A patient testimony of Cannabis use (Marihuana the Forbidden Medicine)

Image of Marihuana the Forbidden Medicine retrieved from Cannabis Career Institute on June 19, 2013.

Another patient who suffers from episodic depression writes as follows:

I am a forty-seven-year-old white male, a partner in a multi-million dollar company... as soon as I started school my emotional problems became apparent, and an endless trek to various health professionals began. My school phobia made me sneak away from school, sometimes by climbing out windows. I spent much time being interviewed by "special ed" teachers and social workers. From early on I was examined by a continuous flow of physicians. My earliest recollection is the one who prescribed special arches for my shoes (to relieve headaches) and a syrup at night to make me sleep.

The headaches persisted; the depressions became paralyzing episodes that occurred several times a year and lasted days to weeks. Because of them I missed much of grade school and junior high.

In my sophomore year of high school, things got worse. I was given a prescription for Miltown (meprobamate, an anti-anxiety drug). I took it in varying dosages for several months. It caused me to become drowsy and dizzy; my speech slurred, and I developed diarrhea. My poor performance in school worsened. I started to lose my coordination. My depression continued, perhaps made worse. I was glad to stop using it.

My experience with Miltown was so unpleasant that I refused to take any other "mental" drugs for the next two years. I did see a therapist on a weekly basis. His diagnosis was "episodes of acute depression."

During this period I managed to just barely complete high school, and got accepted at a small local college. During my second semester I attempted suicide. I was told by a doctor that I had an "obsessive compulsive personality." It was suggested that I take Librium. I started taking this drug and found myself in a continuing state of depression, confusion, and lethargy. I had to leave school. When my speech started slurring, I abandoned the Librium.

I got a job driving a truck and started seeing a new doctor, a psychiatrist. After nine months I reapplied to college and was accepted. The doctor convinced me to try another drug, Tofranil, that he said was very effective in treating depression. I started using it and soon found I was losing all power of concentration. I became restless, full of anxiety. It became almost impossible to urinate. I developed a lump the size of a marble in my left nipple. The doctor ascribed these symptoms to the Tofranil. I stopped using it and again left school. My depression was still there, and i was desperate for some relief. I also started getting pains in my stomach. A GI series revealed a duodenal ulcer. I constantly chewed antacids and took tablets called Zantac.

Life was becoming more difficult, and the doctor suggested another medicine, Vivactil (Protryptiline, a tricyclic antidepressant). Again, the side effects were disastrous. I became more agitated than before, had great trouble urinating, and a chronic skin disease I have (atopic dermatitis) started to itch with a fury. I developed a peculiar taste in my mouth that would not leave and had a continual feeling of nausea. Shortly after discounting Vivactil I was in the psychiatric ward of A New York hospital, suffering from "atypical depression".

In the hospital I was put on lithium. After two days my hands started to shake. This tremor became so intense that after one week i was unable to write or hold a glass without spilling the contents. I had diarrhea and nausea; my vision started to blur.

I ceased using the lithium and left the hospital after a stay of two weeks. When I saw my therapist again, he made an unusual statement: "I'm not suggesting this," he said, "if I did I could lose my license, but have you ever tried marijuana?" I had smoked something alleged to be marihuana once in high school and had been unaffected. I thought it might be worth another try. I called a friend I suspected would know where or how to obtain some, and the next day she brought me two joints. I later learned that her husband (who is a dentist) used marijuana to ease the pain of chronic depression.

Remembering my previous experience, I had low expectations. Alone in my room I lit the first joint. Soon I found myself lost in reverie. Previously, when I was depressed, the sadness became the focal point of my existence. Now my mind was being distracted by neutral, and even funny or pleasant thoughts. The constant pain of the depression was reduced to an occasional nagging ache. I slept well and awoke feeling refreshed, not "doped up" and lethargic. It soon became apparent that when I was in the throes of a depressive episode, a marihuana cigarette was a greater source of relief than anything I had ever tried before - not a cure, but something that diluted the pain. The marijuana permitted me to function better than any licit drug. I didn't become drowsy, develop tremors, or have any of the side effects associated with the drugs I had previously taken. I gained an appetite I never had, and put needed weight on an emaciated frame. I found myself having ideas that would not ordinarily have come to me, some practical, some not. I was able to pierce the black cloud that surrounded me and climb out far enough to meet my responsibilities. The use of marijuana makes it impossible for depressive thought to become the total focus of my life.

The fact that marijuana is illegal made me search for a licit medicine that was at least as effective. The next one I was given was Norpramin. This chemical offered me no relief and came with an assortment of side effects that aggravated my prostate, gave me diarrhea, left a terrible, lingering taste in my mouth, and colored my tongue black. For about a year I was given Adapin (doxepin another tricyclic) with only minor side effects, but it did little or nothing to change my condition. i was also given Buspar (Buspirone, an anti-anxiety drug), which seems to have no effect at all. Perhaps the very worst of them all was Prozac, which actually made me more anxious, nauseous, dizzy to the point of fainting, and unable to achieve orgasm. I have also had Desyrel (trazoldone) which causes only minor side effects, but again seems to do little good.

As of this writing, I have smoked marihuana for more than two decades. In addition to dampening the pain of depression, I have found it reduces nausea and burning in the stomach due to the production of acid. It allows me to sleep peacefully. It stimulates my imagination when working on creative projects. It enhances simple joys, such as eating M&M's or walking in the woods. Since its use jeopardizes my freedom, I would prefer a legal substitute. So far I have found none.

I use no other illicit substances. I do not use tobacco. My alcohol intake is no more than an occasional drink on a saturday night out. I usually have one cup of tea a day and two glasses of coca-cola. I take several aspirins a week.

Excerpt taken from pages 120-124 of Marihuana the Forbidden Medicine by Lester Grinspoon, M.D., and James B. Bakalar

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