As our culture drifts farther from God, drugs become a substitute for spirituality. The drug receiving the most attention at the start of 2020 is marijuana. The compound in marijuana that causes users to get high is THC. Seeking peace in THC, alcohol, and other drugs does not fill the spiritual void.
The United States farm bill passed in 2018 mandated that plants containing less than .3% THC would be considered hemp. Those plants containing more than .3% would be regarded as marijuana, which remains, for the moment, an illegal, controlled substance. People now use cannabidiol (CBD) in a wide range of products, including pain medications, stress relievers, and sleep enhancers. THC is also found inadvertently in some products, and there is no way to tell the difference between THC in CBD oil and in recreational marijuana.
In random drug testing, THC may show up even if the subject only used a CBD oil. If the employer has a policy of firing anyone who tests positive for THC, that person would be dismissed. USA Today (January 21, 2020, Section B 1) carried a story about a school bus driver in Salt Lake City who was fired because she tested positive for THC. She had used CBD to help her sleep and to relieve stress.
Research may lead to some beneficial applications of THC, when used carefully and in a controlled way. The massive demand for cannabidiol products and the pressure to make recreational marijuana legal is an indication of the unhappiness and misery that people in our culture are experiencing. When we were traveling in Ireland several years ago, our guide commented on how unhappy people are there as alcohol has replaced faith in God. The same thing is happening in America today. Seeking peace in THC, alcohol, and other drugs is no substitute for God, but massive numbers of people have turned to these faith substitutes. A brief “high” is no substitute for lasting, faithful joyfulness.
The Bible is full of references to the desire God has for us to experience joy and happiness. The Psalms encouraged followers of God to be joyful. (See Psalms 5:11, 63:5, and 149:5-6.) In Luke 10:17, when the disciples found they had the power to help people, they “returned with joy.” In John 16:20-24, Jesus talks about finding “joy that no man can take from you.” In Romans 15:13, Paul says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Galatians 5:22 tells us that joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit.
People look for peace, joy, happiness, and satisfaction in all the wrong places. Seeking peace in THC, alcohol, and other drugs is not a long-term solution. The fact that I can be content, at peace, and able to find joy and beauty in spite of the massive problems I have experienced, builds my faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. No drug high of any kind gives the lasting contentment that I find in my relationship with Christ. I have looked in both places, and the evidence is clear.
In the rush to promote recreational drugs, a cousin to THC has become famous. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary psychoactive drug in marijuana that produces intoxicating effects on the mind. However, there are at least 113 related chemical compounds called cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. One of them is known as CBD (cannabidiol). The CBD market has been getting a lot of attention.
One reason for all of this attention to the CBD market is that small studies have shown some positive results in the treatment of epilepsy. CBD does not produce any of the intoxicating effects of THC, so promoters are selling it in a variety of substances. CBD has been used in supplements, foods, and cosmetic products. The list includes tinctures, oils, salves, coffee beans, bath bombs, beard oil, rubs, foods, candy, carbonated drinks, beer, water, and pet foods. In 2018 sales were in the hundreds of millions of dollars and are predicted to be about 20 billion dollars by 2022.
While the CBD market explodes, scientists still don’t know what effects CBD can have on the human body. Small trials are testing effects on pain, anxiety, depression and other health problems. At this time, the only FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved prescription medication involving CBD is Epidiolex, used for treating a rare form of epilepsy. The National Institutes of Health funding for research on CBD has gone from no studies in 2014 to 16 million dollars in studies in 2018.
As people make money in the CBD market, their beneficial claims cannot be substantiated. FDA regulations prohibit CBD from being sold across state lines as a food additive, dietary supplement, or for treating diseases. However, the only “enforcement” of the law is sending out warning letters. The quality of the CBD being sold is inconsistent, and sometimes it also contains THC.
The question is. “Why are people so desperate for the benefits that some are claiming CBD provides?”Christianity offers help with anxiety an depression that CBD is supposed to alleviate. If the Church functioned as God designed it, the struggles of everyday life and the support that enables one to deal with major crisis issues could be successfully addressed. Because we are not practicing Christianity as the Bible presents it, people are left looking for help and support from chemicals and philosophers. The result of that is that when people looking to get rich make claims of a new wonder drug, people jump at the chance to use it.
It is essential that we use everything God has built into the creation that will benefit our lives. As science studies CBD, it will become clear what uses it has, and what dangers it might hold. The CBD market working blindly is a recipe for disaster. What are the side effects of CBD? Is it addictive? Does the placebo effect explain the claims that some have made?
Susan Weiss of the National Institute on Drug Abuse says, “A lot of the products that people are taking may not be what they think.” Be careful what you put into your body. Don’t rush into human solutions to problems created by humans. The Church must show the love and compassion of Christ as we reach out to those who are struggling. Beware of those who make promises of help, but just want your money.
A newly released study indicates the dangers of long-term marijuana use. The bottom line is that it alters brain cells.
The study was published in Jneurosci (The Journal of Neuroscience) on October 16. The researchers focused on the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain. Dopamine and serotonin receptors are concentrated there. Those receptors give a person the sensation of pleasure.
The scientists conducted the study on mice in their “teen” and “adolescent” stages of life. The mice received injections of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) every day for a week. THC is the principal psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Marijuana (as well as opioids and alcohol) stimulates the VTA to release dopamine resulting in an experience of pleasure and the desire for more. There is a GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) cell in the VTA which acts as an inhibitor. When the brain releases GABA, it serves to restrain the desire for pleasure and keep it under control.
In the week of receiving THC, the GABA neurons lost their ability to control the desire for pleasure. They were in a state of “long-term depression” (LTD). This caused the dopamine to remain longer in the VTA giving a sense of being “spaced out,” and leading to addiction.
The researchers stated that the long-term effect of the THC was to remodel the brain’s synapses resulting in reduced “synaptic plasticity.” The synapses carry electrical or chemical signals from one nerve cell (neuron) to another. This “synaptic modification” is changing the brain at the cellular level.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association, and it is the standard reference used by mental health professionals at all levels. The current edition is DSM-5. It defines cannabis (marijuana) use disorder as a “problematic pattern of cannabis use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.”