With many states legalizing medical marijuana, and Colorado legalizing recreational marijuana, we are about to learn what I already know as a practicing psychiatrist: Marijuana is not harmless and will lead many millions of people into addiction, depression, psychosis, anxiety and lack of motivation.
I support legalizing marijuana, because I do not support the government making the decision whether people use it or not.
I also don’t like jailing people for the same behavior (drug use) that so many of our elected officials have engaged in. And I believe strongly that, in carefully selected cases, marijuana (and other potentially addictive drugs, by the way) can be very useful, medically.
Here’s the big trouble, though: We are way behind the curve educating people about the risks of marijuana abuse and dependence—which could cost us many billions of dollars and ruin many, many lives.
I know this sounds alarmist, but it is true, and we are completely unprepared for the fallout.
Research studies show that cannabis users are at a 40 percent increased risk of psychosis. Research studies show that marijuana may well be a risk factor for schizophrenia, depression and anxiety disorders.
And research shows that marijuana is linked to a syndrome in which people have little motivation to pursue goals and interests that they once found compelling.
In my own practice, I find that people addicted to marijuana can have lives veering out of control—without the energy to pursue employment, with relationships failing, with grades dropping—yet insist that their chronic, daily marijuana use has nothing to do with it.
And this kind of disregard for cause and effect, even a disregard for the broken parts of one’s existence—a new drug-induced variant of the philosophical posture which the French call la belle indifference—may now become epidemic.
There is no chance, whatsoever, that the states which have legalized medical marijuana (never mind recreational marijuana) are policing its use in any real way.
Prescription mills are offering medical marijuana certification to anyone who claims any kind of chronic pain, or any symptoms of a number of other ill-defined conditions. Millions will become frequent users and will become less than they were.
Just as disturbing, marijuana will join Facebook and iPhones and video games in removing people from reality, making them less empathetic and less autonomous.
Is it an accident, a meaningful coincidence or part of a toxic slippery slope that we have a disempowering government in Washington and a new way to stay weak wafting like a smokescreen over the land?
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.