A resident physician at Stanford Hospital, Dr. Nathaniel Morris specializes in mental health. In a recent editorial in Scientific American about the difference between the way health care providers view marijuana and the way the federal government regulates it, Morris expresses disbelief at the decision by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to keep marijuana classified as a Schedule I narcotic.
A Schedule I drug is one that is considered so dangerous, it has no medically-accepted purpose. It’s in the same category as bath salts and heroin. Says Morris, “I can’t make much sense of this.”
Daily, he speaks with his mental health patients about substance abuse. In his training and experience, he has learned there are some abuses that are extremely concerning, and others much less so. The very first substance he inquires about in evaluations? Alcohol. It’s effects are seen daily by emergency room doctors after drinkers crash their cars, fall into an alcohol-induced coma or inhale their own vomit. Alcohol leads to some 1.2 million emergency room visits annually, and excess alcohol consumption accounts for nearly 90,000 deaths in the U.S., according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It causes significant problems for fetuses when their mothers drink. Then there is cocaine, also a concern for pregnant women, and also the source of heart attacks and kidney failure. Methamphetamine causes rapid heart palpitations, violent agitation and hyperthermia. Opioids – including heroin and morphine – often kill patients with sudden respiratory failure. The effects are worse when the drug is used intravenously.
But marijuana? Morris says it’s an “afterthought.” Continue reading