Why Not Pot? A Review of the Brain-based Risks of Cannabis

Why Not Pot? A Review of the Brain-based Risks of Cannabis The following article was written by Kai MacDonald, MD, (Lasting Recovery) and Katherine Pappas, BA Dr. MacDonald and Ms. Pappas are with UC San Diego Psychiatry, San Diego, CA, USA

The History of Hemp and Politics of Pot

The terms marijuana and cannabis are often used interchangeably. Strictly speaking, however, cannabis is a botanical term for the hemp plant, while marijuana denotes the psychoactive drug derived from it. Though research on the central effects of cannabis is relatively new, its medicinal use can be traced back to the Chinese Han dynasty, circa AD 25 to AD 220, when it was used to treat rheumatic pain, constipation, malaria, and female reproductive disorders.[9] Medical cannabis was introduced to the Western world in the 1800s and was used as such until the 1900s when its popularity diminished with the rise of pharmaceuticals that could be used for the same conditions (e.g., aspirin, barbiturates).[10]  Excerpt from Why Not Pot? A Review of the Brain-based Risks of Cannabis… Read more

Conclusion of the Article: Why not pot a review of the brain based risks of cannabis

Evaluating the potential harms of a commonly used drug—especially a complex substance like marijuana—is a challenging but vital task. Fully informed awareness of both the potential and proven benefits and the potential and proven harms of marijuana are necessary in order to have rational discussions with patients, teens, and decision makers regarding marijuana use. Based on a review of the current literature, we suggest the mnemonic DDUMB (dependence, driving, underachievement, mental illness, and “bad to worse”) as a tool that captures several of the more well-supported, brain-based risks associated with marijuana. Using this mnemonic, we reviewed five research-supported harms related to marijuana use.

First, cannabis dependence (addiction) is real. Second, driving while under the influence of marijuana is unsafe. Third, marijuana use has a strong association with global underachievement. Fourth, marijuana elevates the risk of developing a psychotic illness and worsens the course of several serious mental health conditions in certain individuals. Fifth, though proving causality is complex, evidence supports a “bad to worse” or “gateway” role of cannabis in the development of other substance use disorders. Important to note, most of these harms are more likely to be present when marijuana use is frequent and starts early (i.e., in adolescence).

Though we don’t always heed George Santayana’s aphorism about learning from (and therefore being doomed to repeat) our past, a chapter of recent history informs the cannabis conversation. Like a string of white crosses on the shoulder of a dangerous stretch of road, deaths from the recent prescription opiate epidemic stand out as stark examples of the collateral damage from widespread availability of addicting substances and the powerful impact of market forces, medical culture, and societal mores on drug use. Though cannabis is less directly deadly than opiates, all of the factors that buoyed the recent opiate epidemic—availability, economic forces, changing cultural norms—inform the cannabis debate. Healthcare providers, educators, policy leaders, and parents will be well-served by keeping abreast of the burgeoning research on the potential harms of this version of “going green.”

Learn more by reading the article and if you need help for yourself or a loved one with marijuana addiction contact Lasting Recovery for Outpatient Addiction Treatment.

Click to download article PDF: Why Not Pot Article 2016

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