Brandywine Family Medicine Blog

Drug Use

Published 09/20/2021

I must say I don’t understand drug use. I never experimented with drugs because I would have been terrified to have my parents find out. I never saw why people start with them. Is there really anyone whose life has been made better by drug use? I know a lot of people do use drugs, whether marijuana, opiates, cocaine or others. A lot of people use marijuana relatively safely, but a lot of people quickly run into problems with drugs especially cocaine and opiates. These are just so addictive and it can happen the first time you use them. Some people’s brain chemistry just finds the reward with these drugs very intense and the urge to use again is overwhelming and addiction can happen in just a few uses.

Certain people, because of a combination of genetic predisposition because of family history of drug addiction or environmental factors such as childhood exposure to drug use, and social factors of poverty, familial strife, and being rebellious, can make someone almost doomed to get addicted if they try drugs. It is no one’s childhood fantasy to be a drug addict. For many people drugs make them feel good. Opiates high and marijuana’s calming effects are desirable. Some people use drugs to feel good, some use them to help with anxiety and stress, some take them to improve focus at school or do better in sports, some just try them because of social pressure.

I view marijuana use as similar to alcohol use. It isn’t good for teens because it increases the risk of heavy uncontrolled use and can lead to other drug experimentation. A teen's developing brain is more susceptible to problems with judgment and anxiety issues from marijuana and studies have shown a permanent decrease of IQ points in teens who have a history of heavy daily marijuana use. Teens are 6 x more likely to develop marijuana use disorder than an adult. Occasional marijuana use in adults is relatively safe but heavy daily use is not. Overall marijuana is not a great treatment for anxiety. It may make you feel better while smoking it but the symptoms return as soon as the high recedes and the symptoms are as strong as ever. Addressing anxiety through counseling and daily preventive medicine is far more effective. Weed never made anyone smarter or more interested in going out and exploring the world or see the interesting new things life has to offer.

Just like heavy alcohol use has adverse health consequences, so does heavy marijuana use. It is also still illegal and can result in legal issues which can impact job and family.

Marijuana is much stronger now than what it was 20 years ago. The average concentration of THC the psychoactive component of marijuana was 4% 20 years ago but now can be over 20% or higher in states where it is legal. Illegally grown and sold marijuana often has other drugs added to it or toxins sprayed on it that can cause serious complications and side effects. Synthetic marijuana products work on the same THC receptors in the brain but are much stronger and have unpredictable effects. These products are more likely to cause paranoia and hallucinations.

Drug treatment is a long and difficult road with many patients relapsing several times throughout their life. Drug addiction is very difficult for the patient but also the families involved.

Opioid use disorder is one of the more difficult to treat, but there are medications that can help. Methadone is a synthetic opioid agonist that helps with withdrawal symptoms and relieves drug cravings by acting on opioid receptors in the brain without producing euphoria that the opiates can. Methadone can only be obtained through special treatment clinics. This drug is safe to use long term but the goal is to taper off slowly along with counseling to provide support to patients.

Many families fall apart under the strain of addiction. Setting limits and not enabling the addicted person is very important for families.

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