Marijuana – medical or not!

I have been watching with great interest the ongoing debate of the legalization of marijuana here in Oregon. Regardless of whether this becomes law or not, I doubt very much that there will be any lessening of marijuana use, especially by teens, and in fact I suspect the opposite. At present any teenager who wants marijuana can find it quickly and easily. The myth that those with a medical marijuana license only use it for themselves is totally without foundation as it is without any checks whatsoever. The argument that there are medical reasons for making marijuana legal, do not impress me at all. I cannot state that it has no medical use as I am not a physician. Currently in this state, those with a medical marijuana license are allowed to grow their own drug, and are allowed 6 mature plants. Why I find this strange is that normally, patients are not expected or encouraged to make their own antibiotics or birth control pills. Why should marijuana for medical reasons be any different? If marijuana is to be used for any medical purpose it should be treated as any other drug and prescribed accordingly and the patient monitored by a physician.
After working with families of drug addicts since 2003 I have also come to this conclusion on marijuana. Contrary to what many people say, I believe that marijuana is a gateway drug. Use of marijuana encourages reliance on using a mind altering substance to help deal with the problems of life. Sadly, teens are encouraged to look for a fast fix, be it a legal or illegal drug, to take care of their problems. As their use increases, their ability to get a high from the drug diminishes. Now, the patterns and habit are set, so the search for another better drug begins. To add to this, the places where marijuana can be obtained is often the very best place to make purchases of other drugs. This is due to those who use marijuana as a recreational drug, also often use other drugs and are willing to share the names of local dealers. I believe this will still hold true regardless of whether the purchase is made from an illegal backyard grow, or the store front on Main Street.
Over the years I have had many families of users, and drug users themselves, tell me that their first experience of drugs was with marijuana, and my personal experience with a drug user in my life bears this out. In 1997 I had a business partner who had been a previous drug user, first of marijuana and later marijuana and methamphetamine. When we became partners she was clean and supportive of drug education to stop others from taking the path she chose. Sadly, by 2003, she was once again heavily involved in drugs and also theft. At that time she also shared my house while I was working away. I discovered that she was not only using heavily but was allowing drug deals on the front porch. She gradually spiraled downwards into uncontrolled meth use. My house was trashed and she finally went to jail after attacking me while tweaking.
I found there was little help or support for friends or the family of drug users and at that time I had no idea about the danger from fires, theft, infection, animal abuse, lying, blackmail, drug dealing and assault. This prompted the development of my website, where I provide information for those whose lives are affected by drug use. I also offer coaching for families and provide a service to help identify drug paraphernalia. Had I known what I was looking at, I would have understood the odor of marijuana and the look of a pipe much sooner than I did.
My book, The Dangers of Living with a Drug Addict is available from Amazon or can be found via the website above. My next book, a true fiction account of the chaos caused by meth should be out this fall.

Churches and Drug Addiction

 

About 10 years ago, when I was running a local group to help make people aware of the dangers of drug addiction I approached some local Churches. I was fairly confident that they would be supportive of the work I was doing and would want to learn more. I could not have been more wrong. I was told, kindly but firmly that “We do not have a drug problem”. Only one local Church made any effort to become involved.

Today I spoke with an old colleague that I had worked with years ago. She is also working on addiction issues. I mentioned to her the lack of concern shown by the Churches and she laughed and said that she had encountered the same thing. The slight difference was that in her case, she was trying to work on domestic abuse. She was given to understand that the Churches did not have issues with domestic abuse!

To both of these situations I say GARBAGE! Everyone is affected by drug use and many also by domestic abuse. The sad part here is that these people do not realize just how much they are affected.

In the county where I live, our Sheriff told me some years ago that 80 – 90% of all crime was drug related. 80 – 90%!! Crime costs all of us. It is taxpayer money that bears the main burden of crime. That, along with insurance companies, who merely raise the rates for the rest of us when hit by unreasonable payouts due to crime.

Drug users can cause havoc regardless of whether it is a drugged driver in the car behind us who rear-ends us and has no insurance, or the petty thief who steals a new bike or the crack smoking addict who sets fire to an apartment complex. All costs money and you can be sure it does not come from the addict themselves. It also costs to either incarcerate them (taxpayer expense) or send them to rehab (taxpayers again pay up).  Every day the courts and police departments are spending thousands of dollars dealing with the results of drug users, not to mention the health care system, as few drug addicts have any health insurance. Addicts are not big on insurance at any time, so once again the burden falls on the rest of us.

The ‘rest of us’ must include Church-goers. These are the people who ‘do not have a drug problem’! Actually they do, but until they step forward and are willing to learn just how big of a problem there is with drug use, it will continue to get worse.  Remember, All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. Even though this saying cannot be definitively attributed to Edmund Burke, the principal is correct. While our Churches continue to do nothing, and consider themselves above both drug addiction or domestic abuse, both will continue to flourish.

I know that there must be Churches who do acknowledge addiction and who take steps to help deal with the problem. Sadly, I have not found any.

Veterans – Stress to suicide

Stress – Burnout  – Pain management – Addiction – Suicide. I believe these are all parts of a continuum or a syndrome if you wish to put it into medical terms.  Of course not all disabled Veterans nor their caregivers will experience all of these things, but I do believe there is the potential for many to go down this road.

What can be done and how can this potential disaster be averted before it engulfs the VA?  My view of the VA system, admittedly a fairly small view, is of an organization which is overwhelmed already. I have previously likened it to a rudderless ship with no captain. That is not to say that there are not wonderful and dedicated individuals within the system.  However, the system itself appears to be bankrupt, if not in terms of money at least in ability.

Where then are the resources to come from, to address the issues which are facing us now, as more and more service men and women are returning from deployment and many are young and with catastrophic injuries.  Add to that the pressure on family members to be the caregivers, and the lack of support for caregivers in the past and you immediately move into the stress – burnout part of this syndrome.

Then it is doubtful whether many if any returning service men and women are without pain of some kind, be it TBI’s or other physical injury or PTSD.  Emotional pain is as hard to deal with as physical pain and probably less well understood as it cannot be readily seen.  So now we add pain to the syndrome. Let us not forget that the caregivers themselves may be dealing with their own pain. Aging parents may be caring for a wounded son or daughter.  Spouses with health issues may be called upon to be the caregiver.  Who is caring for the caregiver?

Now let us look at the addiction component. Addictions, of whatever kind; drugs, alcohol, cigarette/tobacco habit, gambling, sex, & pornography….. All of these are forms of addiction, and addiction is a way of dealing with overwhelming pain and a way for people to  distance themselves from the trauma in their life. We need also to remember that many people are already active drug addicts or prior addicts, especially  in the area of drugs and alcohol.  The stress/burnout/pain syndrome merely pushes them further into their addiction.

This becomes even more convoluted when you consider the medication needs of Disabled Veterans and the possible potential for other family members to avail themselves of the medications. I do not say this lightly. The stress/burnout/pain component can push even the most stable person to seek relief.

Finally we come to the hardest part of this syndrome – Suicide.  Even small events can trigger an unstable action which cannot be undone.  I also believe we need to consider what I would term ‘familycide’  where the overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and helplessness can escalate into removing themselves permanently from the situation and taking the disabled Vet with them.

Obviously this is a very distasteful thought but one which needs to be considered in the light of the lack of support, isolation, inexperience and overwhelming fatigue Veteran families face. It would be wonderful to think that the VA would be able to find solutions for all of this, but realistically we know that will not happen, at least not quickly enough.  I do believe all is not hopeless though, but once again, “We, The People” must band together in whatever way we can do avert the coming crisis.