Many of us are and will be dealing with severe sickness, critically ill friends and family, and even death. Frontline workers and remote employees have significant albeit different challenges: Savings are being eroded. Unemployment and poverty are worsening. Social isolation and loneliness will further impede well-being.
We will need every inch of our brain power to deal with COVID-19, our under-resourced health system, and confusing leadership messages.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, there are three reasons why you should consider stopping cannabis:
1. Smoking marijuana triggers depression, anxiety, and psychosis. Often, it makes their treatment harder too. For example, it’s not uncommon for psychiatrists to use two or three medications to treat cannabis-associated mental symptoms. The last thing you want during a pandemic is to be paralyzed by a psychiatric illness. There is a common misperception that cannabis is harmless but psychiatrists see daily use with negative consequences as an addiction.
2. Smoking cannabis results in symptoms similar to those of chronic tobacco smoking. These include cough, phlegm, shortness of breath and wheeze. It’s also a fact that viruses love growing in places where mucous pools. If you are a daily marijuana smoker, you are more susceptible to respiratory infections including COVID-19. The good news is that when you stop smoking cannabis, these symptoms are reduced.
3. The COVID-19 pandemic requires a sharp problem-solving mindset. When you are intoxicated, reaction times are slowed and it’s harder to multi-task. Wouldn’t you want to be clearheaded if called upon to make vital health, work and family-related decisions in the coming weeks?
To overcome this pandemic we will need to be as battle fit as possible.
The good news is that stopping cannabis use is possible. Get rid of your stash and paraphernalia. Announce to your friends and family that you are quitting so that no-one tries to tempt you. If it helps, find a quit partner or online support group such as Smart Recovery.
Set a quit date within 24 hours. If you are a smoker, get nicotine patches and quit cigarettes at the same time. Keep a diary so that you can give yourself a pat on the back for your progress.
The withdrawal and craving from cannabis are usually managed without medications. If you do feel depressed or anxious, get an antidepressant/anxiety medication from your doctor. Most useful is vigorous exercise, enough to make you sweat. Aim for 15 minutes a day so you don’t over-promise and under-deliver.
Welcome to my Psychiatry Collaborative Care Center. It’s the first of its kind in New York. My mission is to provide you with empathic care that improves your overall wellness, both mental and physical.