From The VG Bookshelf: Tell Your Children
From The VG Bookshelf: Tell Your Children
Marijuana is in the news a lot. According to Monday Morning.com, all the major Democrat 2020 Presidential Election hopefuls are pro-marijuana legalization. In 2016, Libertarian candidate and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson made pot legalization his entire platform, if I recall correctly. I decided to read “Tell Your Children” because the subtitle “The Truth About Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence” spoke to uneasy thoughts that I have had niggling at me.
I have always been apathetic about marijuana. The smell of pot smoke has always nauseated me. But, what others do on their own time, is none of my business. That being said, I have always worried about the effect of psychotropic substances on the developing brain. Since the brain doesn’t fully mature until about age 25, or in some cases much older, what effect would alcohol, tobacco, pot, or prescribed drugs like anti-depressants have on that developing brains. Given the potential for lawsuits, I don’t think the pharmaceutical companies would ever admit any effect and probably much youth use is off-label.
I don’t obsess about the long term effects, but one wonders occasionally. Enter New York Times writer Alex Berenson and “Tell Your Children”. Author Berenson is not a physician or scientist, but he does know how to do deep dive research. This book came about after a discussion with his psychiatrist wife. She interviews mentally ill criminals for New York State. Not my idea of pillow talk, but whatever turns your crank.
People have been screaming for the legalization of medical marijuana since the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s. Here Berenson takes a swipe at the late President Reagan for not being vociferous in his support for AIDS patients and the late First Lady Nancy Reagan for her “Just Say No” campaign. Well, he is a New York Times writer so that was expected.
According to Berenson’s research for “Tell Your Children”, multiple studies have shown that marijuana is effective with cancer related wasting, but few other efficacies have been shown. Cannabis does work somewhat as a pain reliever, but only when compared to placebos. It has not been tested (shockingly) against Ibuprofen or Aspirin. A recent very large Australian study recently cast doubt on marijuana’s effectiveness in chronic pain management.
My opinion is that way more studies need to be done. Honest studies with rigorous science.
But, what about violence and mental illness. Berenson lists a Chinese pharmacopeia from the first century as making a connection with Cannabis caused insanity and violence. In Colonial India, bhang was a stronger form of pot that produced psychosis, while bhang lassi (a pot milkshake) used in Hindu religious ceremonies did not, physicians of the time noted.
Here is a historical head turner. We have been told for decades that U.S. drug laws were responsible for the pot crossing our border. Truth is pot was not widely known in the United States until the last century. The Spanish brought “marihuana” to Mexico for the fibers which were used in ships’ ropes and riggings. Smoking pot became a problem for the Mexicans. From page 31:
In 1908, for example, the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal published a report from a physician at a mining camp in Mexico. “My little camp of 700 or 800 is a perfect clinic of hysteria…caused by smoking a weed, growing abundantly in the hills, call ‘marihuana'”, he wrote. “(The) mania is extremely violent for two or three days, requiring enforced restraint: it is accompanied by hallucinations.”
So, doctors in countries a world apart were seeing the same thing. I know. I know. I know. Correlation is not causation. There could be many other contributing factors. Keep reading.
Although before the 1970’s marijuana used was rare in the United States and in Western Europe, it was on our country’s radar. In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Marijuana Tax Act and the year before the ridiculous propaganda movie “Reefer Madness” was released. The famous piano scene:
Oof. I have never seen the movie but if that’s any sample, no thank you.
Then came the 1970’s and Berenson uses “Tell Your Children” to partially blame President Richard Nixon for the spread of pot across the United States. I think that was his point. Youth were disillusioned by the Vietnam War and Nixon and so they smoked pot. In my experience, youth are always disillusioned about something the old folks have done, but then I am a cynical, sarcastic snot.
Pot quickly spread across the country. The pot available at the time had a very low THC, the psychoactive chemical. Per Federal testing, it was about one to two percent. Pot smokers got mildly intoxicated, got the munchies and were generally pleasant. By 1975, 50% of adults aged 18-24 had tried pot. NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) was founded in 1970. The magazine High Times was started in 1974. The founder of NORML went from pot to cocaine to MDA and anything else he could get. The founder of High Times suffered from paranoia and mood swings and died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
The debates began on whether pot was a “gateway drug”, but no one in the United States studied whether this was true. And, no one studied the long term effects of marijuana on the brain. And, no one even dared talk about mental illness because, we just didn’t talk about mental illness. Still don’t for the most part.
Next week Part Two of Tell Your Children. Marijuana and Mental Illness.
Photo composite: Darleen Click