Few would like to admit that cannabis can be addictive. Even fewer would like to learn that chronic THC use comes with risks to mental and physical health. Today we take a sobering look at the reality of the increased risks to public health that marijuana legalization is bringing.
Weed won’t kill you. We know that by now. No one has ever directly died from over-consumption of marijuana. We know that marijuana is much, much safer than most of the socially accepted drugs like alcohol and opioids.
But far too many marijuana advocates refuse to acknowledge the fact that, despite being a powerful therapeutic substance with great potential, marijuana does come with some risks. This article explains why legalization will cause increased marijuana addiction rates and what will be the consequences to public health.
What’s the only difference between a medicine and a poison? The dosage. Now, I’m not suggesting that cannabis is poisonous by any means. I am suggesting that potency and dosage play a serious role in how compounds like THC and CBD effect us.
This article takes a look at the risks of chronic cannabis concentrate use and offers suggestions to maintain a balanced, and moderate approach to using cannabis.
Concentrates Will Trend Higher
As marijuana legalization continues to snowball across the continent and the world, perspectives, and policies are shifting drastically. That’s a great thing! It’s what many have been working tirelessly for decades to achieve. Is the end of the drug war upon us? Probably not. Hopefully, though the battle will take on a new frontier of health and care rather than crime and punishment.
Using marijuana is no longer limited to smoking flower or hash. Now, we have cannabis concentrates. While technically things like hash and kief are concentrates, I’m talking specifically about dabs, oils, and vape pens. We have now the ability to legally purchase and consume incredibly potent cannabis products in all sorts of ways.
With little education about the long-term risks of chronic cannabis use, especially for adolescents, combined with the perception that marijuana isn’t addictive, makes for an environment destined to produce public health risks.
Addiction Will Grow
“Once you start using concentrates, the flower just doesn’t do it for you anymore”, is what I hear from my friends. Some people will prefer to smoke flower sure, but for the vast majority of cannabis users, once they start using vape pens and dabs its hard to go back to the flower. Cannabis flower is more affordable, but concentrates are stronger and they’re getting cheaper. As a new generation of cannabis users embrace new forms of consumption, we need to begin to seriously examine what the potential risks might be in the long-term.
I know what you’re thinking. “But Aaron, marijuana isn’t addictive”, and to that, I say balderdash, homie! Sure, it’s not the same as heroin or nicotine addiction, but marijuana comes with all of the clinical characteristics of dependency and withdrawal. Addiction and addictive personality, however, is a different beast, requires a much different conversation, and has much more to do with the environment, behavior, personality, genetics, and other factors.
If you have ever had a friend who uses marijuana heavily who’s tried to take a break or quit, you know first hand that cannabis causes dependency and withdrawal symptoms. Of course, many people can easily quit using marijuana when they like and are able to use it casually. For others, it’s not as simple. Denying that marijuana use has zero risks is dangerous because studies show that chronic THC consumption could wreak havoc on mental health, sleep, and other health factors.
The Risks of Chronic Marijuana Use
First, it’s vitally important to understand the differences between the effects that different cannabinoids have on us. For example, CBD and THC are paradoxically both different and similar in how they affect us. Furthermore, delta 9 – and delta 8- THC have drastically different levels of effects, although they are also similar. There are many compounds in cannabis, and when combined in different formulations and ratios they exhibit different effects.
THC had always been the most famous compound for its psychoactive properties, but in the most recent decade, CBD has taken the forefront for its incredible safety profile and therapeutic properties in multitudes of ailments. For now, it seems most of the deleterious effects of marijuana use are associated with THC.
