Expert Corner: Can Marijuana Be Dangerous?

Expert Corner: Can Marijuana Be Dangerous?

Expert Corner QuestionI just read that a bunch of people in Colorado are getting hospitalized for too much marijuana usage, but everything I’ve heard is that pot isn’t addictive or dangerous. What’s the truth? Is pot actually addictive and do you treat people for smoking it?

 

Elevate Expert AnswerWhat I hear about more than people smoking pot is that people are being hospitalized for ingesting edibles such as cookies, brownies, gummy bears, etc. Many people don’t pay attention to the dose and eat an entire cookie when the dose was for 1/6th of a cookie. That 1/6 was likely a very potent dose already and now you’ve just multiplied it by 6!

To someone with a high tolerance, this may not be that dangerous. But to someone who doesn’t use pot regularly, and then eats 6 times the amount of an already strong dose, that’s when bad things really can happen. People can hallucinate heavily or pass out cold, they can get seriously sick – you name it. There is nowhere near the amount of medical research regarding eating marijuana edibles than there is from smoking it. The body processes the two differently.

I’d venture to say that if you are smoking it and you feel like you’re having too much, you stop smoking and can control it better than if you have eaten it. When you eat it, you’re getting that dose regardless of if it’s too much for you. You won’t be able to gauge your threshold. It’s in you and you will have to deal with the effects.

Let me say this though: There are absolutely medicinal benefits to pot. Someone with cancer will probably do better with pot than taking a bunch of pharmaceuticals that stress the liver. Cannabinoid oil also appears to be very effective in managing seizures. I hope to see more research conducted, as I believe it is very promising to help manage medical conditions.

However, a lot of people also discount the potential harm and side effects of pot. They think it’s completely harmless, but it isn’t fair to say that. Someone not used to pot who then goes and eats a bunch of edibles or quickly smokes a ton of strong weed is asking for trouble. It’s like anything from junk food to aspirin to alcohol – too much can be dangerous. Generally speaking, pot’s probably not going to do much physical harm, but that’s not to say that it carries no risks at all.

Regarding whether pot is addictive or not, there are a number of studies widely available that explore that question. My experience is that people can absolutely become psychologically dependent on it. I’ve known people who could smoke it every day and lead an otherwise perfectly normal life. I’ve known others who would become extremely agitated and almost violent if they didn’t have it. To some, it is a way of life or just something you do for fun with friends. To others, it is a “fix” that is used to forget about all their problems and without it, life is miserable. Usually, people start off with it being fun and then realize after a while that they are very uncomfortable without it and “need it to function” which fits the definition of addiction.

My own PERSONAL experience with marijuana was that it killed my motivation to do much. I found myself forgetting important things and blowing off responsibilities. I would be perfectly happy to laugh and eat food when my life was collapsing around me. It affected my short term memory and I was definitely “dull” for a few days after. I could never understand how people could smoke pot and study for tests in college as I could not remember a thing. Also, I found myself reaching for it whenever I was uncomfortable with situations in life. Rather than facing my fears or problems, I’d get high and not deal with them. That’s a downward spiral in itself and only makes things worse. My life was absolutely affected in that way.

Others have mentioned that marijuana affected them in similar ways. They see it as a crutch and a problem and yes, it is treated in rehabs just like dependency on any other substance.

Dan Manson, Elevate Addiction Services PresidentAnswered by: Dan Manson
Elevate Addiction Services President
Disclaimer: The Expert Corner is a place for an open, honest discussion about addiction that cuts through the buzzwords and clichés to bring you real, unfiltered answers. However, Dan’s responses are not intended and should not be taken as medical or psychiatric advice. Keep the conversation going by sharing your own thoughts or submitting a question to Dan.

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