Recently reddit.com was host to another one of their infamous Ask Me Anything public interviews.
The special interviewee on this particular AMA was addiction expert Dr. Kevin Hill.
The author of “Marijuana: The Unbiased Truth about the World’s Most Popular Weed" and addiction therapist for McLean Hospital opened the floor to discuss marijuana addiction myths with the public.
Q. What are the negative effects that can be seen on the mind stemming from long-term use? Has there been sufficient data collected in this regard?
A. Major negative effects of long-term use include cognitive difficulties, worsening anxiety, worsening depression, and increased likelihood of expressing a psychotic disorder (not causing one). But we need more long-term studies, and the NIH is planning these studies as we chat today.
Q. Are there any documented indirect deaths from Marijuana?
A. Yes, deaths may result indirectly from marijuana use – someone may use poor judgment or get in a car accident in part due to their use. These indirect deaths would be hard to measure, though. Just because someone has THC in their system does not mean that THC causes an event to occur.
Q. How do you feel about the use of marijuana during pregnancy?
A. It would be difficult to do these studies for ethical reasons, but I think most agree that exposing the fetus to marijuana is a bad thing. There is some animal research showing that prenatal exposure to THC affects brain development.
Q. What are the areas that you think there may be actual medical uses of marijuana (or marijuana-derived drugs)?
A. I think there is strong evidence supporting the use of mj or cannabinoids for chronic pain, neuropathic pain, and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis. Early clinical trials of cannabidiol (one of the cannabinoids) for epilepsy are very positive. We need to do more studies of marijuana and cannabinoids as treatments for various medical problems.
Q. Do you have an opinion as to whether or not MJ is, in fact, a gateway drug?
A. In the US, when people say “gateway”, they imply a causal relationship. If you use marijuana, you will automatically move on to become addicted to other drugs later. I don’t think of it that way. People who have addiction problems at 25 or 45 often describe initial use of marijuana or alcohol or nicotine at an early age. I think, then, that early use of any of these substances increases the likelihood of future addiction.
Q. What do you think about the criminals keeping it schedule 1? Should they be fired or frankly put in prison for ignoring the science?
A. I don’t think marijuana should be schedule 1. Schedule 1 means 1) addictive– yes it is addictive for some people and 2) no medical value. I don’t think you can say at this point that marijuana does not have medical value.
Q. Out of the adult patients you see for marijuana addiction, what fraction is self admitted? How does this compare to alcohol? Can you compare and contrast the addictions?
A. Only about 6% of those seeking treatment for addictions say that mj addiction is their main problem.