Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
I have been smoking marijuana daily for the last three years starting around fourteen years old. Previous to that my life was hell. My dad smokes medical marijuana when he’s not beating on my mom or drunk and reminding me how useless I am. Marijuana makes me happy. None of my doctor’s medication has ever done a lick yet he keeps insisting I have to give up marijuana. Why? My grades are good and so far it’s the only thing that makes my life bearable.
Dear Mr. Toke,
You are right- there really is no such thing as a legal antidepressant. One often reads articles stating that antidepressants do not work. In truth, they absolutely do; but not in the manner which the advertising would have you believe.
The medications your doctor gives you are called antidepressants because of marketing. As you rightly pointed out, there is no legal medication that can make you happy. Antidepressant medication (usually dealing with the chemical serotonin) tone down emotional information… ALL emotional information. If taken in too large a dose they can even cause chemical numbness. Antidepressants also work by decreasing exaggerated empathy. They take you out of other people’s heads and improve your cognitive flexibility.
Mr. Toke, you are also right in that marijuana is an antidepressant that can make you happy; at least for a while. But happiness from a pill is not real. Happiness, in order to be kept, needs to be earned. If you bypass the normal learning curve, you acquire no skills. Not only will chemically induced happiness not last, but depression and numbness is common when chemical happiness wears off, leaving you with no behavioral changes or learned skills for natural happiness. What this means is your life will be endlessly as it is now. Anything that induces artificial happiness in the short term steals from your long term happiness. You are trading your future to endure your present.
Chemistry is another reason not to play with artificial happiness. Oxytosin in our bodies is supposed to moderate dopamine. These are two very important neural chemicals that need to be in balance. Essentially, dopamine gives a sense of self and ego. It regulates memory, pleasure, and learning. Oxytosin fosters a sense of attachment. It is why human females do not eat their children as animals without oxytosin do. Normally, we will not jeopardize our attachments to appease our own egos. We consider our behaviors as they affect our group. But with artificial pleasures or an unnatural rise in dopamine, there is no such moderation. Hard core crack addicts have been known to sell their own children to feed their habit. Even recreational marijuana use might have untoward consequence.
Chemically, love requires a balance between oxytosin, seratonin and dopamine. Throwing this balance off artificially can and will affect our experience of love. Antidepressants differ as they can be prescribed specifically to help maintain, not replace, balance.
So long as one is raising dopamine by unnatural means, it is out of oxytosin’s control and one’s ability to consider one’s effect on others will be diminished. Use of any mind altering substance will also affect your ability to be present. I know that’s the aim in using drugs in the first place; but although I agree your life sucks, Mr. Toke, the way out of it is not through chemical happiness or numbness; that actually only makes it persist forever. Instead, challenge yourself by building a life outside of the one you know now. Concentrate on school. Study outside your house; get to know your teachers. If you get to know your teachers the school work will start to make more sense.
And in school, remember- oxytosin moderates dopamine; attachments affect memory and learning.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: The problem here is not whether you are keeping up with your grades, Mr. Toke. The problem is that you are turning into your father by pursuing the same path of chemical dependency that he did. Your grades can be fabulous and it won’t make a damned bit of difference. If you don’t learn some real coping skills, you are doomed to follow in dad’s footsteps.
The teen years are when one sets patterns that will last a life time. It is one thing to use marijuana in a responsible medical manner, or even to use it in moderation as many adults use alcohol. However, if you get in the habit of using pot as a habitual crutch while a teen, you are setting your life on a course that is going to be steered by whatever is hot, cold or shiny and comes with extra cheese. If you are enrolled in school or some other disciplined educational situation such as work training, you can probably graduate and get a job without becoming a bum. But when it comes to your personal life, you will always still be back at square one. Your father is a lousy role model. You can’t do any better than he did if you don’t learn some new tricks.
Get out of your freaking’ house and get on track. I know WAY too many people in their 50’s who drifted there from their 20’s in a cloud of smoke and aren’t quite sure how it happened. Don’t be one of them.