Friday, September 24, 2004

Addiction or Self Medication?

Roger L. Simon (same middle initial and last name - otherwise no relation) is getting on to the topic of medicine and has a kind word or two about the drug companies(they do good). They also do what is called in economic circles rent seeking(they do bad). I'm covering the bad. This is a piece I wrote about two years ago. Still true.


"Unless we put medical freedom into the Constitution, the time will come when medicine will organize an undercover dictatorship. To restrict the art of healing to one class of men, and deny equal privilege to others, will be to constitute the Bastille of medical science. All such laws are un-American and despotic, and have no place in a Republic. The Constitution of this Republic should make special privilege for medical freedom as well as religious freedom." abridged quote --Benjamin Rush, M.D., a signer of the Declaration of Independence

Let me start this little essay on the uses of marijuana with an idea. A very simple idea. An idea that strikes at the very heart of the drug war and it's moralistic foundation. The very idea that those who use unapproved drugs are the lawful subjects of religiously motivated government persecution.

What we call addiction is in fact self treatment of undiagnosed pain.

This is a truly revolutionary idea. If it is in fact true then the whole notion of a drug war to save the children is a lie from beginning to end. Those of you who have read my article on heroin have a window into this new idea. What I tried to show in that article was that medical research shows that victims of sexual abuse and severe physical abuse ( PTSD ) are many times more likely to get addicted to heroin than the general public.

Let us next look at the case for marijuana.

Natural molecules similar to an active ingredient in marijuana play a part in helping the brain clear fearful memories and keep them from being permanently debilitating. The British journal Nature has reported this discovery by scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich, Germany. The scientists of the Institute say that this has implications for the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder and other fear based conditions.

It turns out that anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in the United States. They are worth $46 billion a year to the pharmaceutical industry. You don't suppose this fact has any thing to do with the pharmaceutical industries being in the forefront of the Drug Free America campaign do you? Of course not. They are just trying to keep you from being addicted to natural products at the cost of 1/10th of a cent per dose when they are more than willing to sell you an FDA and doctor approved, pharmacy sold product that will do the job for a dollar a dose. They have only your best interests at heart. Just ask their accountants.

All humans show fear reactions to dangerous situations. However, in the case of one out of ten people ( surprisingly the same percentage of people who are susceptible to substance addiction ) the fear does not die down in the absence of the dangerous situation. The fear stays at debilitating levels even in the absence of danger. These people have a definite if ordinarily invisible problem. You cannot find this problem with x-rays. It is possible that this problem could be found with a many thousand dollar PET scan. Or you could take a few puffs of a joint and see if that helps. If the joint was legal. Which it is not.

Pankaj Sah of Australian National University believes that chronic marijuana users are self medicating for anxiety problems. He goes on further to say that we self medicate for head aches with aspirin and this causes no social problems. He speculates that people experiencing emotional problems are taking cannabis for relief. Of course since this medicine is not doctor approved it is against the law. Especially it is against Federal Law as a number of states have made medical use of marijuana legal. The Feds in California know how to stop this though. They put the sick, the dying and the pain wracked in jail to show their compassion. You don't suppose it has anything to do with maintaining at all costs the State and Federal $50 billion dollar drug war do you? Not a chance. They are the government and they have only your best interests at heart. Trust them.

You can read a good review of the report here:

Pot like chemical helps beat fear

Let me leave you with a final quote from a Supreme Court Judge:

"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding." Justice Brandeis

That quote and an impassioned speech for the right of self medication can be found here:

The right of self medication


Anonymous said...

I just found this site and am very impressed. I have had pain for more than half of my life, I am 49 and when I was 45, I did not think I would make it this far. I was "lucky" though, I found a real doctor, one who is a leader in trying to get laws changed and one who goes to bat for me when I face doctors who insist that I take far too much medication. I do take a lot of medication and very strong ones at that, but I don't get high, not even a little buzz. And that is okay, that isn't what I am looking for, only relief. A lot of doctors don't realize that there is no high or low dosage when it comes to opiates, the right dose is that which helps the most, with the least amount of side-effects. I have gone to the e.r. and had the doctor tell me that I was just seeking drugs and he was right, I was seeking drugs, but not in the way that he inferred. He told me to take Advil and continue with Yoga. After 3 weeks, I found the doctor whom I now see. He sent me for MRIs, etc., and I had a broken back. There are many more horror stories I could tell, but I try not to think about them.

I went from being a very procductive person, having a great job that paid extremely well to having to quit working and had to apply for social security disability. It took two years to finally be accepted and being awarded an amount that I used to make in 4 days. It is hard to support 3 kids on no income for two years, I went through my savings just trying to get by and ended up having to declare bankruptcy, which was devastating, but still I am lucky, a lot of people get nothing.

