Marijuana Debunked: The Problem wtih Weed [Interview][Transcript]

Dr_Ed_Gogek_Marijuana_DebunkedGuest: Dr. Ed Gogek
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Ed Gogek, MD is a Psychiatrist who works with addicts & alcoholics, in jails, prisons and homeless clinics. He is the author of “Marijuana Debunked: A handbook for parents, pundits and politicians who want to know the case against legalization.”

Segment overview: Dr. Ed Gogek, MD, author of the book, Marijuana Debunked: A handbook for parents, pundits and politicians who want to know the case against legalization, discusses the harm marijuana does to the teenage brain, evidence that driving high on marijuana is not safe, evidence of the gateway effect, and the link to psychosis.


Health Professional Radio -Marijuana Debunked

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio. Thank you so much for joining us today. According to a 2009 national survey, more than 104 Million Americans over the age of 12 have tried marijuana at least once. And almost 17 Million had used the drug in the month just before the survey. Now we’ve all heard of state after state legalizing marijuana for recreational use or legalizing a medical marijuana or as in some cases marijuana oil for medical purposes. Our guest in studio today is here to talk with us about marijuana. He is a Psychiatrist and has worked with addicts and alcoholics in jails and prisons and homeless clinics, Dr. Ed Gogek – author of “Marijuana Debunked: A Handbook for Parents, Pundits and Politicians Who Want to Know The Case Against Legalization.” How are you doing today Ed?

Dr. Ed Gogek: Good Neal. Thanks for having me here.

N: We’re all aware of the pro-marijuana legalization rhetoric that we hear in the media. We hear about how well one state is doing as far as taxes are concerned and how maybe tax collection in another state is a bit questionable. As the author of “Marijuana Debunked: A Handbook for Parents, Pundits and Politicians Who Want to Know The Case Against Legalization,” what can you tell us about this drug and why shouldn’t it be legalized?

G: Well we’re really only hearing once side of the story. Which is the reason I wrote the book. What I found is that all the arguments they’re making are untrue. And so my aim in the book was to debunk them all and it wasn’t really that hard. Just as an example the tax issue the government of Colorado came right out and said “We’re not bringing in any money that we spend, basically cleaning up the problems that marijuana causes.” And then last year they brought in a 118 Million and they spend a 130 Million on prevention programs for teenagers and drivers and treatment. So they’re actually spending more, clearing up what marijuana does and they’re bringing in marijuana. And but when you read the news, you only hear what they’re bringing in and that’s really part of the problem.

N: You legalize marijuana and then you have programs designed to foster prevention. Why a 130 million on prevention?

G: Right. Because they’re trying to prevent teenagers from using it, they’re trying to teach people not to drive stoned and so they’re spending, that’s the prevention that they’re spending on.

N: If those were problems in the first place, weren’t they identified long before the drug was legalized?

G: Well no. The problem is this is a billion dollar industry.

N: Uh huh.

G: And the people who were opposing it really have no money. So they only win these referendums when they hugely spend the other side. So in Colorado they only outspent the other side by 3 to 1 and Washington they outspent by 500 to 1.

N: Oh that’s a huge gap.

G: Five hundred to 1, they hit 5 million dollars versus 16,000. It’s very hard to raise money to oppose this. Although a lot of people have questions about it. So like I said people are really just hearing this one side.

N: Okay. When it comes to hearing the one sided message that we’re getting, let’s talk about these prevention programs for teenagers.

G: Yeah that what’s so crazy about this. Over the past 10 to 15 years a huge amount of researches come out about what marijuana does to the teenage brain.

N: Uh huh.

G: And there’s two things. One every drug teenagers should not be using any drug because the brain is forming at that time. And not it’s just forming the brain is actually specializing, it’s deciding what pathways to keep, which ones to get rid of. And it does it all based on what you’re doing everyday.

N: Uh huh.

G: So which is great if somebody’s in school studying or getting good at sports or playing a musical instrument – they’ll get really good at it really, really fast in their teenage years. The trouble is if they’re doing drugs, they’re brain will actually get good at enjoying drugs.

N: Ah okay.

G: That’s the gateway effect. In turns out that if a teenager is using any drug and it’s specially choose marijuana will make them more prone to abuse alcohol or other drugs as an adult. And there is a study I think it’s the British journal of psychiatry and it showed that teenager pot smokers were 7 times is likely to abuse alcohol or other drugs as adults.

N: So is that the same argument that we use when we talk about nicotine or cigarette being a gateway drug? If you’re a teenage smoker, you learn to be very good at acquiring and enjoying cigarettes as opposed to playing the guitar?

G: Right. People start smoking after the age of 18, they rarely get addicted. Almost everybody gets addicted to cigarettes before start the age of 18.

N: Okay we’ve talk a bit about the effect on the teenage brain. What is the real danger when it comes to legalizing marijuana, because more and more states are following suit?

G: Well here’s the thing, lets’ got back to the teenager, so that’s one thing it does. The biggest thing that marijuana does to teenage brain.

N: Uh huh.

