My name is Tiffany Barnard Davidson. I moved to Washington DC six weeks ago. Prior to that, I was a resident of the state of Connecticut for 19 years. I sit before you today to speak about the impact that vaping high-nicotine content JUUL pods and high-potency THC oil has had on my family. I would like to begin by expressing my condolences to those families who have been much less fortunate than mine as a result of this escalating vaping crisis. True to what I have learned this past year, stories endlessly more tragic than mine often go untold because families are often too traumatized.
I was born in 1967 and my mom smoked while she was pregnant with me. So I was born premature at 4 lbs, and I contracted pneumonia. I spent the first month of my life in an incubator. Then I developed asthma and have lived with it all of my life. Back then the pot was a lot milder than the strains they are growing now, and I can’t imagine what kinds of birth defects and illnesses the new, stronger pot will cause in a developing fetus. Continue reading Stoned Parents from a Child’s Perspective→
By Sherry After smoking marijuana for 13 years I was able to quit, by the grace of God, on July 15, 1987 and have remained 100% sober since that day. When I got sober it wasn’t popular, because it seemed like everyone I knew, including my relatives, were getting high daily. They were nasty about it and asked me when I was going to stop going to “those stupid meetings.”
However, society, in general, was encouraging to people trying to get and stay sober. At least — back then — it was considered self-destructive to use drugs, smoke marijuana, drink alcohol and take pills. (Sherry wrote of the events leading up to the choice of sobriety in a testimony two years ago.) Today we live in a different country that has fallen prey to the lobbying of Big Marijuana.
Now I am surrounded, living in Northern California, by marijuana smokers. I can smell it on the streets, on the customers that walk in to my store, and even driving on the freeway! Who would have dreamed that we were going to end up living in a society in which marijuana would be king? Our business, a highly successful retail store, really took a hit during the Recession. We haven’t returned to the kind of sales we once enjoyed, but the marijuana growers are doing great. Regular farmers are now beginning to plant marijuana, rather than their traditional crops, and the marijuana advocates are jumping for joy. I can’t help but wonder what people would think (sober people, that is) to see workers drive in to my store from state, county, city, and utility jobs reeking of marijuana at 7 in the morning?
It was Tempting to Get into the Pot Business
My brother-in-law offered us $5,000 a year if we would get medical marijuana cards and allow him to grow pot on our property up in the mountains. This was back during the worst years of the Recession. His offer was tempting, since we couldn’t make money selling normal, productive products. But we turned him down. I told my husband, “Your mother would roll over in her grave if she knew you participated in this.” Although it was legal to get a medical marijuana card, legal to grow 6 plants a year, and legal to smoke it, it isn’t legal to batch it together and sell marijuana on the black market. We have relatives who are buying cars, motorcycles, property, having their homes remodeled – all from the proceeds of selling marijuana – while we struggle to make a legitimate living.
I have to keep my focus on what matters to me today: helping other women in their recovery from marijuana addiction and alcoholism. It is daunting, because so many women who are trying to get sober today end up going back out on marijuana, unable to stay 100% sober. They have been sold a bill of goods about how marijuana is harmless and, in fact, medicinal and good for us! Marijuana has become so ingrained in our society that people don’t even view it as a mind- altering drug. So if they have some clean time from methamphetamine, heroin, alcohol, or pills, they will accept a marijuana joint if someone offers it to them. The next thing they know they are off to the races with their drug of choice, fueled by marijuana. It is terribly sad.
Here’s to Staying Sober and the Sober Life
The women’s recovery meeting I started in January is now thriving and the women in that group are feeling stronger, more capable of maintaining a continuous sobriety. It’s tenuous, since they are so surrounded by the big pot cloud hanging over California. But there is an answer. You CAN stop smoking it. There is a life out there to live outside of a haze. God helped me get and stay sober. It wasn’t me – it was Him. I did the footwork and God did the rest. He took my impossible situation and He guided me into recovery and through the last 30 years – all the credit goes to Him. Life is so much more beautiful when it is viewed through a lens of sobriety. I don’t miss getting loaded one bit.
It is nice to drive around in my car and never have to worry that I might get pulled over with marijuana roaches in my ashtray. It is nice to be able to have a full, rich relationship with my husband and not have our marriage ruled by the getting, growing, smoking, and the repetitive pattern of marijuana addiction.
It is REALLY, REALLY wonderful beyond description to have an adult daughter that I raised without marijuana and other mind-altering substances in her life. She turned out to be what we in the program call a “normie.” My infant granddaughter is being raised in a household with no substances and I don’t have to worry about her parents, because they are lucid, responsible and in love. I have the ups and downs of any life, but I am better able to handle it. Yes, a life lived in reality is a miracle and a beautiful thing – and I thank God for it. I raise my glass of spring water in a toast! “Here’s to another 30 years of sober life!”
by Brad Roberts, MD: I recently finished my residency in emergency medicine and began to practice in Pueblo, Colorado. I grew up there, and I was excited to return home. However, when I returned home, the Pueblo I once knew had drastically changed. (Above photo is of people lining up at the opening of a pot dispensary in 2014.)