My life now consists of staying in bed most of the time. I keep in touch with family and friends by phone. I read and use the internet, and that is about as much as I can do. It hurts so bad when my youngest son says that he wishes I would get well so we can do what "real" families do.

I ended up moving 1,000 miles away from my doctor, but I still have to make the trip to see him. It takes me about a week, if I am lucky, to recover from the traveling, but I have no choice. Why, because doctors here (and I live in a large city) are afraid to treat me. I can get a certificate to use marijuana for medical purposes, but I am afraid to because I have read too many news articles about the police raiding the homes of the people who are registered.

But, I am lucky. I live in the good old U.S.A. where we are free. Don't get me wrong, I love this country, but we are not free. We have the government telling us what to do every step of the way, buckle up, don't ride in the back of a truck, wear a helmet, things that most people do on their own in order to be safe. But our "leaders" act as though we are children who must be told to do everything and then we are punished if we don't "mind" them.

None of these people know me or my pain, they have no idea what it feels like when the pain is so bad that your clothes hurt when they touch your skin. They don't know the humiliation of being treated as if you are a junkie and not worthy of living with "normal" people. They think that cancer patients are the only ones who hurt, but like a dear friend who died of cancer told me, her pain will go away one way or the other, mine can continue for years.

Pot does help a lot of people, it doesn't work for my physical pain, but it does help me to drink a cup of "tea". It relaxes me for awhile and I can enjoy that little bit of time. What is wrong with that, nothing. I believe that for every illness, God put a natural remedy on this Earth.

If a person has a headache and takes a couple of aspirin, is that not self-medication? We have to take control of our lives away from the government, at least to some degree. We are adults and the government should educate us as to what will help, even though it will take a long time for many to trust what they say. But, in the long run, it is our bodies and if we find something, anything, that eases our pain and helps us to have a life again, then it is not wrong. Our laws must be changed. Call, write, e-mail your government representatives and remind them that they are there to represent us, the people, and demand that changes be made. It will take a while, but if we don't give up, changes will be made. And if changes aren't made, we will continue to be afraid to go to doctors, pharmacies and all because we are in pain. The DEA is supposed to help us, we need to remind them that we are not the enemy in their war on drugs.

Please help. Cheryl

Anonymous said...

Nice article. Well thought out,well researched, and with definite merit. You definitely have a point there. I would like to see more research done in this area. You are also right on target regarding the pharmaceutical industry. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I like your definition of addiction, I would like to add to it though. Addiction is not only undiagnosed pain, it is also untreated/undertreated pain. It is the pain that a doctor sees when the sufferer is sitting in the doctors office in tears, but pretends not to see.

Anonymous said...

I feel for you Cheryl, I really do. When I was on 20 mg of hydrocodone a day, an NP had the nerve to tell me I am on an "extremely high dose." She said taking too much will cause a paradoxical effect and cause MORE pain. I pretty much told her she was full of it. She looked at x-rays of my neck and said there was nothing wrong, except the report specifically said my neck barely moves. I don't get a "buz" either, I don't care, and to tell you the truth, I don't like feeling "high". I like to feel pain free. There is nothing fun about taking pain meds. A Dr once told me that they don't want to reduce to much of my pain because it's normal to be in chronic pain. How does this make sense?

All I can do is take things one day at a time. I know how it is to be severely limited in what you can do. I also sit around, read, play on the computer. I don't watch TV, I think it rots the brain. But I learn a lot, and you know what Cheryl? Knolege is power.

You know what else? No matter what religion you affiliate yourself with,there are consequences for our actions. I believe in Karma, and I know there will be a day of judgement. We will all be held accountable for what we have done during our time on this green Earth, good or bad.

These drs will have to answer for what they have done. Not only for providing poor pain relief, but for teasing, taunting, belittling, and down right harassing the suffering. I believe that when the good Lord says "I was hungry and you fed me, I was naked and you clothed me..." He will also include "I was in pain and you made me comfortable" He will ask these people, Why, did you not help the suffering souls when they were in excruciating pain? What will they say to this? Can't say much I assume. I think everything happens for a reason, and although it's not much for comfort, it makes us stronger inside. Good luck Cheryl, God bless your soul.

Anonymous said...

