Depression and Anxiety
by Jon Brian

I've been reading with great interest in recent weeks about the medicinal benefits of marihuana. I've decided to come forward with my experiences in using cannabis to cope and deal with my anxiety and depression. I am going to be sharing my positive experiences as well as the negative, which I feel people should be made aware of.

Despite a relatively normal childhood, I occasionally experienced traumatic borderline psychiatric issues. I questioned life and death relatively early. In second grade, I watched the movie "The Champ" which starred a young Ricky Shroeder. A scene preceding the death of the lead character showed him suffering a nosebleed. At the time, I was suffering regularly from nosebleeds and grew concerned with whether or not I could die from them.

I ran away from school during a rest room break and created a school/neighborhood hysteria by literally walking miles to my mother's office to present a Mother's Day card to her, because I truly believed I was about to die.

Episodes like this came and went. Some were brutally in the face of my family while others were not -- just depressive thoughts about life and death which I had collected in the back of my mind. Never suicidal. A borderline hypochondria if anything. Enough to make me walk around through my teens shy and very withdrawn. Why wasn't everyone else at the party thinking of dying or getting sick? Why only me?

My uncle and father both died at relatively young ages from heart attacks. My uncle was only 32. His heart attack stemmed from a medical condition which caused his organs to prematurely age. My father, 46, was obese and an abuser of drugs (namely cocaine, heroin, crack), alcohol and cigarettes. His cause of death was said to be a more general lifestyle issue.

Both of those deaths affected me to the point where as early as the age of fifteen, my mother would routinely rush me to the emergency room complaining of a rapid heart rate and a tightness in my chest. Test after test and doctor after doctor confirmed that I had no heart condition whatsoever. This was when I was first diagnosed with depression and a panic disorder. Prescriptions for Zoloft and Xanax were given to me. The Zoloft increased the intensity of the depressive episodes. The Xanax calmed me so much that I was stealing them from my mother's purse to induce sleep. Because of my stance against drugs, I noticed this problem immediately and began to pull myself away from Xanax. Paxil was then prescribed with the same ill results as the Zoloft.

I had experimented with marihuana once or twice as a teen. I was pretty much strait-laced growing up and looked negatively towards drugs and alcohol (unfortunately I began smoking cigarettes, a habit I'm trying to break these days).

Around the age of twenty-three I met a girl who was a frequent user of marihuana. She battled with depression and anxiety herself and said that it helped relieve the pressure. I decided to give it a shot. What transpired was perhaps the best period of my life. I smoked moderately, maybe three to four times a week, for about two years with great success. I had come to understand my situation completely. I lived life to its fullest. I was finally able to lose my virginity after years of battling an embarrassing performance anxiety. I learned web design and read more. I made friends with ease. I was truly finding myself and establishing who I was and where I was in life. I was able to leave my dead end clerical job of three years for a job in the music industry (which has always been a love of mine) doing web design for a record label.

Eventually, I was working from home full-time with this gig. Initially this was a dream of mine. I mean, I could smoke up all day? Imagine what I could accomplish. LESSON LEARNED!!!!!

I became what common society would refer to as a "pothead". While I always held strong with my refusal to engage in other illegal narcotics and fall prey to alcohol, I smoked all day and all night. It got to the point where I felt as if I couldn't function without the marihuana. What I wasn't realizing was that when I "smoked myself stupid", my paranoias and problems were beginning to surface again. The combination of being in my apartment all day and smoking so much marihuana inspired all the old anxieties and my first depressive episode in years. I wasn't eating. I wasn't getting any exercise. I seemed to be intent on sitting around all day stoned.

I recognized the problem and went to a doctor for another shot at an antidepressant. I was prescribed Celexa and stopped smoking marihuana immediately. I tried the Celexa for two to three weeks but found my depressive thoughts again intensified. I had insomnia. I would find myself sitting around almost mummified and emotionless and literally felt like I was having a nervous breakdown. I couldn't get the thoughts out of my head and couldn't get my mind to stop focussing on how my body felt. Every little ache and pain was intensified. After a few doctors visits to again clarify that nothing was wrong my physical health, I realized that I was more screwed mentally on the antidepressants than ever before.

After the doctor shoved another anti-depressant, Serzone, in my face I came to this startling conclusion. MD's are shelling out samples and prescriptions to these medications like they are Pez without the psychology and mental health background to understand their effectiveness. If something doesn't work there is another brand out there to take it's place and you'll suffer from these miserable "side effects" but stick to it for your well being. It doesn't seem like they believe it's conceivable that perhaps the antidepressants aren't the answer for everyone?

After much thought and several miserable weeks without any medication, I decided to smoke marihuana again. I had two to three hits and felt reborn. I realized everything that I had succumbed to in recent weeks and realized that I had to eat, I had to sleep, and I had to just simply live life. I laid out a game plan for myself and am taking the necessary steps to make this game plan work. I'm cutting down on the cigarettes. I've cut out coffee. I'm being more active and I'm pursuing employment possibilities outside of the home everyday.

The key to my story is this I believe. Marihuana, like any legal drug, can be tricky and must be used in moderation for its full benefits. I've learned that three to four hits every night have helped me tremendously. A far cry from sitting around throughout the day doing bong hits. I've overcome my recent setbacks and I realized that the setback stemmed from my failure to originally see this. What was something very positive to my well being, creativity and overall mental state, I began using as a constant escape which you can't do. Then the positive becomes a negative. Moderation and responsibility is what works for me! Anything good can turn bad when used in excess for the wrong reasons, and marihuana is no exception! With my present usage, I am seeing the benefits. I am learning how to deal with the emotions and reverse them. Calm the anxieties and turn them into positives. Most of all I am laughing, smiling and carrying on through life with a renewed focus. People generally enjoy my company again and I feel the same way. Writing this letter in itself is therapeutic, and I would be greatly interested in a response from any medic or psychologist out there.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story.