G: Is that that whole process of teenage brain development is modulated, is run by endocannabinoids. So marijuana imitates it and derails the process and so when they do MRI’s and other brain scans people who smoke pot as teenagers, what they find is less brain matter and more disorganizes white matter. And there is recent research that came out that with this high potency weed that’s out now … that has like 10 to 15 THC and very little CBD really disorganized corpus callosum.

N: THC as opposed to CBD?

G: Yeah. So most marijuana has CBD in it.

N: Uh huh.

G: But now they’re bringing the CBD out. Because the CBD doesn’t help you get high. And so most medical marijuana is been drug for high THC content, because that’s will get it. Medical marijuana is mostly used to get high.

N: Well when you say that they’re engineering the CBD out of it to make it have a higher THC level. When we’re talking about medical marijuana, what I hear is a pain management, seizures, and things of that nature. And you’re saying that you might as well just go ahead and smoke a joint because it serves the same purpose either way.

G: The average medical marijuana patient is a 32 year old male in the study. This 32 year old male that started smoking pot as a teenager. Almost everybody gets a pot for pain, 91% is what that study showed. And the average pain patient is an elderly female and that’s not who’s using it. So the demographics of medical marijuana patients max drug users. They don’t actually max the medical illnesses that people are getting it for. The other thing they found there is a people start as a teenagers actually have certain parts of the brain that they don’t use and so they’re actually compensating for that.

N: Okay certain parts of the brain, basically get shut down and are just lying doormat due to repeated marijuana use?

G: Whatever the reason is, people started smoking pot as teenagers … they give people a test and the users and nonusers perform the test the same way. But when they do the brain scan what they see is that the marijuana users are using different parts of the brain or parts of the brain it’s kind of like they’re injured and compensate.

N: If we pick up a copy of your book, are we gonna discover how to prevent teenage use and hopefully thereby prevent adult use?

G: Yes, and marijuana like tobacco almost everybody starts as a teenager.

N: Uh huh.

G: And in fact a quarter of them before age 16. Yeah there is basically three things that prevent teenage use. Some may always tell parents to talk to their kids, it’s not really what works but it’s really important.

N: To try, yeah?

G: What works but is making it not available, making it not socially acceptable. And giving the impression that it is a harmful drug. And we saw this in 1978, teenage marijuana use peaked. And it did so because in the 70’s it was really being promoted. Everyone was talking about the decriminalization, the news media presented it as a softer drug, everyone was saying “Oh it’s safer than alcohol”. And teenage user’s are very high and then what happen is this group of parents formed, it’s a whole parent movement that formed. And they started really pressuring politicians and the media to start talking about the negative effects of marijuana.

N: Okay.

G: Not just glamorizing it. And over the next 14 years when they really pushed that daily teenage marijuana use dropped from 11% of all teens down to less than 2%.

N: Wow.

G: So it dropped more than 80%.

N: Simply by changing the message.

G: Yes. And a bigger example of that is in 1987, Len Bias.

N: Uh huh, yeah. He was a basketball player, yeah

G: Died of a cocaine overdose 2 days after he was number 1 drafted player for the Celtics.

N: Uh huh.

G: And it became huge news up until that point cocaine was presented as this kind of trendy drug, it was cool. After that, all the news is about how dangerous it was. And you look at the graphs of teenage use and it just dropped by two-thirds over the course of like a year or two. Teenagers are actually very smart about what drugs they use but they’re not just getting good information.

N: Okay, so they’re not making informed decisions when basically the decision should be abstinence in the first place.

G: Well, yeah. If they understood what it does, what all drugs do to teenage brain, there will be a lot more abstinence. And they’re not getting that info. But that’s just the part of perception of harm. And then availability, that’s the problem with medical marijuana laws, is that they make the drug much more available.

N: Uh huh.

G: And also acceptability. The teenagers see adults using it and it’s accepted. And those are the other two things that encourage use. And I went through this national survey drug use in health and they report on teenage marijuana use in each state I went thru and computed it because we saw a big increase in teenage marijuana used between 2005 and 2011.

N: Yeah.

G: And I looked at it and most of it came from a handful of states that had medical marijuana laws.

N: Ah okay.

G: So the medical marijuana states teenage use increased with 33% and the rest of the country increased by 6%.

N: So basically the states that introduced the medical marijuana just greased up the slippery slope, yeah?

G: It makes it more available. It shows adults using it and so it becomes an acceptable thing and that really encourages use. And also there’s advertising. And there is research that shows that when teenagers see medical marijuana advertising they’re twice as likely to use the drug.

N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. We’ve been in studio today talking with Dr. Ed Gogek. He is a psychiatrist working with alcoholics and addicts in jails, prisons and homeless clinics. And he’s been here today talking with us about well basically the misinformation that we’ve been handed concerning marijuana in general and medical marijuana specifically. We’ve been talking about some of the evidence that proves that marijuana is an actual gateway drug, its harmful effects on the developing teenage brain. And also how teenage uses are actually preventable if we just change the message, from a message of positive social acceptance to a message of an absolute health hazard that should be avoided at all cost. It’s been great having you here with us today Dr. Gogek.

G: Okay.

N: Thank you much. Transcript and audio of this program are available at and also at and you can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.