Daily Archives: March 4, 2017

How To Conflate Cause And Effect

My recent orthopedic woes, surgery, bad news, and more surgeries looming on the horizon have severely cramped my camping style.  I think this explains my obsession with reading everything about the current administration that I come across.  Or, I may simply be so astonished that anything like what’s going on in the world could go on, that I’m trying to make sense of it by attempting to rectify what seems to be Doublespeak with what seem to be plain facts.

Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, and anything in between, I read them.

I read the Columbia Journalism Review, not because I care for their politics, but because their fire-in-the-belly journalists mine the known facts and bring objective proofs of actual events: an antidote to “alternate facts.”

I’m reading 1984.  My jaw drops when I read Orwell’s description of Doublethink, which is a technique for altering incoming objective information in the service of rectifying it with the dictated alternate version of that reality.  For instance, in the face of massive unemployment, Big Brother waxes ecstatic about the “booming” economy and 100% employment.  The people must believe this, even as they slurp the government rations of unidentifiable soups and hard bread.

In the same vein we have Doublespeak, which is a technique whereby facts on the ground are manipulated to prove a completely unrelated point replacing objective fact with “alternate facts.”

I’ve taken to writing my Congresspeople.

First I wrote to Ted Cruz about the Texas-size state of Texas defunding Planned Parenthood at the state level, and his determination to push for defunding at the national level. I explained that Planned Parenthood provides desperately needed preventive services for women who otherwise would be doomed to a life of cranking out one baby after another, jeopardizing their own health in the process.  Due to the dearth of OB/GYNs who accept Medicaid, these women would not have access to preventive services such as cervical cancer screenings, breast exams, and of course, contraception, to prevent unwanted children.  And yes, some branches do provide abortion services.  Is it right to send these women back to the Dark Ages where thousands of women died from infection and perforations due to DIY and “back-alley” abortions?

I was honored that he wrote me back.  Maybe the M.D. caught his attention.  Maybe he thought I might be one of those evil abortion doctors.

In any case, his answer was, “Abortion is killing, and I am 100% against it.”

Ted is entitled to his private convictions.  I respect his opinion.  I even share it a little.

On the other hand, I would never think of pushing my own religious beliefs or personal agenda on a whole state, or a whole nation.

What happened to “government for the people, by the people?”  

And whatever happened to a free market economy?  It seems to work when pipelines and mines are concerned, but not for grass roots businesses that pour billions of dollars into the economy, and are growing like the plants that fuel them.

Yes, I’m talking about my favorite plant: marijuana, more correctly called cannabis.

As soon as Jeff Sessions was confirmed, I started writing to Congresspeople.  I got a letter back from another one from Texas, saying that he was vehemently against cannabis because it “is a schedule II (sic) drug that causes cancer, addiction, crime, deaths, and addiction.  There’s no medical benefit and no research that shows any medical use whatsoever. And he’s a doctor so he knows these things.”


Regardless of his personal beliefs, I would imagine that in the service of his constituents (the ones who are working to get a Compassionate Use waiver for end-of-life and cancer care), he would have at least read the mainstream news in order to be able to sound kind of educated.

So much for public servants actually making an effort to “serve.”  If my views differ from theirs, I either don’t exist or else I’m the enemy.

Now I’d like to look at the mire of attribution of cause to phenomena.

Let’s say there is a thunderstorm with rain, wind, thunder, and lightening.  A lot of phenomena going on.  They seem to have a causal relationship.

Thunder makes a boom.  Then it rains a lot.  Does the boom of the thunder cause the rain?  They happen during the same weather episode.  Often a loud clap of thunder heralds a downpour.  Makes sense that thunder causes rain, right?

Let’s return to cannabis.

Articles in the American medical literature abound with speculation about the evils of cannabis.  I consume these as ravenously as I read the news.  I want to know what they’re saying, and if they’ve paid any attention at all to the situation on the ground.

