US MO: OPED: Prescriptions Scarier Than ‘Devil Weed’

Pubdate: Sun, 27 Jun 2010
Source: Columbia Daily Tribune (MO)
Copyright: 2010 Columbia Daily Tribune
Author: Eddie Adelstein
Note: Eddie Adelstein, associate professor of pathology at the
University of Missouri, is Boone County’s deputy medical examiner.


I remember hearing 62 years ago that Robert Mitchum had been caught
with a joint of marijuana in his suitcase, was arrested and his
acting career ended. I remember thinking, “He’s done for, now — that
devil weed has entered his brain, and it is all over for him.” Such
was the power of public disinformation. In people of my generation,
those concepts still hold true for many.

Every morning, we review the cases that come before the medical
examiner’s office. During the past few years, more and more deaths
are related to prescription drugs, often taken with legal
prescriptions for opiates. In 2009, drug overdoses reportedly
exceeded automobile deaths in 15 states. Some studies indicated
deaths from ingesting multiple prescription drugs is up by 60
percent. This is partially fueled by the ever-increasing volume of
advertisements for prescription drugs on television. Serotonin
selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) are epidemic. You know them as
drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil. The costs to health care are enormous.


In the 25 years I have been a medical examiner, however, I have
neither seen nor heard of a death caused by marijuana. Given the
choice of being placed in a room of either marijuana smokers or
alcoholics, I would choose the marijuana smokers. Except for
lethargy, there are few side effects of this drug.


Often, the older generation that demands punishment for marijuana has
never actually used this natural herbal drug. They believe the old
stories about “devil weed.” If they actually smoked marijuana, they
would be surprised because the first time, almost nothing happens. If
they try it again, they might notice a feeling of relaxation, of
overlooking the small annoyances of life and of a small increase in
appetite. They would notice that, unlike with alcohol, they have
greater tolerance for their fellow man and tend to be more careful
about their activities, such as driving. The next day, they are
often relaxed and somewhat apathetic to carrying out tasks. Humans
become more sensitive to marijuana, rather than developing a
resistance, as with some mind-altering drugs. I would never advocate
any drug, but this one has fewer side effects than most.