With Christmas and New Year’s Eve rapidly approaching, people are thinking about celebrations and feasting. The holidays are times when we often plan to “indulge”, and to be more free with what we eat and drink, often doing so in excess. Although such behavior is considered “acceptable”, celebrating with cannabis may not be as well accepted. Friends and family members may look down on your use of it, or voice their disapproval. Let’s take this opportunity to take a “deep dive” into the role of cannabis in celebrations.
You may have seen the meme that says, “All dogs are therapy dogs–most are just freelancing”. And if you are a dog lover, you know that is true. There’s nothing like a dog to tell your problems to, and they always greet us with love and approval, which is very therapeutic. Along those lines, I also believe that all cannabis is medical cannabis–but most is sold recreationally. If your buddy said that he’d had a stressful week and was going to go home and have a few beers, no one would raise an eyebrow. But friends and family members may not be as understanding when people report wanting to use cannabis to “relax” or “chill out”. Cannabis is still viewed with suspicion and judgment as a bad, criminal thing, and people who choose it are viewed as “stoners” and miscreants. And yet, incorporating cannabis into a “celebration” to make things festive is far safer and less toxic than overindulging in both food and alcohol, the use of which are conventionally accepted, especially around the Holidays.
We need to eat to live, but there are many disease states associated with overindulgence and obesity. Food that is high in fat and sugar causes the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and satisfaction. Cravings for that dopamine rush can override our body’s natural hunger regulation system, leading to overeating and obesity. Acutely, overeating can lead to abdominal pain from bloating and gas, and nausea and vomiting. The high fat in holiday foods and alcohol consumption can trigger a bout of pancreatitis as they impair the function of the pancreatic cells. This dysfunction can lead to insulin resistance, which can lead to Type II diabetes. They can also cause cholecystitis and gallstones, which can become a surgical emergency.
Obesity is a precursor of other diseases including several types of cancer, obstructive sleep apnea, gastric reflux, liver disease, hypertension and elevated cholesterol and triglycerides which lead to cardiovascular diseases like myocardial infarction (heart attack), congestive heart failure, and stroke. Depression is another serious consequence of obesity, and is tied to poor social and occupational performance. The obese also suffer from chronic pain as a result of arthritis and spinal problems from the stress of carrying their weight.
Alcohol is connected in our culture with celebrations. We toast to good luck, good fortune, ect.. But alcohol is a dangerous chemical for humans, and is linked to a lot of illness and potential for death. Acute alcohol intoxication is linked to an increase in irritability, combativeness, and dysphoria (sadness). People intoxicated with alcohol show poor judgment and increased mpulsivity which can lead to injury, falls, depression, anxiety, suicidal and homicidal ideaation and attempts, and risky sexual behaviors. Acute alcohol intoxication can lead to nausea and vomiting (aspiration risk), blackouts, seizures, alcohol poisoning and death.
Long term use of alcohol is associated with a wide range of illnesses and diseases. Cirrhosis, fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and liver failure which can necessitate a transplant are often seen. Alcohol leads to an increase in the percentage of fat in the blood and increases the level of the “bad” cholesterol, leading to hypertension, myocardial infarction (heart attacks), cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure and stroke. Alcohol use and abuse can cause stomach ulceration and esophageal varices (enlarged blood vessels) which can rupture and lead to death. Alcohol use is associated with higher risks of cancers of the liver, mouth, breast and colon. Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome is a type of encephalopathy causing confusion and a loss of mental activity, leg tremors, vision changes, double vision and ataxia (loss of muscle coordination) related to long term alcohol abuse and can lead to coma and death. Increased levels of dementia, severe anemia, and fetal alcohol syndrome are often seen in those who drink a lot of alcohol. Osteoporosis leading to fractures of the bones, pain and disability are also seen. High risk drinking is characterized as more than 4 drinks in a night or 8 drinks in a week for women, and 5 drinks in a night or 15 drinks in a week for men.
In contrast to all of this, cannabis is a very safe, well tolerated treatment, and makes for a safer way to celebrate and cut loose. There is NO lethal dose of cannabis. In contrast, taking too much Tylenol can lead to liver failure and death, and we know how medications like opiates can be lethal in overdose. If you took an enormous amount of cannabis you would get very high. You might eat everything not nailed down, and you might sleep like a stone, but there would be no damage to your heart, lungs, liver, brain–NO DAMAGE. People awaken after “overindulging” in cannabis without any sort of hangover or sequelae–NONE. Cannabis users are not violent or aggressive–they tend to be peaceful, mellow and serene. Any THC related anxiety can be addressed with CBD, reassurance, and rest. Also, cannabis is an anti-inflammatory agent, and helps with irritable bowel symptoms, and anxiety, insomnia, and pain, It helps to prevent seizures, to fight cancer, to relieve the symptoms and side effects of Parkinson’s, and MS, and Alzheimer’s, and Asthma, and HIV, and Crohn’s disease, etc.. When you add that to the relaxation, loving feelings, silliness and creativity cannabis can create, it is a compelling argument to consider celebrating with cannabis this year rather than more traditional choices. Tell those disapproving relatives to “put that in your pipe and smoke it!”