Back in the late ’90s, during my previous career in publishing, I wrote a number of reference books for adolescents on health and science topics. Books like these are commonly written not by subject-matter experts but instead by professional authors (freelancers like myself at the time) who are adept at distilling current research into a product that will engage the target audience.
One of these, Marijuana and Your Lungs: The Incredibly Disgusting Story, came out of storage recently when I received an email condemning it as “bogus” and asserting that “hopefully in the past 11 years you have realized how great this herb actually is.”
Well, no, I have not decided in the last 11 years that marijuana is great. Instead, I created a consulting business, went back to school for a second master’s degree, became a licensed counselor, and expanded my business into a counseling practice–all, in my opinion, incompatible with an affection for the wacky tobaccy.
By the way, my favorite class in counseling school, Psychopharmacology, did nothing to support the herb in question. In fact the most interesting thing I learned in that class is that marijuana is a hallucinogen, not a depressant or “downer” as most people think. It alters the user’s perception of reality. For some people it’s a pleasant experience; for others it’s not. It depends on your individual brain chemistry.
What Blew His Buzz?
I reread my own book to try to discern what had so offended this person. Did I get facts wrong? (No, the data were accurate at the time of publication; some are outdated now.) Was my tone inappropriate? (No, not for the adolescent audience it was written for and within the context of the “Incredibly Disgusting” series, the point of which was to dissuade children from doing drugs.) My correspondent concluded, “The world would be such a better place if everyone just got high all the time.”
As the kids say these days: Seriously?
OK, I’ll indulge this idea for a moment–long enough to explain what’s wrong with it. As mentioned above, each brain experiences pot (or any drug) differently. Not everyone gets “high” as in euphoric, harmless, and lovingly supportive of all fellow living creatures. Some people get paranoid, or terrified, or agitated. And you can’t tell who will be which. It can even change from day to day for the same person.
People are temperamental and triggery enough as it is. Giving everyone a drug that causes even more variance in their cognitive and emotional stability and behavioral predictability, not to mention reaction time and wakefulness, would be an act of bioterrorism, not the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.
One Is the Loneliest Number
I think I understand what upset my correspondent. He believes that marijuana has improved his life, and he is offended at categorical condemnations of his cannabinoid helpmate. Perhaps his brain chemistry is such that he really does function better with weed onboard. I suppose it’s possible, albeit rare. It’s also possible for a person to have natural resistance to HIV or snake venom, but attempting to find out via exposure is, hello, discouraged.
Legal drugs are put through extensive research to try to make people’s reactions as predictable as possible. And despite that, unpleasant, sometimes fatal surprises happen. You can’t know with certainty how any one brain will react to the most heavily studied, tried-and-true psych med, so you certainly can’t predict how your brain will react to something someone passes you at a party.
And therein lies the mistake you’re making, dear correspondent. You are what we call an n of 1, a single-subject sample, and you’re trying to extrapolate humanity-wide advice from your individual, personal experience. As a research technique, your method is unsupportable, and beyond that your results are refuted by many scientifically sound studies with ns far larger than yours.
In positioning yourself as the Pied Piper of Pot, you’re encouraging people (even kids, since you oppose my book) to play Russian roulette with their brain chemistry.
Dude. Not cool.