Medical Marijuana for Pain- More Harm Than Good in Teens and Young Adults

marijuanaMarijuana has recently been legalized in Washington and Colorado states. Medical Marijuana is legal in many states including Oregon where I practice.  In my addiction clinic, I would say 70-80% of the heroin addicts started their journey of drug use and drug addiction with marijuana (THC). Most are still unable to stop its use which speaks to the addictive nature that is not well appreciated or understood.  

The literature quotes that 10% of regular users of marijuana become physically addicted.  My experience is that the number is likely closer to 50%.  If you are regular user and you do not feel you are physically dependent or addicted, then I would challenge you to stop all use of THC for two months.  If you are able to do that without any problems, no fatigue, no lethargy, no fuzzy thinking, no challenges with getting to sleep or staying asleep, then perhaps you are in that group that does not have physical dependence or addiction.  

Everyone, however, that smokes pot or takes THC in any form is doing significant damage to the pituitary, your master hormone gland in your brain.  The result for males and females is lowered LH and FSH which, for males, results in lower testosterone, and for women, lower testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.  Living a life with low testosterone (and it’s progressive) will ultimately lead to loss of interest in sex, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and more. 

The study at Mayo clinic, while small,  follows three teens with chronic pain that were using marijuana for pain control, shows that this actually did more harm and very little to help the pain.  My own experience with hundreds of patients, children, and their friends, matches this experience exactly.  Perhaps parents who are older could use marijuana without significant harm, but today’s world is different.  Our children start off more toxic, perhaps the THC is stronger, but almost universally it is leading to school failure, work failure, anxiety, depression, fatigue, sleep problems, and low motivation. Sadly, for some it then leads to stronger drugs as they seek to self-medicate away these symptoms.  You see, the “high” might help them get temporary relief, get to sleep, but it actually makes things worse so the user needs to do it again to continue to get the relief.  Little do you realize that it is the very thing you are doing to help your symptoms that is a reason you are having the symptoms in the first place.
Here is a slide show of the Mayo Clinic Findings:  http://www.modernhcp.com/slideshow-medical-marijuana-not-advised-for-teens-with-chronic-pain-in-mayo-clinic-proceedings-july-2013/

Here is the full article from the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(13)00317-0/fulltext

 

Dr. Paul

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