I am writing this because I believe it is important to get as much information as possible regarding medical marijuana use out into society, so that we can begin (it’s really sad we’re not there yet) to change public perception. I am a 32-year-old music teacher, athletic coach and professional musician. I am married and I have two children. I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree.
My primary reason for using marijuana is to deal with symptoms related to periodic bouts of severe depression. My mother is diagnosed bi-polar, and her father was also. Incidentally, his mother, my great-grandmother died by committing suicide. It is likely she also suffered severe depression and it would appear that it is at least partly a genetic characteristic.
I was first diagnosed with clinical depression while I was in high school at approximately age 14. But I am certain that my feelings and symptoms began at puberty around age 11. At the time of my diagnoses I was adamantly opposed to the use of marijuana or drugs of any kind. I was then and am now a competitive endurance athlete and saw it as being in opposition to that endeavor.
Treatment for my symptoms of depression consisted of a profoundly ineffectual process of meeting with a psychiatrist. I actually found that these meetings actually made me more depressed. I dropped out of high school at age 16. Leaving school was directly related to depression, I found myself unable to get out of bed. I also probably suffer from some ADD like problems and have always had a difficult time concentrating particularly in sit-down-face-forward classroom situations. I found high school unmercifully boring.
My first use of marijuana was when I accepted an offer from my “Deadhead” uncle at around age 16. I had no sense of being “high” from that experience, as many people describe the first time doesn’t seem to take. I did not become a regular marijuana user after that, I didn’t really think much about that experience.
While I was in high school and after I was a member of a rock band that had developed a significant following in our hometown. Our ambitions for success led us as a group to move to another major city (in hopes of conquering the world). While living there I became acquainted with a group of Brazilian musicians who were regular marijuana users. It was then that I became a recreational marijuana user.
I quickly discovered (perhaps also with the aide of being exposed to a very different culture of music) that the marijuana “high” definitely enhances the experience of listening to and performing music. However, I can’t say that the experience of performing music under the influence of marijuana is broadly beneficial. I might record or rehearse while on it, perhaps perform certain genres of jazz, but I certainly would not perform a classical piece or subject non-users to my marijuana influenced musical excursions. It is not appropriate for all creative situations. Certainly, professionally, it can be a liability.
While living away from home in a new town, against my best hopes and efforts I again became severely depressed and soon had to return home. During this first period of recreational use I did note, however, that marijuana certainly alleviated many of the over-bearing and oppressive feelings associated with depression. At that time I had never purchased it and had only used it socially if it was offered.
Shortly after returning home, many of my neighborhood and high school friends returned home from their freshman and sophomore years in college with similar experiences of marijuana use. It was that summer when my group of friends began using marijuana on a regular daily basis with no concern for dosage, our behavior, appearance, etc. We more or less became Gen X hippies.
It was in this period that I feel I confirmed marijuana’s ability to alleviate my depression. I noticed that when I began this period of chronic usage I was severely depressed, but soon came to have no symptoms of depression at all. In addition to this benefit, I found that I had an increased ability to concentrate. I don’t believe that marijuana has any super-natural powers and I know that its been stated that it impairs short-term memory, but I have experienced the sensation of perhaps being aloof to an experience in the immediate but being able to recall it with great detail later on. For me, it seems to have the effect similar to a video camera in slow motion. As if my brain records experiences while on marijuana with extreme focus on minute details. I have no explanation.
I believe now that chronic use in heavy doses leads to what some people call “burnout” but more on that later. I did suffer a sort of burnout after about a year of this behavior and found myself being rather unambitious (whatever that means). But shortly thereafter I decided to enroll in college and I became interested again in competing in endurance sports. I soon ceased my use of marijuana all together and again suffered from bouts of severe depression.
It was in this period when I began to pursue my bachelor’s degree that I began to seek medical treatment for my depression. I don’t think I have ever been adequately diagnosed, but only hastily prescribed medications. I am probably bi-polar or manic-depressive; I go through phases of intense depression and periods of intense productivity both functionally and creatively. I found any prescribed drug, first slow to act and second, put me into a sort of malaise where I ceased to experience any sort of what might be called manic phase, which I very much enjoy.
My dissatisfaction with traditionally accepted medications prompted me to begin to experiment with marijuana dosage. It had never occurred to me before, after having used it primarily recreationally and only discovering its mental-health benefits by accident. But I found myself in need of a way to alleviate my depression without jeopardizing my pursuits in academics and athletics.
Recreationally, it is typical for someone to light a joint or a bowl and pass it around. New users will often smoke an excessive amount not understanding how little they need to experience a “high”. I’ve even seen people become ill from overdose. Through experimentation, I began to understand that one “hit” was adequate for producing a desired effect.
I am basically a one-hit marijuana smoker. I smoke as infrequently as every two or three weeks or as much as everyday (for short periods), depending on the severity of my depression. I occasionally and selectively use it recreationally with certain musicians I perform with during rehearsals or outings to concerts, not during public performance. I use a brass “one-hitter” sometimes called a “bat”.
I have heard that marijuana is much more potent than it once was. I can’t attest to this one way or another. Critics seem to be gravely concerned about that fact, but I see it as an opportunity to use less of it, therefore reducing its hazardous effects. I do have some concern as to the damage I am doing to my lungs. However, since ceasing my period of chronic use and engaging in intense regular exercise I have had no ill effects. In fact, I know that my VO2 max is above normal. I compete on a masters level in a particular endurance sport and I am very successful. I could be dead wrong but I imagine that the effect of a single hit is no more harmful then walking down the street in the city with carbon monoxide producing cars running everywhere. I would be interested in discovering more about the smoke’s effect on lung function but I think that most publications on the subject are biased against marijuana use, and therefore, not credible. I would prefer not to smoke it, but I find that it is the fastest method of intake and requires the smallest amount of product. I’ve tried teas, but find that it is harder to accurately measure dosage and requires more product to achieve the desired effect. I use a surprisingly small amount to great success: Approximately a ¼ of an ounce per year. So we’re talking a street value of about $40.00 for an entire year! Compare that to prescription drug costs!
There is no way around this statement: I use marijuana for the effect it has on me. That seems to be some kind of taboo despite America’s addiction to alcohol and all of its side effects… but I digress. The effects the drug has on me are as follows: it alleviates feelings of depression quickly and effectively. I have found that taking too much at once can cause me to have some anxiety, feelings of paranoia, but this also depends on the variety of marijuana used. I tend to be somewhat of an “anxious stoner” but I wouldn’t describe that as a bad thing. It makes me feel motivated to become active. I have found that when I fall into periods when normal function is difficult (i.e. being productive or just getting out of bed), that the high often mobilizes me to take on some task that before the high seemed overwhelming. I have also found that marijuana increases my ability to stay focused on the task, and can even cause a sense of excitement about doing the simplest duties, from folding laundry to mopping the floor. Casual users seem not to achieve a sense of wonder, which is something else I very much enjoy about the drug.
I believe that the ability of this drug to motivate a depressed person to be productive is of great value. I have found that success in activities during single marijuana high can cause me to be more productive for several days, building on that personal achievement. Staying productive seems to be a key in preventing my depression. I also find marijuana useful in getting me through certain depression-triggers, particularly the winter season.
As I stated previously, I have experienced a sense of “burn-out” from chronic use and for that reason I restrict my consumption as much as possible to prevent this side effect. I have found that infrequent use has a stronger more effective high and does not cause a burnout. I think that it should also be noted that I rarely drink alcohol (less than one glass of wine or beer a week) and I have only used other illegal drugs on three occasions. I have used cocaine, LSD, and “magic mushrooms” each one time respectively, during my “Gen X-hippie phase”, and have absolutely no interest in doing so again.
I have been fortunate in never having any legal troubles from marijuana use. I believe that my participation in intense aerobic exercise, infrequency of use, and limit of dosage have afforded me the ability to pass THC through my system very quickly. I have had to pass drug tests on a couple of occasions, but have had the opportunity of fair warning to clear my system. I was threatened with a random drug-test once while I was working in a security field to supplement my income, but just chose to leave the job as I had no interest in it anyway.
My wife is not a user of drugs of any kind, and also does not consume alcohol. I am happily faithful to her, she is my best friend and we have never encountered any conflicts regarding my use of marijuana. Incidentally, I have never offered or suggested to anyone that they try marijuana or offered it as an alternative or solution to any problem. All my knowledge on the subject is from my personal experience.
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