What are the risks of chronic marijuana use and what qualifies as chronic marijuana use? Marijuana is an amazingly safe substance, but depending on how and when you use it, it could come with some unwanted side effects such as –
- spending less time in REM sleep, which is vital to the quality of rest you experience
- Increased stress-related anxiety in long-term
- dampened emotional processing, long-term
- increased risk of cardiovascular issues
- Increased risk of mental illness
Will chronic cannabis use cause all of these problems in all users? No? Will stopping or reducing chronic cannabis use reduce the associated risks? Yes, most likely. The biggest risk most people scoff at is the increased risk of mental illness, but science shows as that the association is grounded by real data.
Marijuana & Mental Illness
Does marijuana cause psychosis? Well, that’s a tough one. For the vast majority of people who use marijuana in moderation, probably not. For people at a high risk of psychosis and other mental health disorders, marijuana use could potentially influence the onset of psychotic symptoms.
This seems to be especially true for people who begin using marijuana chronically from a young age and already have a high risk of mental illness. Marijuana’s benefits seem to outweigh the risks for many though, and for good reason. In short-term small dosages can be greatly beneficial for sleep, stress, and other issues. In long-term, however, THC could have somewhat of an opposite effect potentially increasing your risk of depression, causing poorer sleep and reducing your ability to handle stress-related anxiety.
For some, even small dosages of THC can trigger anxiety and paranoia. Maybe you know someone that says weed makes them freak out, have a fast heart rate, or a racing mind. This is the characteristic bad trip, often associated with overconsumption of edibles, and for some, it could be an experience that triggers symptoms of psychosis, even if only mild. For most people who’ve used marijuana responsibly though, it’s been a source of enjoyment, relaxation, and inspiration.
The Risks to Public Health
Increased tolerance and relaxed perspectives will lead to more people trying marijuana and becoming regular users. That’s ok, but if we’re not careful we could be creating a serious public health problem in the long-term. Just look at alcohol as an example.
No, marijuana is nothing like alcohol as far as toxicity and addiction go, but it serves us to understand the similarities. What happens to teens and kids who start using alcohol regularly and overconsuming cannabis regularly? I think we all know the risks of such behavior when it turns into a habit at a young age.
Those who are at the most risk are the youth, of course. Studies suggest that people who begin using marijuana as adults are much less likely to suffer the risks associated with chronic cannabis use. Now, it’s one thing for a teenager to try marijuana in responsible setting, and it’s another thing for them to be using marijuana every single day as an afternoon special.
Moving forward, I think it’s vitally important that adults fully understand the risks of chronic marijuana use in the short- and long-term so that they can help educate the youth. Gone are the days where it’s, “just say no to drugs”. As adults, we should also know how to moderate cannabis use safely, and walking around 7 days a week vaping 90% THC oil all day probably isn’t the best approach.
How To Moderate Consumption
We love vape pens, we love dabs, we love concentrates. Concentrates provide an efficient means to administer high dosages of cannabis. For patients who need it, it means they can smoke less and vape or dab more.
For adult use users, it means the potential for dependence. We want to end this article with a few helpful tips on how to manage your cannabis use to reduce your risks from long-term consumption.
Our first tip is, TRY CBD! CBD comes from marijuana, but most of today’s strains have almost none of it. Imagine putting some tasty CBD terpsolate (terpene infused isolate) on top of your evening bowl. Research shows that CBD can balance out the effects of THC. That means a little less crazy and a lot more chill. This is just one way you could begin to reduce chronic THC use.
Another way to help manage marijuana would be to not smoke concentrates all day every day. Moderation is always the best approach. The only people who should need to stay medicated all day are patients in severe pain, epilepsy, or some other disorder that cannabis helps. Otherwise, we’re just staying medicated for fun.
Staying medicated for recreation is fun sure, but we thought you should at least know the potential risks of long-term chronic cannabis use. Do you think that cannabis concentrates could lead to more marijuana addiction? Let us know about your experience with marijuana dependency in the comments section down below.
Thanks for reading! You can learn more about concentrates and cannabis’ effect on health in our other articles linked below. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter to win free dab gear! If you found this article helpful then please share it with others who may also enjoy reading it.