CANNABIS CULTURE – There are lots of hard questions when it comes to medical marijuana. “What type, strain or product should I use?” “How should I take it?” “How much?” The only answer I can usually give for sure is, “I don’t know – just start off slow and try small amounts of everything, until you find an amount suitable for you.” Another question that I come across is, “How much is too much?”
This is a tough question, because so much of the answer is based upon the person’s condition. If you’re a follower of the Rick Simpson method of treating cancer, then it’s a case of “throw as many cannabinoids as you can at it, in as high a concentration as possible.” Should this theory be correct, then it is very difficult to determine how much is too much for a cancer patient. As for other conditions (including cancer), it may be the case that a consistent amount is needed in order to treat it properly, just as you might for another condition.
For example, in order to treat depression, antidepressants must be taken daily in order to be effective. This could be the case with cannabinoids as well – specific amounts are needed at specific times of day, in regular intervals and without missing a day of medication, lest the patient go back to “baseline” and have to start the treatment all over again.
Putting these variables aside, could it be said that, for many people, there is such a thing as too much cannabis? Well, you can’t overdose on using cannabis alone, so the chance of death is off the table. So, physically speaking, you cannot consume so much cannabis that you kill yourself, which isn’t the case with alcohol, opioids and benzodiazepines. However, just because you can’t OD on cannabis, doesn’t mean there might not be a problem with overconsumption, at least for some people.
Although it is rare, some people form a condition called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) after using cannabis daily or weekly for a long time (usually more than 2-3 years, if not longer). CHS causes severe cyclic nausea and vomiting after the consumption of cannabis, which can only be alleviated by hot baths/showers and, ultimately, cannabis cessation. One of the theories behind CHS is that the antiemetic properties of THC and CBD undergo a “reversal” of effects and begin to induce vomiting when they’re in high enough concentrations in the body. This means that, just as cannabinoids can prevent vomiting, they can cause it as well if in high enough concentrations.
Other than this, are there any other times when cannabis use can be said to be “chronic”? Well, just as with anything else, if using cannabis is interfering with other areas of your life and you have a compulsion to use cannabis despite the negative consequences. Cannabis is not physiologically addictive. However, around 10% of cannabis users may develop a condition called “cannabis misuse disorder” “substance misuse disorder”, which describes psychological addiction and the craving to use more regardless of any negatives.
A person constantly missing out on work, social and other life activities due to marijuana use could be said to be suffering from “cannabis misuse disorder”. However, if the person is functional and carrying on with their life unaffected in any way, then it is difficult to say whether or not them using cannabis regularly is “chronic”. This is doubly the case if using cannabis is actually improving their lives and mitigating a serious health condition – who am I to tell a sick person who only gets relief from cannabis that they’re wrong?
Are there any other times when chronic cannabis use can become problematic? Well, as all cannabis use arguably has health benefits of some sort, there could be instances when it might not be ideal. Those with schizophrenia or any other schizotypal disorder should ideally avoid using cannabis. There are other conditions that may cause psychosis, such as bipolar disorder (manic depression), where cannabis may be recommended but use and dosage should be carefully monitored. For example, using a strain high in THC during a “manic” period may increase the likelihood of developing psychosis (a CBD-rich strain/product might be more beneficial), whereas using the same strain may be useful during a “down” period.
So, is there such a thing as too much cannabis, and can use become chronic? The answer is, quite simply, “Yes”. However, in comparison to many other substances, cannabis has a much lower addiction rate, is far safer, and is generally easy to stop using for most people. The withdrawal from cannabis is not deadly, and for many there is barely any discomfort when cannabis use stops suddenly. Frankly, it could be said that processed sugar is far bigger an addiction problem, yet the term “chronic sugar misuse” doesn’t seem to enter our lexicon. Maybe it’s time we reassess what addiction is, and how we treat it …