Monday, September 9, 2013

Open Or Close The THC Gateway?

The war on drugs has cost American Taxpayers billions (probably an understatement) of dollars. On the flip side, the fight to legalize marijuana, at least for medicinal purposes, has further inflamed debate.

If legalized and placed under excise taxes proportionate to tobacco, it would generate tax (and legal, free commerce, private sector) revenue that could stimulate our economy as help balance the budget, reducing the national debt. At least that is the argument.

Using just the fiscal numbers, it almost makes sense. However, the argument fails to calculate in other numbers.

A over a decade ago, a government sponsored study of THC and marijuana was published. It compared the drug to tobacco and alcohol within a limited scope. It is true that THC does not, directly, kill brain cells like alcohol does. It has not been directly attributed to liver or kidney disease like alcohol has, either. Compared to tobacco, it allegedly is slightly less carcinogenic.

That study ignored other key effects of THC and other chemicals in marijuana. First, it was originally believed  to no be addictive. Recent finding from studies, conducted for over 20 years, have found that marijuana is addictive and does have withdrawal symptoms. Those symptoms can be far more acute than originally thought, as well. The symptoms are greater depending upon the frequency of use, the duration of use, and the age the addict began using.

It's that age factor that should have society concerned. The younger the age, the worse the effects, the side-effects, the long-term brain damage done, and the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms. Among those withdrawal symptoms is the tendency to relapse (actually increasing usage) or self-medicating with more dangerous drugs such as opiates, synthetic cannaboids, and other hallucinogenic drugs.

Other studies show that cannabis is linked to several mental disorders. Some may be hidden by self-medication using marijuana. In those cases, the psychosis is known to get worse, untreated, and eventually not be hidden by the THC. Once to that point, the afflicted hits a "toxic" level and can be very hard to treat. Even worse, the necessary withdrawal from the cannabis, according to the studies, may actually worsen the symptoms or even the chemical imbalances causing the psychosis.

Some studies express strong indicators that the cannabis may actually cause some of the psychosis, such as schizophrenia. The studies show greater links between the disease and THC use if the addict began using while in adolescence, usually meaning before the age of 21. Other mental health ailments attributed to teen pot use, according to these studies include: anxiety, apathy, poor-self-esteem, bi-polar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and compulsive violent behavior.

Among those studies are findings of pot-induced psychosis, some of which are labeled as "toxic", meaning from very heavy THC addiction. Many of these tend to be temporary and may disappear completely after full withdrawal.

Many advocates for legalizing pot state that pot users are less violent. The statistics prove the exact opposite. While still feeling the "high", users may tend to be more "easy going". However, users remain under the influence of the drug in second and third stage effects for at least 24 hours after the "high" wears off. During that period, the user's mental acuity and reaction time are greatly decreased. Their reaction times are decreased. Their problem solving abilities and stress management systems are also negatively affected. Chronic use of the drug may permanently damage some of these systems if regular, heavy use began in the teen years. (They are even worse if started in infancy by a pregnant or nursing mother using the drugs, or the child getting a "contact high" from parents who use). Also, during that period of being under the influence, inhibitions are lowered, including those that keep aggression and temper in check.

Many of these symptoms may also recur during withdrawal. The body and brain begin their work to detox. As they do so, the receptors in the brain that filled with THC rather than their intended endorphins start to clear the THC out. As they rebuild and repair those neurological pathways, hallucinations, nightmares, and urges towards violence may emerge. These along with any obfuscated psychosis or pot-induced psychosis may spike during the withdrawal as the recovery process repairs the brain.

Withdrawal starts at least 24 hours after the last "high" concludes. It may take even longer, up to 72 hours for the withdrawal to begin. Full detox, however, takes a long time. THC is fat soluble, meaning it stores in fatty areas, including those around the brain, in breasts, vital organs, the liver, and other areas. Depending on a person's metabolism, body composition, physical health, level of physical activity, diet, and duration of addiction, full detox and recovery takes as little as 6 months or as long as 2 years.

What does all of this have to do with the economic factors?

Well, users are apathetic and lethargic while feeling the "high". That impedes production.

Reaction times, problem solving abilities, and productivity are greatly reduced for 24 hours after the "high".

The costs of mental health treatment skyrocket as more people need counseling, pharmaceuticals, and treatment. The costs will spill onto employers and/or taxpayers.

Those afflicted with schizophrenia may end up unable to be in the workforce, ending up taxpayer burdens, or financial burdens to their families.

The violent behavior will require more police and private security personnel. The police will be a burden on taxpayers.

The withdrawal will lead to increased use of more dangerous, illegal drugs to self-medicate. That will lead to more violent crime and property crime.

Now, for the terminally ill, medicinal marijuana may be a good option. There are documented benefits. However, for most people, the risks and costs far outweigh those benefits.