Healthy Effects of Marijuana by Mark James
Mark James (a pseudonym) spent the last six years as a public schoolteacher in a rural Southern area. Prior to that, Mark worked as a paralegal. He has a Master’s Degree in Education and is active in various community groups. After ameliorating symptoms from an abusive youth, including anxiety, insomnia, and anger, he uses cannabis as an adjunct to problem-solving.
Mark James interviews Mark James
Q: How did you start using marijuana?
A: I tried it a few times as a teenager but never developed the habit. In fact, it used to make me a little paranoid, hungry, and sleepy. I experimented with it again in college, but mostly I was a drinker. I didn’t start using marijuana regularly until my late twenties.
Q: What brought that about?
A: I had a hernia that required surgery. After surgery, the doctor put me on Percocet, an opium derivative, as a painkiller. The Percocet caused serious constipation; after three days I had to be brought back to the hospital ER for abdominal pain. The attending physician had me x-rayed, and he quickly diagnosed the problem. Much to my embarrassment, I had to be given an enema.
When I got home, I was still in some pain from the surgery, and almost all physical activity was still forbidden. Swearing to never touch an opium derivative again, I asked my brother to buy me some marijuana. Well, it did the trick, with none of the bad side effects. My digestive system never felt better.
Also, I learned to smoke in the right “set and setting.” Instead of smoking in an urgent rush to increase the effects of alcohol and “have fun,” the way I had as a teenager, I learned to smoke leisurely and contemplate life while high. Oddly enough, I credit marijuana with bringing my brother and me closer. I began smoking with him (which I never did before), and we worked out all of our childhood differences. To this day, we are the best of friends and smoke together when we can.
Q: Any further digestion problems?
A: Only when I stopped smoking marijuana for more than six or seven months straight. I have never had any constipation, diarrhea, or heartburn during periods when I was smoking regularly, even a small hit once or twice a week. Ironically, marijuana enabled me to clean out my medicine cabinet. The only over-the-counter medication I keep is aspirin.
Q: What other health effects have you experienced from smoking marijuana?
A: The pressure in my eyes has always tested superbly in glaucoma tests, although I can’t guarantee this is due to marijuana. Mostly, marijuana seems to greatly aid my nervous system. This requires a bit of explanation.
As a child, I was raised in an abusive home. The abuse was physical, emotional, and sexual. As I became a teenager, I became somewhat manic-depressive. Days of mania, with endlessly racing thoughts would prevent me from sleeping or concentrating. Then I would crash; horrible depressions when I could think of nothing but suicide, unable to get out of bed. I would have no appetite and no ability to feel pleasure of any kind: complete anhedonia. My blood pressure was 142/92 at the age of eighteen. I experienced anxiety attacks, which ruined my social life – I could rarely walk into a room without turning bright red, sweating profusely, unable to stop my pounding heart. In short, my flight-or-fight response was short-circuiting, probably from being overused during my abusive childhood, when I was in a constant state of readiness for my father’s next, unpredictable, violent outburst.
Q: Didn’t you seek professional help?
A: Yes. A psychiatrist put me on Combid, to relax my stomach, and Inderal to help with the anxiety attacks. They didn’t help as much as I hoped they would, so I didn’t stay on them long. It wasn’t until about four years ago, when a different psychiatrist put me on Paxil, that I was thoroughly cured of depression and anxiety attacks.
Q: How did that work?
A: Paxil is an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), similar to Prozac. I couldn’t believe the difference Paxil made in my life. It really opened my mind back up to the way chemicals affect us. Oddly enough, Paxil brought me away from alcohol, and back to marijuana. Since I began taking Paxil, I’ve not had any paranoia or other unpleasantness while smoking pot.
Q: Enough about Paxil; let’s get back to marijuana. What else has it helped you with, medically?
A: Back to my overworked nervous system. Marijuana has been a godsend for helping me control my temper. The past six years I’ve been teaching fifth- and sixth-grades in low-income schools. Talk about stress. In case you are unaware, discipline in schools isn’t what it used to be. The kids cuss at teachers, threaten them, throw chairs, etc. You send them to the Disciplinarian; the disciplinarian sends them back in ten minutes with cookies in their hands. The teacher has to put up with more abuse.
A few times, during my first year of teaching while completely abstaining from marijuana, I almost lost it. When the kids would get violent and threatening, I almost responded with violence, but limited myself to yelling. It seems my abusive father’s temper has been passed on to me. I went back to marijuana, and it has helped my temper immeasurably. My only outbursts have been during long periods of marijuana abstinence. I learned my lesson: always keep just enough pot in my system (two to three bowls a week) to keep me mellow. I think the government should give all middle school teachers a weekly supply.
Q: Let’s talk about purely mental processes for a while. How does marijuana affect your creativity?
A: Good question. Years ago, when I used to write novels and screenplays (which never got published), I would drink and/or smoke and seem to have great creative bursts. However, when I sobered up the next day, there were usually many flaws in the writing; things were a bit scattered and tangential. Pot doesn’t seem to promote tasks that require linear thinking. Yet, it is an absolute boon for tangential, brainstorming, and what I call “discovery” thinking.
While I love to toke up for repetitive tasks such as housecleaning and paperwork, the real intellectual benefit I’ve received from marijuana has been in creative problem solving. Several times in my life, I seem to have reached a dead end (in a career or relationship), and I couldn’t find a solution. Marijuana has helped me “think outside the box,” as the current cliché goes. Somehow, it has put me on a reflective mental path that is non-judgmental, more open, tangential and creative in its connections. Like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle using opium to figure out unthought of ways for Sherlock Holmes to get out of a jam, I have been able to find previously invisible solutions to my problems while smoking pot. Unlike my linear writings, these solutions have stood up well in the light of sober day. Somehow, I will think of someone who can help, someone I haven’t had contact with in a while, and give them a call. Marijuana really helps me stay in touch with old friends and acquaintances whom I no longer live near. And the solutions to job and financial problems have sometimes amazed me.
Also, marijuana gives me great solace; an appreciation for the wonder of everyday things; and perspective on the true size of problems. Some might call it wisdom.
Q: How’s your memory?
A: Fantastic. Last night I gave an eight-minute speech without a single note. I’ve been able to memorize lines for both small and large theatre roles while keeping marijuana in my system. I win a lot at Trivial Pursuit, and play along quite well with Jeopardy, thank you. But no, I wouldn’t recommend toking up during an intense study period. That’s because marijuana leads me off on tangents, which seem more interesting at the time.
Q: Any other positive effects?
A: Just the ability to think positively, and see past current problems. Marijuana is a great cure for monomaniacal and megalomaniacal thinking. It would have done wonders for Stalin, Hitler, and Napoleon. What more can you ask for?
Q: How about in the bedroom – sleeping and sex?
A: I almost forgot. Marijuana has cured an insomnia problem I’ve had since childhood. It stops the racing thoughts, and allows me to doze off. As for sex, it tends to prolong lovemaking, then lead to an even stronger orgasm.
Q: And you’ve given up on alcohol?
A: As I have a tendency toward depression, I don’t need to add a depressant to my chemical balance. Besides, alcohol doesn’t work well with Paxil.