In our last Facebook Live event 7/2/18, there was an important discussion on marijuana as it has become more accepted and common since becoming legal in California. We thought it was worth discussing more and highlighting the conversation with the enclosed video and post.

One of the common misperceptions about marijuana, especially with adolescents, is that it helps one handle anxiety.  Drs. Frawley and El-Asyouty point out that it can turn off anxiety but they argue that it doesn’t help anxiety because it prevents us from learning how to manage anxiety and it turns off our ability to deal with anxiety in a healthy way.  The argument is that if you are covering up or turning off anxiety, you are not developing an ability to handle anxiety without drugs like marijuana or alcohol — a developmental gap is created, especially with teens.

This developmental gap is the ability to address, confront, reduce and appropriately process anxiety in a way which allows us to give it less power over time. Also, what we sometimes call anxiety is often really a feeling of anger that we don’t know what to do with. If we keep suppressing anger, somewhere it is going to boil over. These developmental emotional gaps are just as serious as not learning higher math skills, writing skills or reading comprehension as we go through school. It is very hard to succeed without them in relationships, work or social life.

Another issue is that functional memory is impacted by marijuana use in a way that affects our problem-solving abilities. We know that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, can affect short-term memory similar to the way alcohol or a blackout can make you forget what happened the night before.  Long-term use of marijuana can have a more cumulative effect on short-term memory and become more permanent by middle age. We can think of it as the brain would have difficulty creating new memories or recalling old memories while one is high.

One of the best ways to deal with anxiety can be recalling a time when we successfully dealt with an anxiety-causing circumstance and using that tactic or strategy again. Being unable to recall those strategies could keep us from learning to adapt and address anxiety as time passes.  So, yes — one doesn’t feel as anxious perhaps while high on marijuana but they are also less likely to be able to address anxiety without it over time.


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