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Monday, January 20, 2014

Out of Order

   Ever go to a vending machine when you are hungry and have no time to go out and get a bite to
eat.  You put your money into the machine, punch your selection and ... NOTHING!  A big fat nothing comes out of the machine.  It's frustrating.  You bang on it.  You shake it back and forth and still...NOTHING.   Even more frustrating is when you find out that someone else earlier in the day tried it and got nothing as well.  You may even yell at them and say "Why didn't you put an 'Out of Order' sign on it to warn others?"  That machine is utterly worthless.   It's not hurting anyone (not emitting deadly radiation or catching fire) but it's not helping anyone either.

   A common argument for anything these days seems to be....

   "I am not hurting anyone when I am doing ________!"

   While that is true, replace "urt" with "elp" and you get

   "I am not helping anyone when I am doing ________!"

   This argument is especially used by those who want drugs to be legalized.   Their belief seems to be that they are an island with a population of ONE and they should be able to do on that island whatever they want.  The libertarian in me wants to say "Go ahead", but there is more to this problem than just "I am not hurting anyone" we need to discuss.  Namely, you are of no help to anyone else either.

   This is often the most over-looked reason for not doing drugs.   While, yes, you are not theoretically hurting anyone when you are in your apartment zonked out of your mind, you are also, like that worthless vending machine, of no use to anyone else around you.   Maybe you should slap an "Out of Order" sign on your forehead to alert possible friends and family that you are of no use to them. That way when they come to you because...

  • Their car is broken down and they need a ride
  • Their girl-friend of 3 years has broken up with them for another guy and they feel like killing themselves
  • They have been diagnosed with cancer or some other disease.
  • Their father or mother has just passed away and they feel lost.
  • They just got their 3rd rejection notice from their college list
  • They just lost their job and they are overdrawn at the bank.
  • The list goes on and on...
   They will know you are of no use and worthless to them as a friend or family member.  It will tell them that they should just move on to get their help from someone who will be 100% available to them rather than waste their time on you.    Furthermore, just like you pass by that vending machine that has cost you so much in lost dollars because it's not worth the risk, you also will see friends pass you by as well because you are not worth the risk either.

Don't rush the experiment

   We have heard one of the great benefits in our country is that we have 50 laboratories of freedom to experiment, unlike other "national" countries where a one-size-fits-all solution is forced on all of its inhabitants at the same time.  Take for example, Colorado's experiment with the legalization of marijuana.  They can test the waters and see what happens.  Will it bring down their state or will it do nothing at all?  We will have to wait and see.   But many don't want to wait.   They see Colorado's choice to legalize as reason to push that same legalization here in California.  But would you rush to try a new cancer drug that has only been tried in a half-dozen mice or so?  Of course not.  You would wait until further studies are done on mice, monkeys and a small population of people before trying it out on a whole populous.  That's the rational thing to do.   But whoever said lawmakers were rational?   Rather than wait they are already pushing us to legalize as well.

   What could go wrong?

   A lot.

Medical differences between Marijuana and Alcohol.

  Despite recent opinion statements made by Obama (supposedly the smartest man in the world) that marijuana is no worse than alcohol.  Marijuana is much worse than alcohol.  People often get caught up in the short-term effects of marijuana with what is done by drinking alcohol.   But this is only the tip of the iceberg.  First of all, alcohol and marijuana cause their "high" in 2 different ways.  Alcohol reduces the oxygen level in the blood stream and the brain is very sensitive to oxygen levels (in fact brain cells are the first to die when oxygen levels become too low).   Kids who cannot obtain alcohol sometimes try playing a dangerous game called "The Choking Game" in which one person chokes another for a period of time to cut off blood to the brain to cause an alcohol-like high (sometimes to a disastrous end).  Marijuana on the other hand gives its high a different way.  It does so by its main ingredient: THC which inhibits neuron transmission in various parts of the brain by binding to neuron receptors.  This interferes with short term memory and cognitive (decision making) functions which are important functions for growing adults under the age of 25 (the brain continues to grow up to that age well beyond the legal age of 18 in Colorado). Secondly, alcohol is removed from the body by the liver and 24 hours after you have consumed it, it is completely gone and once removed your are back to your old self.  Marijuana on the other hand does not get removed so quickly as THC binds itself to fat cells and remains in the body for 1-2 weeks after it is ingested. (a simple urine test can detect its presence for two weeks) 

   Question: where is that largest concentration of fat cells in the body?

   Answer: The brain.

   Fat acts as an insulator for the electrical connections in the brains neurons similar to rubber or plastic sheathing on copper wires.  THC has been shown to be released from these "fat reserves" during times of stress.  This is not something you want in your body when you are taking an exam or working on a crucial project deadline at work.

 Beyond the medical issues:

   In conversations I have had with my kids, I have told them the problem with ANY kind of drug (including alcohol) is that it makes you unavailable to being there for others.   You might as well slap a sticker to your forehead saying "Out of Order" while you are drunk or high because that is basically what you are.  Of course many will say "So what? It's my life!"  but that is not entirely true.  We all have friends and family who rely on us.   We have no idea what may come our way where we might be called upon to help.   A broken down car.   A car accident.  A sudden illness.   A fire.  A broken relationship.  A mental breakdown.   A feeling of hopelessness and suicide.   Anything.   But because you were stoned or drunk, you were not there for the other person.  You are utterly useless.  

    Here also is another difference between alcohol and marijuana. Alcohol can be consumed for other reasons other than intoxication.  For example,  it will often take me over a couple of hours to drink an entire beer (maybe an entire football game) and I enjoy every sip of my Sam Adam's.  People even  O'Doul's alcohol free beer just because they like the flavor and want nothing more.  Would a person EVER want to smoke a THC-Free marijuana joint(if there ever was one)??   Probably not.  Because there is no enjoyment in marijuana apart from the high it gives you (the aroma is actually quite nauseating).