Reading these comments reiterates how similar and chronic the cry of the narcotic user continues to be. Sometimes however I feel a bit over qualified to comment on the situation. I started illicit drugs at the age of 12. As the result of an accident chronic physical pain harrased me for most of my adult life and chronic emotional pain had its fun with me for most of life in general. On the other hand I did experiece a very grateful long stretch of "sobriety" through the 12 step programs. And last but not least my professional life is in the medical field. And with all that influence would you believe i am a registered libratarian. Most people automatically assume I would be anti drugs. The laws surrounding drugs-- are more dangerous than the drugs themselves. The success of methadone clinics absolutely testifies to this. On one hand nothing urks me more than medical professionals flattering themsleves by outing drug seekers. Pain is relative be it real or imagined. but at the same time folks, if your doctor thinks you are taking to much medication, you probably are---- large amounts of opiates is not the best way to treat chronic pain nor will it ever be. But if large amounts of opiates helps you live between your two ears, I support your right to do them. But to convince others beside yourself that its the best or only form of treatment-- is the most over used form of self denial addicts have been over dosing on for centuries. And if you have to lie to yourself like that, to live with yourself. Trust me, you need an alternative to opiates.

M. Simon said...

Trust me, you need an alternative to opiates.

You might as well say we need an alternative to vitamin C.

The prejudice against opiates is just that. Prejudice.

If you have an endorphin deficiency opiates are indicated (in many cases). We know that such deficiencies may decrease over time for some people (I'm assuming that is your case). We also know that for some the need never goes away. (it may be satisfied by substitutes - hence methadone or marijuana).

So why are we having a drug war? Prejudice. We once had such prejudices against coffee, tobacco, and tomatoes. Eventually experience cleared our heads (the social constructs changed). Now instead of raiding coffee houses we have them on every corner and tax them. No one gives a damn about coffee junkies. You know - the folks who can't get a move on without the first three cups in the morning and 15 more during the day.

So why are heroin junkies so fearsome? We have made it hard for them to get their "3 cups" in the morning. This changes the whole social dynamic.

We saw similar effects in Germany right after WW2. When cigarettes were almost totally unavailable you goud buy a sex encounter for one cigarette. Then it became a pack, a carton, finally reverting to the "normal" price - around a case (well for the classier ladies).

By creating a permanent shortage we have re-created the social ills that normally follow a war. i.e. we are in a permanent state of war and post war. The "Drug War" is exactly the right name.

Steve said...

I agree with much of what you are saying about the drug companies and the reason for self medicating but I am still not sure that I think self medicating with whatever drug we choose is the best option for most people. I say most people because there are probably some people in chronic pain that receive an overall benefit from illegal drug use. However I think that most people using illegal drugs do so to mask a psychological pain instead of finding true healing. Unfortunately true emotional healing is hard to come by in our society when we are all ramrodded to fit into a mold that a large percentage of people will never fit into. Which in turn often causes self hatred and maintains the cycle of self medicating.

M. Simon said...

So far as we know the only way to heal the psychological pain is time.

In the mean time the patient should be kept as comfortable as possible.

As to the self hatred? Well when society reviles "addicts" wouldn't you?

If you tell people often enough that they are worthless a lot of them will internalize it. Then they take drugs to relieve that pain. I don't see how that helps.

Unknown said...

After countless years of marijuana usage (labeled self-medication by others), I have just today made a doctor's appointment to broach the possibility that I am depressed. Just today I learned the word, dysthymia, literally, ill-humored, which sounds a little less alarming but varies only semantically from the D word.
What I marvel at is that despite the textbook symptoms, I have resisted accepting my condition AS a condition or chemical imbalance, no matter the clear benefits of ascribing my joylessness to pathology rather than temperament. It is almost as if, similar to alcohol's impairment of one's ability to gauge their own degree of impairment, one of the symptoms of my condition is an inability (unwillingness?) to accept its existence. I've tended towards extremes, more highs than lows over the decades, but the pendulum is usually at one end or the other of its arc.
If the doctor prescribes Prozac, I'm sure it will be conditional upon suspending marijuana usage. I've long thought that similar to Prozac, pot activates Serotonin levels in the brain, but evidently the determining factor is volume.

Anonymous said...

Add licensing to the mix and you have a legal term called "Restraint of Trade."
Costa Rica, for example, has a fraction of our infant mortality rate and they use 'at home' midwives almost exclusively. Chinese herbal medicine is nearly limited to Green Tea in the US and what is sold in the US is largely NOT Green Tea. Liquid doses of Ginkgo Biloba, thousands of times stronger than Wal-Mart pills, cure Alzheimers...there is much kept from us and much foisted upon us (like toxins in food) that prevent us from having a natural heigthen state of awareness. Such an increase in acumen would be a threat to the 'Establishment.'

Get busy, look on the Internet, take charge of your own well-being. It can be done.