Marijuana Use Disorder Is On The Rise in Oregon

By Dorri Olds 07/18/16

One treatment facility in Coburg, Oregon, is seeing an increase in patients as young as 18 years old being admitted for marijuana use disorder. 

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Marijuana Use Disorder Is On The Rise in Oregon

Staff members of an Oregon treatment facility spoke to Eugene’s KVAL-TV about the growing problem of what they refer to as marijuana use disorder. Jerry Gjesvold, manager at Serenity Lane, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Coburg, Oregon, told KVAL, “Well, we know now that in the DSM-5, which is the manual that's used to diagnose substance use disorders, there's a specific marijuana use disorder diagnosis.”

The Fix interviewed Jerry Gjesvold, who is on the front lines of treating those with marijuana use disorder. “As a result of the legalization, more people are using marijuana,” says Gjesvold. “A lot of people aren’t going to do something that’s illegal. Now that it’s legal, that barrier has been taken down. I certainly wouldn’t suggest that everybody that uses it is going to develop problems. Many will use it periodically or recreationally and not have any complications at all. But it’s like any other substance—some people will become addicted.”

Gjesvold explained that past studies were based on marijuana with a low concentration of THC. Due to the sophistication of today’s growing techniques and modern means of extraction, the THC concentration in pot is now significantly higher.

“Butane Honey Oil is when marijuana is heated up,” said Gjesvold. “What’s extracted is the oil, which is then vaporized. When that happens, the concentration of THC is upwards of 90%. Much of the marijuana years ago was maybe 5%, and that was in good marijuana.”

A child’s brain develops until age 25. Now, with kids dabbing and vaping, there’s a lighter marijuana odor so parents may not know when their children are using.

Marijuana edibles won't be sold by retailers until some time in 2017, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting. But that comes with its own risks that consumers should be aware of. With edibles, the intensity of the high doesn’t happen right away. The brownie, cookie, or candy is eaten, then digested, and it takes an hour or two before the user will feel the effects.

“People that aren’t knowledgeable will eat cannabis edibles, but they don’t get high so they think, ‘I need to eat more,’" said Gjesvold. “We had a bad case here in Oregon, over in Sunriver, where a lady came down from Washington state and had overdosed on candies. When the EMTs got there, their diagnosis was a heroin overdose because it looked so similar. A marijuana overdose will vary depending on the person and the intensity of THC but, for the most part, it’ll look similar to a heroin overdose—not necessarily life-threatening, but you’ll see drowsiness, semi-consciousness, delusions.”

Gjesvold added that people should be vigilant about keeping potent edibles away from children. “It’s manufactured like any candy and packaged almost identically. There’s a candy that looks just like a Hershey bar in Colorado, and toddlers have overdosed. They’ve had several cases of that. The kids think they’re eating a Hershey bar but they are eating something with marijuana in it. We try to educate parents that if you’re going to go down that path, treat edibles as you would a poison, keep it out of the reach of children.”

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Dorri Olds is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day and several book anthologies. Find Dorri on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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