This week’s “Here’s To Your Health,” is taken from a medical Doctor’s tape set titled, “Alcoholism, The Disease, Call It What It Is,” the number of words on the tapes exceed Barleycorn’s word budget so it’s taken in part.
Dr. B’s been a member of AA for 25 years, he’s treated thousands of alcoholics-addicts at Healing House, worked at University of Kentucky, and University of Louisville’s Trauma Centers, and is one of approximately 3,000 M.D.’s certified by the A.M.A. as “Addiction Specialist.”
Marijuana is an outside issue for AA, and although its abusers pale in number and rate of destruction to alcohol abusers; their numbers are nevertheless high, especially for young adults and children. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana is a pain reliever that’s addictive and anybody who says it’s not is either uneducated about it, or has a personal ax to grind? Marijuana may be an appetite enhancer for HIV and chemotherapy patients, but it stimulates the same brain chemistry as alcohol and other drugs. At first cannabis increases production of dopamine, serotonin, beta-endorphins, and other “feel-good” compounds, but when it’s withdrawn, it stops production of those same compounds and it can cause physical withdrawal symptoms and restless spirits. In rare cases, long-term marijuana use can cause permanent damage to the brain’s neuron receptors, but in most cases it does not.
For years whenever I asked my patients, “how’s your children doing,” some said, “Well Doc, they’re smoking a little dope, but at least they ain’t drinking alcohol.” Until recently, I remained silent about this, but recent research on dope smokers, similar to studies done on opiate users during the 1970’s shows which areas of the brain are affected by THC, and the findings are not good. The only research available for THC before now was either self-experiments or the “so called,” Jamaica studies that consisted of studying the work habits of users while they loaded sugarcane onto flat bed trucks in tropical heat. Today we know there’s a difference in skill and coordination levels required for manual labor and those needed for higher mathematics, physics, programming computers, etc. Today, we call marijuana the “stupid drug” because it makes its users temporarily stupid and long time users often get stuck on stupid. THC not only blocks neuron receivers the same as opiates and alcohol, it also affects the hippocampus area of the brain that’s needed to learn new tasks and is responsible for short-term memory.
Is there a solution? Yes, alcohol and addiction are absolutely treatable and relapse is not mandatory. Next week…Doctor B’s recommended solution…