There have recent studies linking marijuana use to various mental illnesses. The question is, of course, are mentally ill people "self-medicating" with marijuana, or is smoking weed making them crazy?
A recent study suggests that there is a reason why they call it "loco weed". Studies of twins seem to indicate that the twin that smokes pot is more likely to have mental health problems than the twin that does not. And I can only say from my personal experience that this may be true.
Jim is a former friend of mine and we grew up together. When we were teenagers, we both started smoking pot, introduced to it by our older siblings. Jim really took a liking to it, and I didn't think it was half-bad, either. In both our cases, the pattern was initially the same. We lost interest in school work and went from straight-A students to withdrawn and lackadaisical pupils. We also started acquiring "new" and odious friends who were often encouraging us into self-destructive behavior.
Now granted, maybe part of this was growing up and becoming a teenager. The teen years are when mental illnesses manifest themselves. I strongly believe this is because the teenage mind has a hard time visualizing the transformation from child to adult - from dependent to breadwinner. And a lot of kids literally lose their minds because of this - unable to grow up and accept responsibility.
Over time, I started to become less and less thrilled by marijuana. Jim, on the other hand, took to it like a religion, and started smoking more and more of it. One day, he sat down and smoked an entire ounce of weed in one sitting. Of course, that was in 1979 and "Colombian" was only $40 an ounce and far less potent than today's mega-weeds.
At the time, I was working for GM, and maybe that made the difference in my life. I was making money and had a retirement plan, and apartment, and a new car. Within a few years, I was working at Carrier and owned my own home. Jim was living with his parents and bumming around. He never was able to make that transition from adolescent to adult, and marijuana certainly didn't help matters any - it allow him to remain infantalized for a longer period of time.
I gave up the pot and it was like taking my foot off the brake. I lurched forward, finished my Engineering degree, got my law degree, and started my own law practice. Jim kept smoking pot. He was living with his parents, who finally forced him to move out. He took odd jobs and he and I lost touch with each other - mostly because he felt I was a "traitor" for no longer smoking weed.
And that is why I say, if you want to give up drugs, you have to give up your drug friends, as they will want to drag you back down to their level. This isn't an option, you have to move away from it all, if you want to move away from just some of it.
Over the years, I heard from Jim. He got arrested a couple of times, but managed to worm his way out of serious trouble. He went back to college and got married and got a good job. The marriage broke up, mostly because of weed. The job went away with a urine test. How he is supporting himself today I don't know. I really don't want to find out.
The last time I talked with him, he told me he was seeing a Psychiatrist (court ordered) and taking anti-depressant medications and anti-psychotic medications, which he washed down with a beer with a weed chaser. Sad way to go through life.
The point is, like the twin study, Jim and I came from the same backgrounds and indeed, even the same genetic stock. One of us fell down the economic ladder, the other climbed up.
Now, it is true that the same thing could be said for alcohol use. Alcoholics end up ruining their lives, going insane, losing jobs and spouses, and generally being unhappy. It is also true that crazy people self-medicate with alcohol.
I believe that if you occasionally smoke pot or occasionally have a glass of wine, you are not going to lose your mind over it. But if you make drugs or alcohol the centerpiece of your life, then maybe mental illness comes along as part of the package.
Everything, it seems, in moderation.
The point is, I think, that marijuana isn't as "harmless" as some proponents would have you think. But on the other hand, it isn't as deadly as some foes want you to think. The recent studies about marijuana and mental illness are illustrative. But they are not grounds for making the drug illegal or ruining people's lives further by throwing them in jail.
People - particularly young people - should be made aware that marijuana is not a consequence-free drug.