Marijuana users searching for bigger highs may start injecting THC, doctor fears
"I have not seen it clinically," he says, "and I have not seen it described except in research studies, which say it's possible to have an injectable form of marijuana. I don't know exactly how to do the preparation, to be honest, and I don't know how the high would differ. I can only hypothesize."
By floating such possibilities, Thurstone has won the enmity of marijuana advocates like Russ Belville, aka Radical Russ, a talk-show host and media director for the National Cannabis Coalition. In an online response to "Higher and Higher," Belville accuses Thurstone of being a scaremonger and a profiteer. An excerpt from his take:
All you're finding is that the people forced into your business for violating prohibition are getting higher, not that getting higher forces people into your business. You know as well as I do...that for every one person who self-admits to rehab solely for marijuana, another four are forced there by the criminal justice system. Colorado went and added language to the constitution that is really bad for your bottom line.To that, Thurstone says, "I work with adolescents and young adults, so for pretty much 99 percent of my patients, marijuana is sill illegal. Amendment 64 didn't really change anything in terms of their legal status."
Additionally, he says, "fewer than half of our referrals are court-referred. The majority are not. They come in voluntarily because of their addictions. And we've done a fair amount of research in which we've been able to offer free treatment to teenagers with substance-abuse problems. And when we offer it free, we've had no problems getting kids to come to treatment.
"The whole juvenile-justice-referral thing has a lot to do with the artifact of nobody wanting to pay for treatment. We wait for teenagers to fall into the hole of juvenile justice before we're willing to pay for their treatment. If we had good payment and reimbursement -- third-party payers for substance treatment -- more people would go on their own."
In the meantime, Thurstone says the number of clients he's seeing began growing substantially even before the passage of Amendment 64. "We've doubled our case load since September of 2012," he reveals, "and we're in the process of hiring another therapist to meet the demand."
He's not sure why the number of clients has climbed so quickly, but he's got some ideas. "Is it became more kids are using? Is it because more kids are getting addicted? Is it became more kids are using higher potency marijuana? Is it because there's less stigma about this and more people are willing to go to treatment? Is it because our name has gotten out there? Or is it a combination of all of the above? I can't really answer that, but I'd guess it's a combination of all those factors."
Whatever the case, he says the flood of patients means he and his staff are "all-hands-on-deck to try to meet the demand." And if people start injecting THC, he figures to be busier than ever.
More from our Marijuana archive -- an interview with Dr. Christian Thurstone from 2010: "Medical marijuana fallout: Kids getting addicted to their 'medicine,' psychiatrist says."