Updated: Feb 11
In this episode of Back from the Abyss podcast, a Colorado psychiatrist suggests why the legalization of medical marijuana today may be significantly harmful, particularly for mental health patients, and magnifies the risk for developing psychosis.
According to Psychiatrist, Dr. Craig Heacock, MD, the two substances most likely to express latent psychosis, namely schizophrenia, are Crystal Methamphetamines and THC. This shocking bit of revelation as shown by
Retail sale of marijuana for recreational became legal in the state of Colorado in 2012. Medical marijuana has been legal since 2000. The first retail sale of marijuana was on January 1, 2014. Since then, city officials in Denver have created a collaborative model of cannabis management and has emerged as a global leader in regulation of marijuana laws and usage. Over the last 10 years, the number of unique active licensed marijuana businesses haven't changed much, from 455 locations in 2014 to 445 in 2022. However, when you compare the number of medical licenses in 2014 to 2022, to the number of retail licenses in that same span, the differences are somewhat alarming. Medical licenses have gone down an estimated 41%, from 731 in 2014 to 433 in 2022. Conversely, retail licenses have increased, from 270 in 2014 to 502 in 2022, an increase of 85%. It doesn't take an economist or psychiatrist to determine that these numbers reflect a continued increase in marijuana consumption.
But it's important to note that, in the last 10 years of legalized retail sales of cannabis (and henceforth, it's significant increase of consumption), the potency of cannabis and it's active ingredient, THC, has also risen dramatically. According to mjfactcheck.org, "marijuana potency has increased in the past decades, up from about 4% in the 1980s to an average of 15% today. Marijuana extracts, used in dabbing and edibles, can contain an average of 50% and up to 90% THC." It is this level of potency, according to Dr. Heacock, that raises the most concern, particularly for those younger users. "[The American Journal of Psychiatry, in 2019] found that the highest rate of progression to schizophrenia were those whose psychosis was triggered by cannabis, and they also had a family history of schizophrenia," and that close to 50% of those in the study progressed to a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
The demand for THC over the last 10 years has clearly skyrocketed. And with it, the unregulated desire of licensed growers to develop more and more potent strains, as well as the development of enhanced methods for ingesting THC, such as vaping and dabbing, are potentially causing more harm than they are benefit. Psychedelic users, as Dr. Heacock shared from his own experiences, are experiencing way more intense trips with the added use of cannabis with extremely high-THC level, and thus potentially sending unwitting recipients into a downward spiral and bad trips. This, of course, is a cause for concern both in the name of public health, but also for the support and approval of emerging psychedelic-supportive legislation.
Harm Reduction is a term being used in the psychedelic community as a way to identify (and minimize) bad trips, and mis-treated psychedelic assisted therapy session. Along with Integration Coaching, I also am aiming to provide services in support of Harm Reduction. But that is perhaps a whole other conversation.