are bad. We see it before our eyes through the years and in the present- that drugs destroy. Right? Right! It appears to me that the emotional mind (the part of the brain that wants what it wants when it wants it) is winning the fight, the battle between ‘logic mind vs. emotional mind’. Each time emotional mind wins, the emotional mind’s muscle grows stronger eventually taking over the logic mind. Eventually leaving the logical intellectual mind to think that the emotional mind is right.
Alcohol = bad (e.g., driving drunk injures or kills, addiction, affects mood and behavior and family relationships…). Cigarettes = bad (e.g., causes lung cancer, addictive…). Cocaine, heroine, molly, pain killers = bad, bad, bad. Yet, there is this yearning desire where far too many say; “but… marijuana is okay”. “Marijuana is not as bad as ________”, “Marijuana is just as bad as __________”, Marijuana is no worse than _______”, … Any and all forms of a statement of which marijuana is being compared to any other dangerous, hurtful, brain altering, negative affecting, cognitive affecting drug, or even for it to stand on it’s own not being compared – all of it is outrageous and ridiculous. Drugs are bad!
Back in the 80’s when I was a teenager there was a commercial on TV, it sticks in my mind after all these years. For those of you old enough to remember it, I am aging myself now, the commercial went something like this. “This is your brain (visually we the viewers see an egg in a shell), this is your brain on drugs (visually as the viewer we then see the egg is cracked and splattered in a frying pan cooking).” That’s it, bottom line!
Note: I just looked on the internet to see if this old video I am referencing from the Partnership For A Drug Free America is available to view, back when I had a black and white TV, no remote, and bunny ears on the top to help with the static. Abracadabra I found a video on youtube showing the ol’ 80’s original TV commercial: This Is Your Brain On Drugs. Amazing what you can find if you take a moment to search. Check it out.
Heart: Research shows there’s an increase in heart rate by 20-100% soon after smoking marijuana which can last up to 3 hours. Marijuana affects heart rhythms causing palpitations. (Yet this dangerous physical response to the individual consumer is ignored emotionally and intellectually by far too many).
Lungs: Marijuana contains 50-70% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke. (A fact many people ignore, interesting considering all of the anti cigarette smoking campaigns).
Fertility: Research shows us that long term use of marijuana does affect fertility in both men and women. E.g., for men, marijuana causes a lower sperm count and a smaller volume of seminal fluid.
Erectile dysfunction: Research shows marijuana use can lead to erectile dysfunction due to its ability to suppress hormones that are important to the male reproductive system.
Infant risk: Research suggest an increased risk of motor, social, and cognitive disturbances in infants who were exposed to cannabis prenatally.
Fetus risk: Research shows that marijuana use can cause chromosomal abnormalities in the sperm, and therefore a parent’s marijuana use could cause harmful genetic effects in the fetus.
Question: Is marijuana addictive?
Answer: It is a myth to believe marijuana is not addictive. Let’s end this debate right now. How many times have I heard the marijuana user say: “I can stop right now, so it’s not addictive. I just am deciding not to stop”. Too many times! Research shows that long term users feel “off” and dysphoric if they have not used recently. Which leads them to continue to use. That IS addiction, that IS dependency.
When you speak with long term users, they report the need to use more to reach the same high they used to. In addition, marijuana is reportedly much stronger than long ago.
Question: Why does the marijuana user want to continue to use marijuana, and therefore some will even become argumentative when a person such as myself suggests the idea of marijuana being ruled out as an option to have in one’s life?
Answer: Marijuana makes them feel good. Compounds in marijuana bind to the brain’s cannabinoid receptors triggering dopamine release which is what results in a high. The good feeling described from using is tied to the dopamine based reward system in the brain’s nucleus accumbens region. Long term use inhibits the brains natural cannabinoids.
Tip: Certain foods that are high in tyrosine which is the natural building block of dopamine (e.g., chicken, oatmeal, edamame, dark chocolate, sea weed) as well as exercise, can increase your dopamine levels. Great news right? A healthier option than marijuana.
Question: If there’s medicinal qualities to marijuana, are you against using it for those who really could benefit from it (e.g., cancer patients going through chemotherapy)?
Answer: The cannabis plant contains ingredients with medicinal potential (e.g., stimulates appetite, controls nausea, relieves pain). I’d be interested in considering the potential for marijuana to be sold in the pharmacy for very specific limited medical cases. If the intent is truly for medicinal purposes for those cases that marijuana is the necessary “medicine” (e.g., cancer patients going through chemotherapy). If only it could be that simple, huh. I absolutely do not believe in selling marijuana in a “ginger bread house” for all the world to come and partake, asserting it’s for medical reasons, when far too often it is for recreational use. We are becoming a culture of mini bake shops- this is not wise, and certainly not structured just for the real medical consumer.
Various studies show the connection between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of mental illness (e.g., depression, anxiety, schizophrenia).
Research suggests it is not clear whether marijuana causes certain mental health problems or if rather it exacerbates it, and/or if users are self medicating their pre-existing symptoms through the use of marijuana. Certainly depending on the user, one could suggest any one or more of these is accurate.
Marijuana negatively affects the user’s cognitive functioning – which in turn affects the choices one makes, and how one feels about those choices. The mood of a human being is significantly impacted by one’s choices, and how one feels about their choices. Mood is directly tied into the mental health and wellness of people.
Marijuana affects the cognitive functioning of people of all ages. Marijuana intoxication has been reported to cause distorted perceptions, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, memory and learning impairment, as well as impaired coordination.
The young person’s developing brain
Marijuana is reported to interfere with the cognitive processes of a young person’s developing brain. Specifically, marijuana interferes with cannabinoid receptors in areas of the brain crucial to several of one’s cognitive functioning. The areas most especially affected includes: a) amygdala (emotional control), b) hippocampus (memory), and c) cerebellum (movement).
Click On The Play Button Below To Watch: Dr. Karen Ruskin’s interview on FOX News Channel’s Your World With Neil Cavuto: Pres Obama’s Marijuana Comments Sparks Debate
Provided below are several links, which includes the research mentioned in this blog article, of which you are invited to read for further information: