Cannabis and Non-Affective Psychotic Disorders

Credit: By Jto410 (In my clinical work as a diagnostic radiologist) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The literature on the relationship between marijuana use and psychosis has been best described by Time magazine in 2010: it’s complicated.

Various studies have attempted to investigate the connection between the two variables to rather confounding results, including “circumstantial evidence” that individuals afflicted by schizophrenia are more likely to abuse drugs including cannabis and that “only a very small proportion of the general population” using cannabis develop psychosis; all of which warrant further research.

It is through the media and public discourse that this already convoluted relationship becomes even more difficult to understand. A follower of the debate on cannabis and its association with non-affective psychotic disorders, I observe a disconnect in communication. It is as if many prohibitionists and reformists are talking about completely different topics: CAUSATION and EXACERBATION.

No, cannabis does not cause psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Numbers have shown that despite fluctuations in marijuana usage, there has not been a concurrent variation in the instances of schizophrenia, largely debunking claims of a causal relationship. There exists, however, an unsettling association between marijuana usage in existing patients of psychotic disorders and severity of symptoms and timing of onset. Several of the studies were conducted with relatively small sample sizes and so demand future investigation, yet are sufficient to recommend present caution.

One of my core principles is to share that which I appreciate – whether art or food or experiences – with those dear to me. One of the things I appreciate most in the world happens to be cannabis. From close friends, I ask that they at least try it, just as I’ll ask that they try oysters (a travesty, to miss out on the tender, slippery treat; like an intense and delightful shot of the ocean). If their experimentation leads to ultimate dislike, I never attempt to dissuade them; I will always respect individual preference or lack thereof. They simply need to try putting it in their mouth once.

The only exception to sharing my appreciation for cannabis is if the friend in question is genetically prone to schizophrenia.

 

The Term ‘Stoner’ as Analogous to ‘Feminist’

Lexicon
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

With the reform of marijuana laws must come a corresponding revitalization of social perception. As advocates of cannabis seek to carve out a new and socially legitimate image of the substance and that of its users, many have understandably attempted to distance themselves from the word ‘stoner’.

I fully embrace it.

It could be argued that the term ‘stoner’ is analogous to the term ‘feminist’; though perhaps it is as an individual who identifies with both groups that I perceive similarities. Both are subject to lingering stereotypes, which while not always hateful are nonetheless misconceived. Both have proponents, those who support the group’s basic principles, hesitate to publicly associate with the term for fear of either social stigma or more grave repercussions.

By stringent definition, a feminist is a proponent of gender equality, and a stoner is a habitual user of marijuana. There is a need not necessarily to reclaim the word and certainly not to reject it, but to expand upon it. Although the 2014 “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like” campaign by Fawcett Society and Elle UK was sullied by its ethically questionable use of sweatshop manufacturers (the issue of which opens a whole different can of worms), its core intention was commendable and resonating: to demonstrate that those who identify with an ideology come in various shapes, sizes, and genders.

Similarly, cannabis, as the most widely used illicit (no longer illicit in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Washington D.C.) substance in the world with 38% of the populace in the U.S. and 40% in Canada admitting to experimentation, is enjoyed by vastly different individuals, not limited by gender, ethnic background, profession, or level of education. A homemaker and parent may look to cannabis to alleviate his or her chronic back pain. A corporate lawyer may choose a joint over a glass of wine to alleviate stress. A novelist may take up vaporizer in hand when confronted with that mortal enemy, writer’s block.

The key is not to project animosity and fear towards the word itself but to make evident the diversity of the individuals with an appreciation for the Cannabis plant and its medicinal, recreational, and creative uses. Instead of allowing the word ‘stoner’ to become the focus of controversy, let it instead become assimilated into colloquial usage; let it be taken at face value.

I adore weed. Whether I relate more to the iconic Tommy Chong or the ambitious young women at Cannabrand (or a combination of the two) is a secondary matter. By virtue of mutual appreciation for marijuana, we are all united. We are kindred.

My name is Hayoung Terra Yim: advocate for equality, reader of books, assembler of words, drinker of fermented grapes, and smoker of dried Cannabis leaves. I am – as my friends so affectionately describe – a huge stoner.

 

‘Does Binge-Watching Make Us Depressed? Good Question’

Credit: Aaron Escobar
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The most recent findings on binge-watching associated people who binge on television with depression, loneliness and an inability to control their behavior.

Eyes on the tiny glowing screen, I bit back laughter, snickering.

Of the 316 people who answered an online survey, the article continued, 237 met the researcher’s definition of binge-watching. They were more likely than the non-binge viewers to admit behaviors associated with depression, lack of self-regulation or loneliness.

No really? I mocked internally, grinning. If I gorge myself with alcohol and weed and food, what makes you think I wouldn’t do the same with amazing shows?

Grin faded from lips as I wrapped my head around what had just been thought.

They’re all mood-altering substances, in the literal sense – they make you feel good. Shows can offer people what they otherwise can’t get from reality. They can be abused, too. I contemplated my latest soul-consuming obsession, Doctor Who, and what it offered me. Unlimited possibilities. Unhampered mobility. Freedom. A world filled with the extraordinary and the magical, as an escape from the mundane.

Doctor Who isn’t a drug, I countered hotly, offended by my own thoughts, it’s art. When a show or movie or book actually has things to say and makes commentary on society, whether prescriptive or cautionary or just flat-out cynical, it ceases to be just entertainment. It becomes a way to get the public to think about an issue. It becomes activism.

Yeah, sure, sneered an inner voice, art can alter perspectives. Brave New World changed the way you perceive consumerism – but did it actually change your behaviour? I turned my head left and right, casting my eyes over all that was shiny and pretty and unnecessary filling the bedroom: a collection of mass-produced clothing and jewellery, the size of which could not possibly be practical. You still shop, and you love doing it. You may not casually throw everything out like in the book, but if you just collect shit without using them for years and years … how is that any different?

Just because entertainment has something important to say, doesn’t make it any less of an opiate.

I crawled onto the bed and under the sheets, feeling intolerably disheartened, demoralized, depressed.

It was the Best Holiday; It was the Worst Holiday

hello
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

‘Merry Christmas,’ wished Lynette, her eyes giddy and expectant.

‘Erm … thank you?’ I took the takeout container from her outstretched hands, wondering if she was gifting me with leftovers this year.

I opened the plastic lid to find a large piece of chocolate moulded in the shape of Hello Kitty, complete with black fudge-sauce eyes and whiskers, yellow candy nose, and red syrup bow. She did not have to explicitly say that the treat was infused with cannabis.

Best Christmas ever. ‘Have I told you lately I love you?’

A measured bite, a few hours, and several glasses of eggnog afterwards, gathered at a table laden with food, the elders had no idea that I was quickly and progressively getting crunk.

‘… asking for trouble.’

‘Huh?’ Who, me? ‘Sorry, Grandma – could you repeat that?’

‘You need to stop going out so much and stay home like a good girl. If you go out when it’s dark, you’re just asking for trouble.’

I smirked. The age-old argument. The standard response was to nod politely, agree orally, and continue life as normal. However, in an intensely yet not uncomfortably intoxicated state, I opened my big mouth.

‘Why?’

‘Because bad things can happen to girls. Because it’s not safe.’

‘Bad things don’t just happen at night, though,’ I pointed out. ‘Like that 23-year old woman who got raped at High Park in like, the middle of the afternoon last summer.’

‘Well, that’s exactly why you shouldn’t go places where you know that sort of thing can happen to you.’

‘So, because I’m a woman, I shouldn’t expect to be safe jogging in a public space, in broad daylight?’

‘Can we talk about something else,’ my wise sister interjected, ‘and please not argue on Christmas?’

‘We’re not arguing,’ I insisted with a grin, trapped within the bounds of a drunken stupor. ‘We’re discussing. I’m genuinely interested in her perspective. I wanna understand.’

‘As a woman, you need to be careful about the environments you put yourself in. Some places you shouldn’t go at certain times – some you shouldn’t go at all.’

‘But how does that make sense?’ I asked. ‘That means that a part of the population – a big part, like literally a bit more than half – would be excluded from certain areas at certain times or at least from the freedom to go alone, because of something they have no control of. No more than they do over the colour of their skin. How is that fair?’

‘Of course it’s not fair,’ she retorted. ‘But that’s just how it is. That’s just how men are.’

I scowled at my grandmother. ‘Well, that’s just not fair to men, to say that’s just how they are. And makes as much sense to say, “Genocide is something that happens, that’s just how it is and we should accept that”.’

‘How about this?’ said Grandma in a sharper tone than she had ever taken, narrowing her eyes. ‘You get a real, office job – and when you’re a success, you can say whatever you want on whatever topic.’

I finally shut my mouth.

Afterwards, sitting in the car in silence, I wondered if the tension was actually palpable or due to paranoia as a side effect of marijuana. Unable to tell, I turned my thoughts back towards the subject.

