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May 06, 2013

My Transition from "Pot Doc" to Accidental Psychiatrist

Relatively early in my screening of cannabis users seeking the protection of California's Proposition 215, I discovered an interesting connection between their chronic use of the forbidden weed and ADD/ADHD: two related conditions being diagnosed with increasing frequency among primary school children from the mid-Seventies on and often treated by pediatricians or psychiatrists with the stimulant methyl phenidate (Ritalin).

The patients I took histories from- mostly males- had clearly been using cannabis in patterns of self-medication from adolescence, despite the implicit risk of harsh punishment for using an illegal drug. Close questioning revealed they had experienced the same improvement in school work and focusing ability as those who had persevered on Ritalin (many drop out); but they hadn't suffered its oft-noted collateral effects: feeling like "zombies." As one put it, "I felt like I was looking at myself from the outside." In fact, those who had taken Ritalin in school and were then using cannabis as young adults were (are) in the best position to report on both drugs. They are also adamant: inhaled cannabis is better in very rspect .

Such responses, recorded from among the large number of applicants I began screening in 2001 led me to tell my sponsor, the owner of a bustling Oakland "club," that instead of twenty applicants/day, I could see only about half that many because I needed to take more complete histories. His response was to recruit more physicians to handle the growing numbers seeking recommendations, a move that would eventually have its own impact on the political evolution of Proposition 215, specifically on the "guerrilla war" then developing in response to what amounted to a new medical gray market- tolerated in some parts of the state- but detested by the feds and most local cops.

Another surprising item I began to pick up on in applicant histories was the relative absence of biological fathers from the lives of many; especially within the 7 to 9 year interval between pre-school and early puberty. What gradually became clear was that the hurtful influence on the child was the paternal absence itself, whatever the reason. As more specific information was accumulated, it also become clear that certain circumstances intensified the trauma, but the main point was/is that human children have a special need to know their biological fathers; also that the emotional trauma produced by paternal absence can be effectively mitigated by cannabis.

Eventually, that general idea has become the nexus for a coherent explanation what seems an important- but heretofore unrecognized- aspect of human emotional development.

That an entity fitting Paul Wender's general description of "ADD" really exists is obvious to most adults dealing with primary school children on a daily basis. That it carries over in a high percentage through high school and into adult life is also obvious. That its symptoms can be significantly mitigated by inhaled cannabis has only been observed by a few of the physicians who have been dealing with medical marijuana users in one guise or another since California voters surprised themselves and the feds by approving Proposition 215 in the 1996 General Election.

In future entries, I will try to connect the dots relating the admittedly complex observations made on applicants self-medicating with an illegal that drug that Watergate criminals John Mitchell and Richard Nixon insisted in 1970 could not possibly be "medicine."

One could reasonably ask why such nonsense is still endorsed by the entire federal government over four decades later. Is it dishonesty, ignorance, or stupidity?

There seems no reasonable alternative.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at May 6, 2013 11:55 AM