Marijuana Abuse & Depression

A recent study revealed that marijuana abuse could inhibit the brain’s reaction to dopamine – revealing that marijuana abusers may be more prone to depression.

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse conducted the study by looking at the brains of 24 marijuana abusers after giving them Ritalin, which increases the amount of dopamine in the brain. The 24 subjects in the study smoked an average of 5 joints per day, 5 days a week for 10 years. Compared to the control group, they had a significantly dulled behavioral, cardiovascular and brain responses to dopamine – the “feel good” chemical of the brain. Overall their heart rate and blood pressure were lower and they reported feeling anxious and restless rather than elated.

The study concluded that marijuana abuse can diminish one’s reaction to dopamine and can impact the brain’s reward processing. In short, what normally causes feelings of euphoria in people may not for the marijuana abuser. The study suggests that their weaker response to dopamine may indicate that the area of the brain responsible for processing reward may be damaged; “Cannabis users may experience less reward from things others generally find pleasurable and, contrary to popular stereotypes, that they generally feel more irritable, stressed, and just plain crummy,” says Raul Gonzalez a neuropsychologist at Florida International University.

Often, those that are vulnerable to addiction feel “crummy” before abusing drugs anyway and often overindulge in order to self medicate. The study may not have accounted for the fact that the 24 abusers may have been prone to depression before abusing marijuana. This study also reveals information about marijuana abusers rather that the recreational marijuana user. However, now that marijuana is legal in Colorado, recreational use may lead to higher rates of abuse.


Backyard/Front Porch Pot Smoking Now Allowed

marijuana addiction treatment colorado
More CO Marijuana Stores will Open 1/1/14

Recently the Denver City Council has been in the spotlight over deciding whether or not people can smoke pot on their property such as in their backyards or front porches in public view.

This past Monday they gave a 10-3 final vote in favor of eliminating the front yard marijuana smoking ban that was introduced to them in November.

With more marijuana retail shops slated to open January 1st, 2014, eliminating the ban was timely for marijuana supporters and retailers. Proponents of the ban shared the sentiment of Mason Tvert, communications director of Marijuana Policy Project, who told the Huffington Post, “If adults are able to consume alcohol — and even smoke cigarettes — outside on their private property, there’s no logical reason why they should be prohibited from using a less harmful substance.”

Those who supported the ban included Denver Mayor Michael Hancock who told the the Denver Post, “Marijuana is one of those elements that can be quite pervasive and invasive. I shouldn’t have to smell your activities from your backyard.” Others shared his sentiment, saying it could be a bad influence on youth who can see people smoking on their porches or backyards or those close enough to inhale the secondhand smoke.

From an addiction treatment perspective, the pervasive smell of marijuana can be triggering to those in recovery from marijuana dependence, which may be on the rise with greater access to the drug. Additionally, in Colorado towns like Dillon, the police chief, Brian Brady, worries that with greater access to marijuana, the high may not be enough; “Come January 1, buying marijuana is going to be as easy as buying a carton of milk. Are people going to be satisfied with the high or should we expect drugs like Krokodil to become the next long-term problem?” Since the legalization of marijuana, Brady has seen an increase in arrests for LSD, heroin and Krokodil, which he says is because “when people want a bigger high they tend to mix it with something.” It is for this same reason that addiction treatment programs push for complete abstinence from all drugs and mood altering substances. Those with addictive disorders tend to crave a greater high once they ingest substances like marijuana, which may explain the increase in arrests that Brady has seen.

Regardless, the vote has passed, and hundreds of marijuana retailers are opening in a just a few weeks. Therefore, Colorado addiction treatment facilities like Harmony Foundation can only take proactive steps to do their best with relapse prevention, mitigating triggers and helping clients stay clean and sober despite the potential of pot smoke coming from a neighbor’s back yard or marijuana storefront opening on their street.

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Colorado Marijuana Laws and Ads Under Fire

Colorado is one of 17 states that has legalized the use of medical marijuana and has seen a notable increase of dispensaries popping up around the state. With new business comes new advertising and both have been under fire in recent months.

This summer the Colorado Legislature appointed Matt Cook, an official in the State Revenue Department, to oversee the industry. Cook is spearheading the regulations for Colorado’s marijuana industry reportedly modeled on the state’s gaming industry.

The tightening of regulations came out of a growing suspicion that the state’s marijuana industry was going beyond just medicating the terminally ill. The law passed in 2000 called for the use of medical marijuana for patients with “debilitating conditions” like cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and immeasurable conditions like nausea and pain. According to the Colorado Health Department, records indicate that of those registered for the use of medical marijuana, just 2% had cancer, 1% had HIV or AIDS and the remaining had self described “severe pain.” The challenge with patient’s description of pain is that it is subjective and nearly immeasurable (aside from the smiley-face chart depicted above). In addition, the majority of those registered are men under 40, who coincidentally make up the majority of those who abuse the drug.

Responding to these statistics and rising suspicions, Colorado has now joined Oregon and Washington as the three states that wish to reform their current laws around marijuana. Voters this fall will have the potential to eform their state’s marijuana use laws and according to a June poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports, 61 percent of Colorado voters agree in marijuana regulation.  

The next feat for Colorado is regulating the advertment of medical marijuana. On August 20th the Denver City Council voted 12-0 to ban the looming outdoor advertisements not only on billboards but anywhere in the city visible to the public, including fliers and leaflets on sidewalks and parks. Debbie Ortega, a Denver City Councilwoman, reported that she was “confounded by sign spinners advertising ‘free joints’ for an adjacent medical marijuana business” and that  “This type of advertising is both disturbing and unsightly. I became very concerned for the children in my neighborhood and throughout the Denver community.” Her main concern was that the ads made it appear as though anyone were able to get a “free joint.” In an ABC NEWS interview she asserted, “I decided that Denver has a responsibility to protect our kids from being exposed to medical marijuana advertising and from being targeted as long term customers.”

Ortega makes a valid point, because just as with cigarette ads, they implant the notion that it is common, normal, cool and ok to smoke, and children and teens are especially susceptible to these messages. These advertisements and the myth that “weed isn’t addictive” is an increasing problem because it normalizes the use of marijuana for recreational purposes. However Colorado drug rehab centers continuously get admissions from those suffering from marijuana dependence. The admissions are often those who began using marijuana at a young age and men under 40 years old.

If you or a loved one is suffering from Marijuana Addiction, our Colorado drug treatment facility can help.


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