The federal government considers cannabis a Schedule I substance: a drug with no medicinal value and with a potential for addiction as strong as heroin. But one doctor believes that cannabis is not only safe, but that it’s far safer than what’s in your medicine cabinet.
Dr. Christopher Prince is a Michigan-based physician who specializes in emergency medicine, and now provides medical care in rural areas of the United States. Prince has seen plenty of drug overdoses during his career, but not once has he seen an overdose on cannabis.
“In 33 years of practice, I’ve never seen anyone come in with a pure problem from a marijuana overdose,” he said. “I’ve worked in the ER enough, I’ve seen [more] people who need liver transplants from Tylenol overdose.”
According to a report released in 2014, 67.8 percent of emergency room visits were attributed to drug overdoses, both illicit and prescribed. Based on his own observations, Prince is concerned about the overall clinical approach towards pain management, and the safety of medications being prescribed.
“We as physicians have found that people that are getting addicted [to painkillers] have been [doing so] because of our own treatment plans,” Prince said. “It isn’t because we [as physicians] don’t know what we’re doing, it’s because of how we’ve been pushed to treat pain. When you start comparing [current pain treatment] to marijuana, a lot of these other things are far more addictive.”
Prince is among the millions of doctors who have not witnessed a single lethal overdose of cannabis. This is because overdosing on cannabis is impossible. “The lethal doses of marijuana are so astronomically high that a human couldn’t consume that much in a single sitting,” he said. What Prince is seeing is painkillers at work, all of which reduce the amount of pain a patient experiences, but in many different ways and with different side effects.
Acetaminophen has been used for centuries to treat pain, but even modern medicine isn’t completely sure how it works in the body. The closest theory is that it blocks a particular enzyme called cyclooxygenase, also referred to as COX. Researchers have known about this enzyme for quite a long time, and it seems that the human body likes to use this enzyme to tell the brain something is wrong, resulting in pain. Aspirin functions similarly, and has been used even longer than acetaminophen. These two drugs are considered save enough to sell over the counter, but have long-term side effects like liver damage and and stroke.
“Tylenol and aspirin, in my opinion, are two of the most lethal painkillers out there, because you can self-medicate, and there’s no prescription required,” said Prince. “They work well, but you start dealing with the abuse potential.”
But the more significant concern for health care providers are opioid painkillers. Opioids work by blocking opioid receptors in the brain and spine. What makes these medications addictive is the amount of dopamine released while the drug is active. Taken over time, the brain becomes dependent on the amount of dopamine being released.
This effect is similar to how cannabis works in the body, but with some notable exceptions. While there are both opioid receptors and cannabinoid receptors in the brain, the location of them differentiates the effect they have on the body. Unlike cannabinoid receptors, those for opioids are located in areas of the brain responsible for essential bodily functions, like respiration, which is why opioids can be lethal and cannabinoids, effectively, are not.
Even after these differences are established and other substances are deemed more dangerous, cannabis is still viewed as a gateway drug that leads the user to more harmful substances. But Dr. Prince believes that gateway appears earlier in a patient’s history of addiction.
“If you think about it, the majority of the people that use harder drugs started out using marijuana,” said Prince.
“Because it was their first drug, people assume that’s what led to them wanting a bigger high. If you start thinking about addiction, start thinking about alcohol and tobacco, because they’re both more addictive than cannabis.”
Although mainstream medicine has yet to acknowledge the potential for cannabis to treat pain, Dr. Prince is cautiously moving forward with cannabinoid-based therapies for his own patients.
“[Medical marijuana] has been working well for several of the patients [my practice has] been seeing,” he said. “How much of that is marijuana or other medications [they are taking] is anyone’s guess.”
Hoopla in Denver surrounding April 20th aka 4/20 aka The High Holiday is unwarranted, unwanted and won’t be tolerated. St Patrick’s Day or New Year’s Eve and their wanton disregard of the serious, professional drunk are the closest comparison than can be made to the fabricated narrative that frames the gluttony this day has become synonymous with. Save getting your wisdom teeth pulled to coincide with this date and avoid the all the pain.
