Weed, marijuana, pot, hash, dope – it has a million names but I guess the most universal is cannabis so that’s the one I’ll stick with here. After alcohol, nicotine and caffeine it is the most commonly used drug. Indeed over one hundred million Americans have tried it and twenty five million in the past year. And why not? It’s not physically addictive, it can relax you and can cause euphoria. It can turn you into the world’s greatest philosopher!
Therefore why, you might ask, am I bothering to write this article? Well, I guess it’s by way of a warning. I’m not proud to admit it but six years or so ago, while I was a student, I was into smoking cannabis in a big way. At around that time in the UK there was a lot of talk about decriminalizing it, much in the same way as they have done in Holland. Being an ‘enlightened’ kind of guy I was all for it. After all, there was a whole stack of evidence that said it was harmless, that it was just a bit of fun. And perhaps that’s true – for 95% of the population. Unfortunately for me I fell into that not so lucky 5%.
I’m not suggesting that cannabis is entirely responsible for my anxiety. Clearly there are underlying psychological issues that had been fermenting away in my brain for a good twenty years. But one thing I can say is that it certainly unleashed a whole raft of stuff that I would have rather had stayed locked up. Paranoia. The feeling that something bad was going to happen to me. That I might die, that I couldn’t cope. I even remember one time I accidently smashed a bottle of milk on the floor. I was so paranoid that I thought I’d somehow swallowed some of the glass. The last time I ever smoked weed (and ever will I might add) I found myself having to leave my flat. I walked around campus thinking – or knowing – that I was having a heart attack. Who knows what I must have looked like? I vowed to quit. The trouble is, of course, that once Pandora’s Box has been opened it’s pretty hard to get shut again. I’ve been struggling to do so for about six years and the lid’s only just starting to go down.
If we can get technical for a moment there’s a little chemical that goes by the name of THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol that is found in cannabis. Back in the sixties there was generally a very low concentration of it in cannabis. However, in modern times, what with the intensive way it is produced, the concentration is much, much higher and this is what is believed to cause all of those nasty effects. It dramatically increases the risk of psychotic episodes (such as the one I suffered) and schizophrenia later on. Something I think we all want to avoid.
Of course, I could go on and explain how cannabis is potentially a gateway drug but our main concern is its effect on anxiety. Much is said about the medicinal properties of cannabis. Who knows, maybe it does have some analgesic qualities. However, for any of you who are tempted to indulge to calm your frayed nerves think again. Make no mistake, despite much media gumpf that says otherwise, cannabis is a dangerous substance and should be avoided by all – particularly us paranoid types!
N.B. As an aside, I would be very interested to hear the experience of others who have smoked a fair bit of cannabis. Did you have a similar experience to me? Do you think it had a significant role to play in your anxiety problems?