The new potency of THC in marijuana places regular users at risk of mental health disorders. Managing the mental health disorders brought on by THC requires dual diagnosis programs with certified addiction physicians knowledgeable in mental health disorders.
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the potent chemical in marijuana, has been steadily getting stronger over the last decade. In the 1960s, THC levels may have been 1%. Now, certain marijuana plants can contain THC levels as high as 15-20%. The increased potency of THC coincides with the numerous studies that now link marijuana addiction with mental health disorders. These levels have a profound impact upon brain function, cognitive behavior, and brain development when marijuana is used by adolescents. Withdrawal symptoms, while not dangerous enough to lead to death, can be traumatic, especially impacting one’s emotional well-being.
“It has been suggested that marijuana is at the root of many mental disorders including acute toxic psychosis, panic attacks (one of the very conditions it is being used experimentally to treat), flashbacks, delusions, depersonalization, hallucinations, paranoia, depression, and uncontrollable aggressiveness. Marijuana has long been known to trigger attacks of mental illness, such as bipolar (manic-depressive) psychosis and schizophrenia.”
While many who suffer from mental health disorders wish to be calm and feel laidback, the use of marijuana that has a high ratio of THC (one of 400 chemicals present in the marijuana plant) can in fact bring about the onset of extraordinary mental health problems or worsen those that are preexisting.
In a 2002 Japanese study from Okayama University, researchers found that the onset of 1 in 7 cases of schizophrenia were sped up by marijuana use. Researchers in a Swedish study also found that smoking pot with high THC content increased the risk of psychiatric disorders by 30 percent, especially among adolescents. (Source: http://www.drugwatch.org/research/marijuanamentalillness.htm)
Furthermore, study after study in recent decades has found that marijuana and THC are addictive. Long-term or regular use produces the same drug seeking behaviors and withdrawal symptoms present with other addictive drugs. In a government research report (2008), researchers found that those who smoked marijuana everyday functioned at reduced intellectual levels. Self-reporting demonstrates “poor outcome on a variety of life satisfaction and achievement measures”.
The relationship between drug abuse and mental health disorders is a complex one. Sorting through the changes that occur with drug abuse may be challenging and time consuming. Drugs have different half lives (times that the drug remains in the body) that contribute to the cravings. Alcohol detox and drug detox monitored by certified addiction physicians can help ease the symptoms and manage the cravings associated with withdrawal. Alcohol and drug rehabilitation is a necessary component to creating a stable recovery. Common medications prescribed in drug rehab centers for dual diagnosis treatment of marijuana addiction are:
Baclofen is a GABA receptor antagonist that inhibits the release of several neurotransmitters such as dopamine, glutamate, and noradrenaline. It works by diminishing the reward effect or positive sensations associated with drug abuse.
- Vistaril (hydroxyzine)
Vistaril is an antihistamine that is generally used to treat itchiness, motion sickness, nausea and vomiting. This drug is used to help with withdrawal symptoms by reducing anxiety.
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