Behavioral Health Services of Pickens County, South Carolina is the location of the latest in a growing list of regional centers receiving federal funding to study cannabis. They are actively seeking local marijuana users who are interested in being compensated for their time in exchange for participating in their research.
Perhaps it should be clarified, these studies only have one purpose in mind, and that is to discover and patent a pill-poppable form of relief from cannabis addiction. Let’s keep it real, many people still love the herb, but for any number of reasons may have a need to cut back for a while, or to put it away altogether.
Officials in Pickens County claim that marijuana use is on the rise locally, and they point to statistics released in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health which claim that over 4.3 million Americans are “dependent on” or “abusing” cannabis.
Research Director Elizabeth Chapman hopes that the research that she and her team are conducting will lead to the first FDA approved medication for marijuana addiction. The “cure” that they are toying with is called N-acetylcysteine, or NAC.
The Pickens program is 12 weeks long, and promises some sort of compensation to the volunteers, and Chapman has her eyes set on 2017 as the soonest she may have her FDA approved Weed-b-Gone being pushed to the masses. But what is this N-acetylcysteine?
An antioxidant commonly found in dietary supplements used by bodybuilders, NAC tricks the body into rearranging red blood cells into new molecules which further confuse the body into believing that there is a lack of oxygen. Then your muscles get bigger, or something.
But what you won’t find on the jars of supplements, or in the sales pitch from Pickens County, is the fact that NAC has been found to cause some study subjects’ lungs to narrow, which creates enormous amounts of pressure in the chest cavity raising the blood pressure in the lungs, which can then lead to dangerous swelling on the right side of the heart in a condition known as Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension.
It may be rare, and has not been seen so far outside of very limited lab studies, but it is a risk that needs to be considered by anyone contemplating this method of cutting back on, or quitting cannabis.
Similarly, the well-respected Scripps Institute in San Diego has been running a series of ads right alongside spots for medical marijuana dispensaries and delivery services, also offering help for anyone looking to cut off their marijuana use.
Also a 12 week program, the Scripps option offers up to $300 in compensation and the goal of relieving the “severity of withdrawal symptoms like irritability, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and decreased appetite” often associated with quitting. And again, the plan calls for replacing the naturally growing “drug” of cannabis with a lab-created/factory-produced pharmaceutical alternative.
So what is Scripps’ drug of choice? A potentially nasty little bugger called gabapentin.
The Scripps program actually gathered 50 volunteers, after allegedly sorting through over 700 applicants, back in 2012. They have study results showing that those who took the gabapentin used less cannabis over the course of the 12 weeks than those who were given a placebo instead. The respect that Scripps has in the medical community is well-earned, so there is no reason to question their honesty.
But, once again, you can click all throughout their highly informative website covering the program, and you will not find a peep or a link regarding the possible side effects of gabapentin.
These side effects can be as weed-like as dizziness, drowsiness, blurred vision, slurred speech, fatigue, and weight gain. Or they can be more serious, like the swelling of the extremities, or even falling into a coma.
Gabapentin is already on the market as an anti-convulsant to treat neuropathic pain and seizures, but the drug’s maker, Phizer, went to court in 2009 on charges that the chemical concoction in the pills led to an increased risk of suicide.
Charges, by the way, backed up by a 2009 announcement by the FDA confirming that the drug leads to such suicidal thoughts, and acts.
If all of that is not bad enough for you, gabapentin can cause extremely dangerous levels of toxicity in the kidneys, and has been shown to possibly lead to erectile dysfunction, an inability to reach orgasm, and a general lack of sexual libido.
So if your reason to quit smoking weed is to make your wife happy, this may not be the best route to take.
Joking aside, whatever their reason may be for taking a temporary respite from reefer, or even putting it down for good, quitting cold turkey can be tough on anyone. As with anything in life, all options should be considered, as long as they are properly researched before any decisions are made.
Many marijuana users toke for some sort of medicinal purpose, whether they realize it or not.
Many have very serious health issues that they are dealing with which cannabis may be relieving more than they know.
And unless the side effects mentioned above are covered in depth during the initial consultations – be they in San Diego or South Carolina or anywhere in between – people could put themselves at a real risk, even though they may have the best intentions.