There was a recent Letter to the Editor written by Mr. Hughes that I would like to address. The answers given by me, Teri Nehrenz, reflect research conducted by me and in no way reflect the views or opinions of the MLN, it’s employees or owners. As far as I know, they hold no position in the legalization of marijuana either way. I, on the other hand, am a firm supporter in legalizing marijuana for recreational and especially medical use.
“Do individuals build up a tolerance to marijuana? Do you need more and more of the drug to receive the same effect to the body? If so will that cause major problems in the future?”
The recent discovery of a cannabinoid receptor system in the human brain has revolutionized research on marijuana and cannabinoids, and definitively proven that marijuana use does not have a dependence or addiction liability (&Marijuana and the Human Brain; March 1995 High Times). Marijuana, it turns out, affects brain chemistry in a qualitatively different way than addictive drugs. Drugs of abuse such as heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, alcohol and nicotine affect the production of dopamine, an important neurotransmitter which chemically activates switches in the brain that produce extremely pleasurable feelings. Drugs that affect dopamine production produce addiction because the human brain is genetically conditioned to adjust behavior to maximize dopamine production. This chemical process occurs in the middle-brain, in an area called the striatum, which also controls various aspects of motor control and coordination.
Herkenham and his associates have proven that marijuana has no direct effect on dopamine production in the striatum, and that most of the drug effects occur in the relatively new(in evolutionary terms) region of the brain – the frontal cerebral cortex. There is now biological evidence that far from being the gateway to abusive drugs, marijuana is instead the other way to get high – the safe way.
Research into drug tolerance is in its infancy. There are actually three forms of tolerance. Dispositional tolerance is produced by changes in the way the body absorbs a drug. Dynamic tolerance is produced by changes in the brain caused by an adaptive response to the drugs continued presence, specifically in the receptor sites affected by the drug. Behavioral tolerance is produced by familiarity with the environment in which the drug is administered. Familiarity and environment are two alternative terms for what Timothy Leary called set and setting – the subjective emotional/mental factors that the user brings to the drug experience and the objective external factors imposed by their surroundings. Tolerance to any drug can be produced by a combination of these and other mechanisms. Brain receptor sites act as switches in the brain. The brains 39 neurotransmitters, or drugs which mimic them, throw the switches. The basic theory of tolerance is that repeated use of a drug wears out the receptors, and makes it difficult for them to function in the drugs absence. Worn-out receptors were supposed to explain the connection of tolerance to addiction. This phenomenon has been associated with chronic use of benzodiazepines (Valium, Prozac, etc.), for example, but not with cannabinoids.
An alternative hypothesis about how dynamic tolerance to marijuana operates involves receptor down- regulation in which the body adjusts to chronic exposure to a drug by reducing the number of receptor sites available for binding. A 1993 paper published in Brain Research by Angelica Oviedo, John Glowa and Herkenham indicates that tolerance to cannabinoids results from receptor down-regulation. This, as we shall see, is good news. It means that marijuana tolerance is actually the brains mechanism to maintain equilibrium. The conclusions of the researchers: It would seem paradoxical that animals receiving the highest doses of cannabinoids would show the greatest and fastest return to normal levels [of behavior]; however, the receptor down-regulation in these animals was so profound that the behavioral correlate may be due to the great loss of functional binding sites. In other words, when the rats had had enough, their receptors simply switched off.
As far as marijuana causing major problems in the future, time will tell. Studies vary greatly depending on whether they’re being completed by the pharmaceutical companies or they are independently completed although they all suggest memory loss and some up to a loss of 8 IQ points in those who began smoking marijuana in adolescence. Those same studies reported no IQ loss in people who started smoking marijuana when they were adults.
“Could you explain the term synergistic effect, as related to drug use?”
