Saturday, 23 February 2013

Cannabis - it's for Dopes

I had a bit of an argument on Twitter with someone today - well, not an argument exactly, but I was annoyed with her.  She (can't remember her name now) had posted some stuff about Big Pharma and what crooks they were - but her message, in other tweets, was how good cannabis is for you, in comparison.  I took issue with that - explained that my psychotic breakdowns were in part due to smoking dope, although of course it does not have that effect on anyone.  I really do not think cannabis is an appropriate tool for healing of any sort.

She replied that she did not think my problems were due to cannabis, but that she could not help me as she did not have access to my medical records.  What?!

I explained that I know what my problems were, and that I have dealt with them satisfactorily, and was certainly not asking for her help.  So far, it was a weird exchange, but not unduly upsetting.

But then it went on a bit - she continued to extol the virtues of cannabis and I said that she was wrong and that I would do the utmost to keep everyone I care about well away from the stuff.

And then - she said she hoped my friends and family would not take my word for it, but would do their own research.  Their own research?  Just in the interests of science, to see if they went mad or not?  I was thinking about my kids of course - which is why I got so annoyed, although obviously there was no need.  I stopped replying to her. 

But when I got 'Followed' later by 'ProCannabis' I reacted by blocking and reporting them for spam. I don't think they were connected to that woman - they had just somehow picked up 'cannabis' in my tweets and thought I might be on their side, but still.  I am all for free speech, but still.

This is a subject that does rile me - every so often the issue of legalising cannabis is raised, and I know how harmful it can be, and how anybody with any sense should keep well away.  I hate dope!

(Incidentally, since I met Henry Cockburn of 'Henry's Demons' I've been even more angry about the dope thing.  The book makes it clear that Henry smoked a lot of dope in the period leading up to his illness.  And Henry is a lovely chap, but a casualty of cannabis if ever I saw one - I couldn't help adding a comment under my review of the book on Amazon that he should keep away from the stuff for the rest of his life, because otherwise he will not have a chance.  It's just one of those things that you know, and can see...)

I had forgotten about it all by this evening, but have just been flicking through the Saturday Times magazine, and came across an article by Robert Crampton about an addiction clinic in Switzerland.  The place sounds amazing - but is far too expensive for most people. 

Anyway, the guy who runs it says that addiction to cannabis is the hardest of all addictions to break.  Crampton goes on to write that, 'Cannabis - certain strains at least - is also the drug that can cause the most profound and the least reversible neurological damage, often quickly, often in very young and otherwise healthy adults.  The drug many people people think of as harmless can send you mad, swiftly and permanently'. 

Case proven.

Another thing I have read today is Hilary Mantel's memoir, 'Giving up the Ghost'.  A friend lent it to me this afternoon, and I would never have expected to finish it by this evening.  I have a good opinion of Mantel - her rant about how badly treated royal women are has brought her all sorts of unfair criticism from people who got the wrong end of the stick, and yet she seems to have dealt with the outcry with dignity and stoicism.

I have not read Mantel's work before, and was kind of spoiled for it a bit by Hugo Rifkind's mickey-taking in the Times today.  He writes 'A week in the life of..' or some such weekly column, which is supposed' to be 'by' whoever has been in the news that week, and it is sometimes very funny.  This week Mantel bore the brunt of his humour - he wrote the column about his imagined version of her week, in what was supposed to be her style.

I can't remember if Rifkind's column was funny or not - or even what was in it - and it is too late tonight for me to bother to check.  But anyway, I realised as soon as I started to read Mantel's memoir that she has a splendid writing style - as I said, though, the memoir was a little spoiled by my prior conception of it.  Does that make sense? 

And I didn't read the book through properly, I must admit.  I read and savoured up to page 68 or so, about her childhood, then I got distracted by wanting to know what happened to her Dad, and flicked through the book to find out...  And after that I got immersed in her description of an illness that began at University and couldn't put the book down then until I had finished.

I will go back to it, very soon, and read the middle section, and review the book on Amazon or somewhere else.  I found it an excellent, enlightening read - and without wanting to give the plot away, for those who are interested in medical, and especially psychiatric treatment in this country, it raises some fascinating issues.  It's a short and easy read.

So go on - read it, you know you want to!  (I especially admire her fondness for semi-colons; I feel it makes us kindred spirits, although I am often not sure if I use them correctly, and sometimes resort to dashes instead).

And one more thing - I got an email this evening from the World Book Night organisers, to say that I will be given 20 copies of my chosen book - The Road Home by Rose Tremain - to disseminate on the 23rd April.  I am really pleased - it was my first choice of books, and a really good read, one that I will be delighted to pass on. 

Lucky me!

And I can't help thinking that maybe - just maybe - many years in the future - one of my as-yet-unwritten books might be on the list to be given away on World Book Night.  I know I should not voice this thought - or write it - it seems vain, and futile, and may jinx all my hopes.  But I often do and say things that I might be wiser to have left undone or unsaid. 

Will I ever learn?


  1. I have noticed that most stories written about schizophrenia by people who have been diagnosed with it, or their carers, mention dope smoking as one of the causes, be it Elyn Saks, Mark Vonnegut, Henry Cockburn, Tim Salmon, Sam in the carer's journal, Anthony Scally, yourself etc. May be it is easier to recover from psychosis if you haven't smoked pot.

  2. I was speaking to a friend yesterday, a psychiatric nurse, who said that cannabis is almost always a factor in the psychosis cases she has seen. I don't know if it is easier to recover if you haven't smoked it, or if you maybe would not become as ill in the first place. I just know that I will do all I can to keep my kids away from the stuff - and to warn off anybody else I can too!

    1. The way I see things: people suffer from stress because of all sorts of underlying emotional problems and then something like smoking pot, fever, not sleeping properly for too long - in my case too much caffeine-triggers the psychosis. I think people collapse because they have been abusing their body for too long instead of taking good care of it. Young people tend to think that they can get away with it with impunity.

  3. Yes, that sounds plausible. In my case I took good care of my body (before I became psychotic) - I ate well, exercised and so on (mostly out of vanity). But I was so anxious all the time - I had panic attacks, really bad ones, on an almost daily basis. I was literally a nervous wreck, and because I had been like that for so long I just assumed it was part of my personality. When I was at boarding school, secure and happy, I was confident - but only with my fellow students, I could still barely converse with the teachers.

    The answer defintely lies in educating people - particularly the young - about methods of coping with stress, and the potential consequences if you fail to do so.

    Thanks for your comments, by the way!