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Substance Misuse and Marijuana

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The marijuana “high,” or intoxication, is described in different ways. Some people report feeling inebriated, while others are simply relaxed. Some people use plants such as marijuana in the pursuit of religious, spiritual, or ecstatic experience. Humans tend to be fascinated with altered states of consciousness, be it through prayer, meditation, music and the arts, drugs, or plants. Traditional shamans regard plants as more than sources of foods and drugs, seeing them as sentient life forms that are interdependent and communicate with each other and humans. Tompkins and Bird (1973), in their classic book The Secret Life of Plants, conducted clinical research on the spiritual as well as physical and emotional relationships between plants and people. McKenna (1992, p. xvii) states that,

Analysis of the existential incompleteness within us that drives us to form relationships of dependency and addiction with plants as drugs will show that at the dawn of history, we lost something precious, the absence of which has made us ill with narcissism. Only a recovery of the relationship that we evolved with nature through use of psychoactive plants before the fall into history can offer us hope of a humane and open-ended future.

Nineteenth-century Americans and Europeans preferred to ingest marijuana baked into pastry or as a tincture in tea or wine, until people began to realize that they could achieve a milder, quicker, and more manageable high by inhaling marijuana fumes. Smoking hashish was considered at the end of the 19th century to be “stylish and elegant” (Lee, 2012, p. 37).

Unfortunately, adolescents and young children are now smoking marijuana in steadily increasing numbers to get high too. The NIDA (2017b) public education materials list the following signs and symptoms of marijuana use in youth:

  • chronic cough;
  • unusually giggly and/or uncoordinated;
  • very red, bloodshot eyes or use eye drops often;
  • hard time remembering things that just happened;
  • has drugs or drug paraphernalia – drug-related items including pipes and rolling papers – possibly claiming they belong to a friend if confronted;
  • has strange-smelling clothes or bedroom;
  • uses incense and other deodorizers;
  • wears clothing or jewelry or has posters that promote drug use; and
  • has unexplained lack of money or extra cash on hand.


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