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Medical Marijuana In Colorado: What's Going On And Who Cares?

By harrisjensen - Posted on 17 February 2010

Addiction To Marijuana Can Come From Exposure To The Addictive Substance, With Behavior Changes That Follow

Parents In Colorado Watch Out!  New Laws Have Unleashed A Monster!

by Harris Jensen, MD

Editor, Good Day Journal

It happened again this week.  Another young patient came to my office with the family alarmed at changes in his behavior: moodiness, anger, impulsiveness, trouble following through on adult responsibilities.

And it all started with the use of medical marijuana.

It was originally prescribed for a pain problem, now long since gone, as the young woman was doing heavy lifting in her work.  But the back pain didn't bother her: she was using medical marijuana to cover it up, or so she said.

It was all part of a con game of an addict.

Addiction is complicated.  It involved dysfunctional behavior that all revolves around what is good for the addiction.  Responsible life activities suffer.  For a review of the science of addiction, see this excellent article:

But here the evasive behavior of the addict kicked in, protecting the addiction, covering up the false reasons for using pot, avoiding clear answers to questions from family and the doctor.  The game of smoke and mirrors was on.

Who was the doctor who prescribed the medical marijuana?  She wouldn't say.  She said she forgot.

Did the doctor tell her what were the risks, benefits and alternatives to using marijuana for pain?

She couldn't recall.

Did she know what they were.

She couldn't say.

How bad was the back pain now that she was back to lifting 10 to 50 pound loads in her work?  Oh it was still bad.  But her facial expressions didn't show much concern: an incongruency consistent with lying.  Doctors see this all the time.

What was she doing to stretch and strengthen and otherwise take RESPONSIBILITY for her back so she doesn't reinjur it?  She couldn't or wouldn't say.  Her cover up continued and her facial expressions were inconsistent with the content of her speech, but her lying wasn't lost to me.

I was on to her scam, not that I could do much about it.

People with addictions use thoughts and feelings and actions to protect their use of their drug of abuse.

A common tactic is to deny the consequences of their addiction.  Doctors see this all the time.

When did her problems acting responsibly in her relationship and with her family and with taking care of her back start?

Prior to use of medical marijuana she acted responsibly, was getting good grades in high school, keeping her job, paying her bills, etc.

With a back injury, she started use of medical marijuana in another state.  When family was alarmed at the change in her behavior, as she became more impulsive and reactive and cared less about what other's felt in her family and friendships, she bolted for another state:

Colorado, where medical marijuana was legal and there wasn't close tabs on medical marijuana users!

The family was outraged but she had graduated from high school and there was little they could do as they saw their daughter move away and continue her addiction and running from the consequences of her abuse.

A tragedy!

She got a medical marijuana license for treating her back pain, but the doctor (or so the patient later said) didn't instruct her in how to care for her back with stretching and strengthening exercises and instruction in safe lifting.  When I offered to show her those things, she said she wasn't in the office for that.  She wasn't interested in learning how to take care of herself.  She just wanted to get high.

The scam was on.

I told her that by history, her behavior problems started with the use of medical marijuana, which can alter a person's perceptions, distort their ability to recall verbal information, blunt their ability to live life in a responsible fashion.  Marijuana even has mild hallucinogenic properties.

She admitted on higher doses of marijuana her thinking was definitely off so she lowered it.  Not under the supervision of a doctor, however.  Once she had her license, apparently, it was "anything goes."

Given her history of behavior problems, problems living responsibly, keeping a job and acting responsibly in relationships--all starting with her use of marijuana, I said it seemed like marijuana was the problem.

Predictably, like many addicts, she pulled out lots of tricks in her behavior to try to cover up the "tracks" of her addiction.

She reacted with outrage!  The doctor was wrong!  Marijuana was good!  The family and significant other were over controlling! 

Well, could Dr. Jensen communicate with the doctor prescribing marijuana? 

No, she couldn't recall the name of the doctor.

I asked her to stop marijuana.  She refused.  I told her she seemed addicted to it.  She said she couldn't be.  I told her she needed to work in a chemical dependency clinic.  She reacted with outrage.  Her mother was horrified.

But there was little she or I could do.

Her daughter was addicted to a legal substance in Colorado that currently has little guidelines as to how it is prescribed and followed up with.

Welcome to Colorado!

Welcome to what it's like to have a family member addicted to marijuana!

For further information on marijuana addiction and brain imaging studies of it, just search those words on Google and Google Scholar.  Enjoy getting informed!  I suggest relying on peer reviewed scientific journals on Google Scholar.  A Google search will mostly get sites that are not based on scientifically valid studies.