Being a teacher, I’m sure you know what the term synergy and synergistic effect means: “Synergy can be defined as a combined effect that is greater than the sum of individual effects. The result of a combination is greater than expected because the combined elements enhance one another. It is adding 1 + 1 and getting three.” Marijuana and alcohol will produce a greater level of impairment than either the alcohol or marijuana will produce on their own. Alcohol and cocaine combine to create a compound called cocaethylene. Nearly as psychoactive as cocaine but produces a much longer lasting effect with a much greater toxicity than cocaine alone. Many people mix alcohol with other Opioid drugs which potentiate the effect of the other doubling up on the drug’s effects. Heroin overdose deaths usually involve alcohol as well.
“We have a local young lady, probably, still serving time in prison for killing a number of youths, as they picked up litter along the freeway. One of her drugs of choice was marijuana.”
You raise a good but slightly incomplete point in your description of the “local young lady” Prosecutors said she fell asleep because of the combined effects of the drugs marijuana and ecstasy along with a 24-hour period of having not slept. They presented evidence that Williams had 5.5 nanograms ( .0055 milligrams a milligram is equal to one millionth of a gram) of per milliliter of marijuanas active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, in her blood along with trace amounts of Ecstasy. Nevada state law presumes a person is impaired if they have 2 nanograms of THC in their blood. According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration “Drug abuse continues to be one of the most significant social and economic problems in the United States. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has identified opiates, cocaine, cannabinoids, amphetamines, and phencyclidines (PCPs) as the most commonly abused illicit drugs. Alcohol is the most commonly encountered legal substance of abuse. Chronic alcohol abuse can lead to liver disease, high blood pressure, cardiac disease, and birth defects.” According to the standards they set for detection of “Drug Abuse Levels” The confirmatory cut off levels for considering marijuana to be a drug she abused would have to have been 15 nanograms or more.
Furthermore, the article about the incident stated, “The crash came as Williams and her roommate drove home after a sleepless overnight visit to a state park 50 miles from Las Vegas. Her white Ford Aerostar, registered to her father in Littlefield, Ariz., ran off the freeway at 75 mph and plowed through the teens.” There was much more to the story than you’ve divulged in your seemingly loaded question. Many factors contributed to that accident, marijuana being only one of several players.
“What about carbon monoxide, will it create a problem?” Anything that is smoked, gives off carbon monoxide, the red blood cell will except carbon monoxide, according to studies, 30 times, or 3000% faster than oxygen.
“Will that create problems for the marijuana user?”
A:Yes, of course it will, but isn’t that a personal choice like smoking?
“Does smoking marijuana give off residue, such as tar, with tobacco?”
Yes. It’s most commonly referred to as resin.
Q: “If so would it be light green instead of light brown?”
A: I’m assuming this was a sarcastic question that really holds no weight in whether they should legalize marijuana but I’ll be polite and ask you if there was a particular point to that question; then answer, when it’s smoked it’s brown, when it’s extracted from the plant without burning it the oil or resin varies from light green to brown, depending on the strain of marijuana.
“Would it cause cancer or emphysema, after all it took over 200 years to determine that tobacco caused cancer? We should know a few years down the road.”
Hopefully none of us will be around in 200 years to find out, though studies now show that marijuana use hinders cancer growth indicating that’s it’s very beneficial to other diseases and I suppose it would be a matter of a person’s personal preference; Would they like to pump their bodies full of know poisons to kill cancer, compromise their immune systems, make their hair fall out and a whole list of other side effects OR would they rather try something natural, homeopathic, without serious side effects and proven helpful? I’m sure most would choose the latter. According to the American Cancer Society, “More recently, scientists reported that THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing in laboratory dishes. Some animal studies also suggest certain cannabinoids may slow growth and reduce spread of some forms of cancer.
There have been some early clinical trials of cannabinoids in treating cancer in humans and more studies are planned. While the studies so far have shown that cannabinoids can be safe in treating cancer, they do not show that they help control or cure the disease. Why isn’t this information more public? Ask the pharmaceutical companies who make hundreds of millions on their chemotherapy drugs?
“Would the expense, in the future, be more that the benefits or income, that was explained in your article? After all the drug is a depressant and hallucinogen and the most recent studies from Colorado show that more youth are ending up in the emergency rooms because of the drug. Your research needs to be stated honestly.”
