Marijuana is a psychedelic drug that damages the brains of habitual users

Posted Apr 30, 2014


          Marijuana is a psychedelic drug that alters the consciousness of habitual users and damages the brains of children and adolescents. Yes it is a gateway drug. But that is misleading because it implies that unto itself it is benign. Marijuana is not benign. Today’s ‘weed’ is anywhere from fifty to a thousand times stronger than your father’s ‘grass’. Getting ‘high’ affects the limbic feeling centers of the brain and alters the very play of consciousness itself. It not only alters and damages motivation and thinking, but most importantly, it removes the user from the feeling of his Authentic Being. Feeling is at the center of relatedness, judgment and the grounded operations of consciousness itself. I have already addressed how marijuana usage interferes with psychotherapy and the recovery from psychiatric struggles in “It’s Time to Address the Marijuana Issue”. As a psychiatrist I have dealt with the destructive effects of marijuana in both adolescents and adults. Smoking marijuana interferes with the process of psychotherapy for our patients to recover from psychiatric symptoms, and to recover their authenticity and capacity to love.

            We have a huge drug problem in America, both street drugs and prescription drugs. Why would we add to it? To put it simply, marijuana is a destructive to the welfare of society. And more important, it is damaging to the development and well being of our children. It is the most common illicit drug used by teenagers. This is disturbing enough. Legalizing it makes it that much more available, in addition to sanctioning it. Adults are supposed to be looking out for their kids. What are we thinking?

            I will address the objections to my earlier article.

  1. “’Refer Madness’ has been discredited.” - To object to marijuana is not some alarmist scare tactic. Marijuana is a very strong drug, an hallucinogen. Yes most people smoking marijuana will not become schizophrenic. Although it does cause a significant number of vulnerable kids and young adults to cross the line to schizophrenia.  
  2. “Loosen up and get stoned, you’ll like it.” - This is simply the mantra of stoner America. They can be funny, but it is part of the fallacy that grass is benign with no significant negative effects. Do we really aspire as a society to be stoned?
  3. “We’ve already tried prohibition and that failed, plus we can make a lot of money by taxing marijuana.” - I do not understand how fostering something that is destructive is constructive. We need to limit its usage. It is epidemic in our schools. Making it more available is not a good thing for children. Anyone who pretends this is not the case is flat out lying and doesn’t care. Raising money on the backs of damaging our kids is unconscionable. We need to do the opposite – Put our heads together and dedicate ourselves to find a way to limit the supply of marijuana, and keep it out of our schools.
  4. “Smoking weed is better than big Pharma.” –This is another example of ‘my wrong’ is better than ‘your wrong’. Anyone who has read my writings will know my opinion of Big Pharma. I consider the lion’s share of psychiatric drugs destructive to dealing with the human issues of psychiatric patients. So why would we add another psychoactive drug that pretends to be efficacious, non addictive, no side effects, no habituation, no drug tolerance. At least they are honest that the point is to get high. The marijuana lobby as very well funded as is the Big Pharma lobby. Do you think perhaps that there is a lot of money to be made off drugs? (At who’s expense?) A plague on both their houses. In fact I hold big Pharma, and the APA responsible for promoting the false idea that psychiatric issues are a brain problem rather than a human problem. And that pharmaceuticals are the solution to what ails us by fostering the idea that that drugs are a miracle cure. And we are talking about benzodiazepines, amphetamines, SSRI’s and others. We have a terrible drug problem. Why add to it?
  5. “Marijuana is a cure-all for medical ills.” - This is simply propaganda put out by the marijuana lobby. The idea that there might be some medical uses for marijuana, is used to pretend that it is a constructive, not a destructive drug. Even if there is some minor constructive use, which is questionable, this bears no relationship to legalizing marijuana as if it proves ‘weed’ a good drug. There is a campaign now to demonstrate great curative powers for marijuana for nausea in cancer treatments, even for MS. And many MD’s are now falling for this fallacy. There are promotional studies put out by the marijuana lobby, just as big Pharma uses corrupt and falsified studies to promote its drugs. Medical science, unfortunately, is prone to bad and corrupt science regarding drugs. [Read the Appendix to my book]. Everybody knows that medical marijuana dispensaries are just a trick and a lie. While we go to great lengths to prove how destructive cigarettes are, we are fostering marijuana which is far worse. I’m not just talking about the ‘smoke’, because apologists can argue other ways of ingestion. The issue is its effects on our brains and consciousness. How come we haven’t subjected marijuana to rigorous testing by the FDA before we sanction it? It would never pass muster. The legalization push has been the result of political pressure by the marijuana lobby, while we in medicine look the other way. There are some incipient studies that show marijuana use damages the brain’s memory and learning capacity. The hippocampus and Thalamus shrink. And the earlier one starts, the worse it is. See - Neuropsychopharmacology July 4th 2013, doi:10.1038/npp.2013.164, and
  6. “Marijuana is a good treatment for anxiety and depression” - First of all, depression and anxiety are not brain problems. They are human problems, symptoms from damage to our plays of consciousness. They are addressed by good psychotherapy. What ails us is not cured by a drug. In fact, Marijuana creates anxiety in a significant percentage of users. The idea that we should add this to the already destructive pharmaceuticals is frightening.
  7. “You’re just a narrow moralist. How dare you tell me what to do.” – I really don’t care if Joe Shmo smokes weed. If he wants to purchase it illegally and keep it hidden that’s OK with me. It’s his choice. Party on. But I don’t wish to destroy the fabric of society any further because of Joe’s habit. The purpose of society is to promote the welfare of its people. We raise our children to become productive, loving, responsible adults. Being drugged does not fit into that picture and damaging our developing children is just wrong. 

Robert A Berezin, MD is the author of “Psychotherapy of Character, the Play of Consciousness in the Theater of the Brain”