It’s getting harder to miss the carnival when it’s in town for over a week—but that’s how to make more money. It’s a race to the bottom for the almighty dollar. Funk Doc, M.E.T.H.O.D. Man, B-Real, Snoop and Wiz Khalifa know they always have a solid payday come this time of year. New to the hustle in 2017, Gucci Mane and 2Chainz are hoping they’re able to turn their pro-cannabis leanings into a reliable income stream for when Trap Rap falls out of fashion in the future.
The legacy of four twenty started with a crew called the Waldos and a statue of Louis Pasteur. These days, rank and file members of the cannabis “community” descend on Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles, Vegas and other hotbeds of marijuana industry infrastructure to encourage a lifestyle of irresponsible and indefensible excess.
Crude behavior, wasteful indulgence, sexually suggestive marketing and gross negligence are typical of the gaudy booths that line venues and the events honoring the annual debacle. Ounce filled joints that begin to canoe immediately and multi gram dabs lost to the wind flood social media channels informing the Internet that a spot is “lit as fuck”. Tickets priced at $42.00 and kitschy souvenirs going for $4.20, free swag and unregulated marijuana sales accompany 4/20 celebrations like cake at a birthday party.
Hallmarked by activism and advocacy, early events promoted respectful rebellion and demonstrated that large crowds of cannabis consumers could congregate without causing concern. By 2013, things got out of control as gunshots rang out at Civic Center Park’s annual spectacle in Denver. After proving incapable of delivering the peacefulness that cannabis claims as a side effect, grand celebrations are marred in red tape, poorly planned and have seen a large increase in presence and harassment from armed members of private security companies and Denver’s police force.
In favor of smaller and more subtly obscene showings, the state of Colorado has all but shut out High Times Magazine’s drug bazar know as the Cannabis Cup forcing the event to less desirable venues such as racetracks in Michigan and Indian Reservations near Las Vegas. This inconvenience has not prevented large flocks of Juggalos, Wooks and Light Healers from migrating en masse towards the promise of Cup Cough and the possibility of scoring LSD or other handshake drugs from members of the traveling circus.
Many attendees of 4/20 cups, concerts and carnivals are visitors from states with prohibitive cannabis legislation or those who are not old enough to legally consume legal cannabis in their home states. Unable to imagine a life where everyday can be 4/20, actions turn towards deplorable. Curiosity and ignorance lead them into temptation and has them behaving like the Amish on Rumspringa. Unaware of their trespasses and not looking for forgiveness, this crowd menaces the festivities with what happens here stays here arrogance while conducting themselves as if they’re above reproach. Blatant amateurism is on full display for all of mainstream media to retell as their interest in cannabis stays on the rise.
Hard as is it may be for some to believe, a large contingent of professionals use cannabis frequently throughout the workday. Hands on a clock or the day of the month do not determine when it’s time to get lifted. Cannabis is a conduit towards productivity and is less harmful than the nauseating amount of coffee and Adderall consumed in the name of efficiency and earnings.
Up early in the morning and staying at the office late into the evening—for these professionals—standard operating procedure may include copious amounts of dabs starting before the sun comes up or a blunt during a smoke break. April 20th is just another day on the calendar in the real world. Business as usual involves being elevated all the time to ensure morale remains high and that colleagues or supervisors won’t suspect that your lunch consists of the devil’s lettuce.
Hopefully the novelty of 4/20 will soon wear off however unlikely that may be. Legalization and normalization of medical and recreational cannabis use continues to expand globally offering opportunities to organize larger displays of conspicuous consumption. Indulging in fat joints with close friends over memorable conversations will always beat sitting in a park or being crammed into a tight spot among oblivious glitter-butted and patchouli scented revelers as they expound about chakras and energy fields.