Unfortunately, they haven’t.

There’s a focus on how cannabis “causes” mental illness in general, schizophrenia in particular, and of course, no article on a psychoactive “drug” would be complete without accusing cannabis of being addictive in itself, and of course a gateway drug to heroin.

Um, no.

The reason people with serious mental illness often use cannabis is that it makes us feel better.  You know that word “euphoria?”  It comes from the Greek roots “eu,” meaning “good” or “normal” (as in “euthyroid.”

What’s bad about feeling normal?

Example: I didn’t use cannabis from June 30, 1981, until some time in the winter of 2013.  At first I was in active medical school, residency, and practice.  I have never, and would never, use any kind of psychoactive substance while taking care of patients.  Except alcohol, of course, even though it’s poisonous.

During that span of time my bipolar disorder got worse and worse.  Why wouldn’t it, given that I was on in-house call every third night, working 120 hours a week in a hostile environment?  The shrinks gave me pills and more pills until I was swallowing handsful of tablets and capsules.

Among other things, I was on two different benzodiazepines for PTSD.  They helped in that they knocked me out so I could sleep.  After a while I developed tremendous anxiety about what might happen if I didn’t have my knockout drops. Isn’t that one of the signs of addiction?

Oh, and if the benzos weren’t enough, I was on Ambien too.  10 mg, sometimes 20 if I was manic (5 mg is the currently recommended dose.)

I think it was the physical pain that lead me to try cannabis again.  It was a pleasant surprise.  The pain went away for a few hours.  For a few precious hours, relief without the mental clouding of narcotics.  I became a believer.

Now I’m experiencing a different kind of relief.

It seems that while I was treating my physical woes, something was also happening in my squash.  I began feeling kind of normal again, whatever normal is.  Differently put, the feeling of constant struggle against an unseen enemy perceptibly lifted.  I started feeling sleepy in the evenings instead of eyes wide open with hypervigilance.  Hmmm.  I began a long, cautious taper of the nighttime sledgehammer cocktail.  In its place I substituted a carefully tailored treatment regimen of cannabinoids.  I studied, took courses, and learned how to use the plant as medicine that incidentally caused good feelings.  Win-win.

It took a few months, since I went very gingerly so as not to trigger benzo withdrawal, which can cause studies and can even be fatal.  I’m happy to say I’ve been benzo-and-Ambien-free for four months.  

Mine is not a unique story.  Even the mainstream medical literature is grudgingly reporting on how cannabis has proven useful in weaning people off of opioids, even in cases of longtime addiction.  So much for the “gateway drug” hypothesis.

Crime?  Mr representative, have you paid no attention to the decrease in violent crime in states that have adult use cannabis?  Who wants to go commit crime when they’re having a love-fest?   True, the drug cartels are trying to make use of the normalized status of the plant to their own ends; but the benevolent Powers That Be in Colorado are taking enormous steps to curb that destructive yet predictable reaction to legalization.

As far as addiction, the numbers are in from legal states, and they show that in the years since legalization, prescriptions for opioids have dwindled by about a third.  Who needs a potentially lethal drug with awful side effects including addiction and death, when you can have euphoria from an herb whose side effects are minimal, and which has never in history caused a death, with the exception of rare cases where someone didn’t read the label (you know, the one that says “do not drive or operate heavy machinery”)?

I’m not saying that everyone can get off benzos or successfully treat their pain with cannabis alone.  It’s not for everyone, as the heinous poison marketing campaigns on TV like to say in their rapid-fire “fine print” disclaimers.

At the end of the day, it’s clear that we need to develop our critical thinking muscles.  Unless things change radically and quickly, we’re going to need them real bad.

Rolling Smash Book Tote

I collected items for my college Smash Book all through fall semester and never worked on putting things in because I was so disorganized.  I’d also like to be able to take it on the go in case I have a lot of free time somewhere or visit a friend who has tons of stamps […]

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