As does yours. Youth are ending up in emergency rooms because of eating “edibles”. There is a huge difference between edible marijuana products that contain concentrated amounts of either THC, CBD or both. There isn’t one case study or report that I have been able to find which states that anyone has ever overdosed from smoking marijuana. Edibles will have to be carefully controlled. Marijuana use has been described in a Chinese medical reference that dates back as far as 2737 B.C. Marijuana was listed in the United States Pharmacopeia from 1850 until 1942 and was prescribed for various conditions including labor pains, nausea, and rheumatism. Its use as an intoxicant was also commonplace from the 1850s to the 1930s. A campaign conducted in the 1930s by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics (now the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs) sought to portray marijuana as a powerful, addicting substance that would lead users into narcotics addiction. It is still considered a “gateway” drug by some authorities.
There’s a plethora of research showing that painkiller abuse and overdose are lower in states with medical marijuana laws. But that’s always been just an assumption. Now new studies validate these findings by providing evidence of a missing link in the causal chain running from medical marijuana to falling overdoses.
Ashley and W. David Bradford, a daughter-father pair of researchers at the University of Georgia, found that in the 17 states with a medical-marijuana law in place by 2013, prescriptions for painkillers and other classes of drugs fell sharply compared with states that did not have a medical-marijuana law. The drops were quite significant: In medical-marijuana states, the average doctor prescribed 265 fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety meds.
But most strikingly, the typical physician in a medical-marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a year. A typical pain medication such as Lortab which is commonly prescribed to patients has over 47 known possible side effects not including their contraindications with other prescribed drugs.
Marijuana has only 10.
With the ability to extract and separate the THC from the CBD scientists can better target the diseases treatable by marijuana without a user having to ‘Get High’ to benefit from it’s use.
Legalizing Marijuana for recreational purposes will create some need for adjustments to be made similar to DUI laws ( and when has our government ever shied away from developing new laws?) According to the fastest growing company in the space, companies will eventually develop some machine that will measure the amount of THC in the blood stream much like they do for alcohol detection and laws will be enforced. I personally don’t see any disadvantages to legalizing marijuana that you don’t already have with alcohol but I do see a ton of benefits including the benefit of income to our city and the reduction of prisoners under the care of “Our tax dollars at work.”
Bottom line is trust, for medical purposes, do you trust the pharmaceutical companies that have killed hundreds of thousands of people with their “clinically proven safe for human consumption” prescription drugs or do you trust in what God has provided in the way of holistic medications? The argument is a heavy one; Man or God, who do you trust more?
Alcohol is a man-made and perfectly legal drug that is known to cause: Arthritis from gout, cancer, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, heart disease, hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, kidney disease, liver disease, malnutrition, nervous disorders, obesity and psychological disturbances. Marijuana which causes none of these issues by itself is a much safer alternative.
Olympic athletes are also not penalized for having marijuana, up to 150 nanograms, which is ten times higher than the Mental Health Professional’s definition of an addictive level. They’ve found through athletes, such as 5 time Olympic Gold Medalist Michael Phelps, that it hasn’t hurt their performance, stopped them from being motivated or ruined their bodies.
Looking at the financial benefits: We won’t have to feed and house thousands of prison inmates who are busted for marijuana related charges with our tax dollars; that money can surly be rerouted to more beneficial areas in need of funding. The tax dollars generated for our community will improve many of the issues that have befallen the city government such as lack of personnel, pay issues, schools, city improvement and redevelopment, recreation center improvements, senior center improvements or functions, YOUTH PROGRAMS…. or anywhere else it’s needed.
If they legalize marijuana and you don’t like it…. Why not make lemonade. Take comfort in the fact that although it’s not benefitting you personally, it can be a great benefit to the city and it’s occupants.
Thank you for your questions, I actually learned a few things in the research of my answers. I hope the answers help to satisfy some of them or at least help to educate some of the more uninformed and unexposed population on this issue.