Where there were once hardware stores, animal feed shops, and homes along dotted farms, I now find marijuana shops—and lots of them. As of January 2016, there were 424 retail marijuana stores in Colorado compared with 202 McDonald’s restaurants.1 These stores are not selling the marijuana I had seen in high school.
Multiple different types of patients are coming into the emergency department with a variety of unexpected problems such as marijuana-induced psychosis, dependence, burn injuries, increased abuse of other drugs, increased homelessness and its associated problems, and self-medication with marijuana to treat their medical problems instead of seeking appropriate medical care.
I had expected to see more patients with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (and I have), but they were the least of my concern. Our local homeless shelter reported seeing 5,486 (unique) people between January and July 2016, while for the entire year of 2013 (before recreational marijuana) that number had been 2,444 people.2
Most disturbing, we weren’t seeing just homeless adults but entire families. It is a relatively common occurrence to have patients who just moved here for the marijuana show up to the emergency department with multiple medical problems, without any of their medications, often with poor or nonexistent housing, and with no plan for medical care other than to use marijuana.
They have often left established medical care and support to move here for marijuana and show up to the emergency department, often with suitcase in hand.
Increasingly Potent & Dangerous Drug
This new commercialized marijuana is near 20 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis), while the marijuana of the 1980s was less than 2 percent THC.
This tenfold increase in potency doesn’t include other formulations such as oils, “shatter” (highly concentrated solidified THC), or “dabbing” (heated shatter that is inhaled to get an even more potent form) that have up to 80 or 90 percent THC.3
The greatest concern that I have is the confusion between medical and recreational marijuana. Patients are being diagnosed and treated from the marijuana shops by those without any medical training. I have had patients bring in bottles with a recommended strain of cannabis and frequency of use for a stated medical problem given at the recommendation of a marijuana shop employee.
My colleagues report similar encounters, with one reporting seeing two separate patients with significantly altered sensorium and with bottles labeled 60 percent THC. They were taking this with opioids and benzodiazepines.
In some cases, places outside of medical clinics, like local marijuana shops, are being used to give screening examinations for medical marijuana cards.4 Reportedly, no records are available from these visits when requested by other medical providers. A large number of things treated with marijuana, often with no cited research at all or with severe misinterpretation of research, are advertised online.
These include statements that marijuana treats cancer (numerous types), cystic fibrosis, both diarrhea and constipation, hypoglycemia, nightmares, writer’s cramp, and numerous other conditions.5–7
Although there are likely some very effective ways to use the cannabinoid receptor (probably better termed the anandamide receptor), putting shops on every street corner and having nonmedical personnel giving medical advice is a very poor way to use this as a medicine.
Furthermore, to suggest that combustion (smoking) be the preferred route of medication delivery is harmful.3,8–10 I am also concerned that this is being widely distributed and utilized as a medicine prior to safety and efficacy studies having been completed; widely varying dosing regimens, concentrations, and formulations are being developed, sold, and utilized.
Patients are not being informed of the adverse effects associated with marijuana use, but instead, they are being told, “There are no adverse effects.” I am in favor of using the anandamide receptor for treatment purposes. However, we should do this safely and appropriately. What is occurring now is neither safe nor appropriate.
There are numerous adverse effects of marijuana that are significant. Marijuana use may lead to irreversible changes in the brain.3,9,11,12 Marijuana use correlates with adverse social outcomes.3
It is strongly associated with the development of schizophrenia.13–16 Dependence can lead to problem use.17,18 There are adverse effects on cardiovascular function, and smoking leads to poor respiratory outcomes.3,19,20 Traffic fatalities associated with marijuana have increased in Colorado.1
Pregnant women are using marijuana, which may lead to adverse effects on the fetus, and pediatric exposures are a much more common occurrence.21,22
Different Approach Is Needed
We should approach mass marijuana production and distribution as we would any other large-scale public health problem. We should do what we can to limit exposure, and we should provide clear, unbiased education.
In the case of prevention efforts being unsuccessful, we need to provide immediate treatment and assistance in stopping use. If we are going to use this as a medication, then we should use it as we use other medications. It should have to undergo the same scrutiny, Food and Drug Administration approval, and regulation that any other medication does. Why are we allowing a pass on a medication that very likely would carry with it a black-box warning?
As emergency physicians, we are on the front lines. We treat affected patients; we need to be at the forefront of public policy recommendations at both state and national levels.
Originally published by ACEPNow, a journal of Emergency Medicine. We also published the testimony of another emergency doctor in Pueblo, Dr. Karen Randall.