There is Nothing Wrong with Smoking a Little Weed, if you’re Cool with a Life of Schizophrenia!
By Tony R. Wafford
Every since I can remember, I’ve heard people saying, “It is okay to smoke reefer, weed, dope or marijuana.” just some of the many names we called it when I was a kid. Folks would also tell us, “After all, smoking weed isn’t as bad as snorting or shooting heroine, but it’s not as cool as snorting cocaine, which by the way, weed isn’t addictive.” Some of us actually believed that foolishness. That reminded me of something I once heard Dick Gregory say. “Weed smokers don’t like heroine users, cocaine users think their better than weed smokers, cigarette smokers can’t stand weed smokers and coffee drinkers hate them all”. As a very young boy it took me some time to realize what Dick was saying. All of them are suffering from some form of addiction, but addicted they are.
When I was a young man growing up back in Detroit, I can remember you getting a half of a plastic sandwich bag of weed for just $5.00. Nowadays, you spend $20.00 just for one joint! And here’s what’s so crazy, you take one hit and you’re high. I asked my son, Dennis what was up with that? He told me all the many different names and brands of weed that’s out there today and just how potent it was. It was at that moment we had the “weed” conversation.
I told him that I don’t know what that is that everybody is smoking but it aint weed! And as time passed I began to see and hear of more and more young African American men losing their minds. I’m talking about young Black college kids totally losing their minds, coming home from college, never to return back to school. Young Black men getting into trouble with the law and going to jail and some just sitting around the house almost brain dead and the common thread was they all smoked weed and they all suffered from schizophrenia. I’m not saying everyone who smokes weed will suffer from schizophrenia or will become schizophrenic. What I am saying is what I told my son, Dennis, “You would have to be a fool to smoke this poison they call weed today.”
And low and behold, just last week, I ran across a story in NEWS WEEK Magazine talking about the link between weed and schizophrenia. It said since the days of Reefer Madness, scientists have sought to understand the complex connection between marijuana and psychosis. Smoking marijuana can cause short-term psychotic experiences, such as hallucinations and paranoia, even in healthy people, but researchers have also long noted a link between marijuana use and the chronic psychotic disorder, schizophrenia.
It went on to say that repeated studies have found that people with schizophrenia are twice as likely to smoke weed as those who are unaffected by schizophrenia. Conversely, data suggest that those who smoke weed are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia as nonsmokers. In a widely publicized 2007 review of the research, it even concluded that trying marijuana justonce was associated with a 40% increase in risk of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. Can you believe that, smoking weed just once can put you in harm’s way!
Many of us over the age of 40 can remember when smoking weed was a rite of passage for some young people. But studies have shown by the time of the turn of the century, the rate of schizophrenia in the U.S. have remained flat, or possibly declined. For as long as it has been tracked, schizophrenia has been found to affect about 1% of the population.
The article went on to say that one explanation may be that the two factors are coincidental, not causal: perhaps people who have a genetic susceptibility to schizophrenia also happen to especially enjoy marijuana. Still, some studies suggests that smoking weed can actually trigger the disease earlier in individuals who are predisposed, and yet researchers still aren’t seeing increases in the overall schizophrenia rate or decreases in the average age of onset.
In a recent research study of 100 patients between the ages of 16 and 40 with schizophrenia, half of them smoked marijuana. The study also found that among marijuana users with schizophrenia, 75% had begun smoking before the onset of schizophrenia and that their disease appeared about two years earlier than in those who did not smoke weed.
The study went on to say that, gender accounted for a large proportion of the risk of early onset in a study which included 69 men and 31 women. Males in general had an earlier age of onset of schizophrenia. In men, the disease tends to take hold around age 19 while in women it isn’t typically seen until 22 irrespective of marijuana use. But, typically, teenage boys are four times more likely than girls to be heavy weed smokers, which may create an illusory association between the drug and onset of the disease.
Another study of 190 patients (121 of whom smoked weed), researchers found a subgroup of 44 whose disease was powerfully affected by the marijuana. These patients either developed schizophrenia within a month of beginning to smoke weed or saw their existing psychosis severely exacerbated with each successive exposure to the drug. Schizophrenia appeared in these patients nearly three years earlier than in other marijuana users with the disease.
Now, I’m not sure just how great a role smoking marijuana plays in schizophrenia. But what I do know is I wouldn’t throw those dice; and the next time someone tells you its okay, its only weed . . . remember this article.