Just accepting the state of things isn’t an option. But she has a point. It can’t be about wishing it was different, theorizing and arguing about how to change the system. While waiting for social change, entire lifetimes are affected – possibly destroyed.

It also had to be about teaching and training, giving individuals the tools to manage within the existing system.

You really, really need to learn some sort of self-defence. If you get off your ass and do one thing for yourself, for the love of God, let it be self-defence.

And it’s not just skills needed to counter extreme situations, I deflected, but also to handle the more delicate, ambiguous ones. I thought of Kane: an intelligent, respectable, and kindhearted young man whom I considered friend and who persistently provided unwanted affection, with a casual hand on the waist or an arm around the shoulder, with inappropriate jokes and comments. I had told him bluntly that his actions made me uncomfortable, had asked him politely to stop, had reproached him angrily, had cut contact for long periods of time; all fruitless endeavours. Out of ideas aside from terminating an otherwise valued friendship, I often pretended not to notice the blatant invasions of personal space.

What do you do when someone, otherwise functional in society, otherwise smart and fun and generally good, thinks it’s OK to touch you when they know you don’t want them to? When they’re a friend, a colleague, a boss?

I wished there were some sort of brochure or program to tell me.

 

Winter vs. Summer

Credit: Wikipedia Commons
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The world was covered in a blanket of white.

The rain that had poured down during the previous two days of unusually warm weather was now frozen, sheathing everything in nearly half an inch of ice, and the snowfall that had followed added the finishing touch, lightly dusting the frozen substance with a layer of fine powder, gleaming in its pristine, untouched state.

Every surface donned a cloak of ice and snow; every tree and shrubbery a natural frozen sculpture. A winter wonderland.  A vision of Narnia in the Age of Winter.

As I marveled at the most stunning winter landscape I had seen in years, a random analogy struck me.

Love and solitude are like the seasons, I meditated. Both have their pros and cons. If having love is like summer, where there’s colour and sound and life and vibrancy everywhere, being alone is like winter. There’s still beauty, just in a different form – there are things to be appreciated, and some enjoy it, relish it. Others can’t stand it, and still others prefer it.  

And some just don’t mind, I thought, watching my breath rise and fade into the cold air, knowing summer waits in store.

Versus Alcohol

beer
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

I woke up in pure agony; my entire body aching, my head splitting in two. Light and sound had become mortal enemies, wielding a thousand tiny daggers to stab my eyes and the inside of my head.

How? I asked myself, lying quite immobile in bed. How did I in such a short interval go from ‘barely tipsy’ to ‘completely wasted’? Why did I have to have those last two shots? To chug that last beer as we were leaving?

What was supposed to be a simple, enjoyable night out at the nearby pub with my co-workers had gone horribly awry, and I was still paying for it the morning after. As if the violent puking out the taxi door hadn’t been payment enough. I could acutely and rather painfully feel the extent to which I was dehydrated, as well as to which I was still drunk.

Carbs, I thought desperately. I need carbs and grease and water. Slowly, I crawled out of bed, every inch of my body screaming in protest. I made my way to the kitchen on wobbly knees, a hand on the wall to support my pitiful, feeble self.

I emptied a glass of water down my throat, only to have it come back up moments later. I’ve been poisoned, I thought grimly, my face in the toilet. I’ve poisoned my own body with beer and whiskey. Why did I do this to myself?!

Stubbornly, I made a second attempt to hydrate myself, taking more cautious sips this time, grabbed a chunk of bread, and made the journey back to bed. Eating was outlandishly difficult; I managed to swallow a single, tiny bite of bread and gave up, placing the rest on my night table.

My only wish was to go back to sleep; to spend the rest of this torture of a hangover in a state of deep unconsciousness. Sadly, sleep evaded me. I checked the time, groaning upon discovering that a mere five hours had passed since I returned home from the pub.

That’s it, I thought, fed up with this nonsense. Get back up you’re rolling yourself some help. I forced myself to get out of bed once more and sat down to roll a joint with slightly shaking hands. Though crudely rolled, it got the job done. Immediately I could feel the sharpness of my headache subside. Sooo worth the effort.

I stuffed the chunk of bread in my mouth and retreated under the covers. In a fetal position with eyes shut tight, I chewed and chewed for what felt like half an hour, enjoying every moment of it. Focaccia bread. Delicious.

I could feel myself drifting off to sleep, a smile on my face and my last thought being:

Alcohol: poison. Marijuana: cure.