Stress Control by "Doug Dusalle"

Doug Dusalle (a pseudonym), DVM, Ph.D., describes himself as a “straight-A type” who ended up with two professions… veterinary medicine and biochemistry. He teaches at a large university and practices veterinary medicine. He describes self-medication using cannabis for mild epilepsy, rage behavior, and a range of neurotic symptoms.

After a fall from a horse in the 11th grade, I suffered a few seizures and later developed emotional tides which could erupt, leaving me confused, emotionally exhausted, and with intractable headaches. I managed to get along OK it seemed, but after four years of college, I dropped out for a year. My obsessive/compulsive personality was unable to solve essential problems. Grief over the loss of a horse patient coupled with the rigors of professional school so stressed me that I was out of control and did some pretty bizarre stuff (I am told). In a small community mental health center I was tried on the usual spectrum of anti-psychotic medicines, but anti-seizure medicine, Dilantin, helped dramatically. My EEG was abnormal, and a temporal lobe abnormality was diagnosed. The anti-seizure medicine stopped the paroxysms of bouncing off of the walls and kept my emotional tides under control; I felt sane. At the same time, I was dissatisfied with the side effects of Dilantin. I didn’t really notice the sedation until trying to do analytical thinking and there it was devastating; I felt stupid.

That year, I first tasted pot. The books and articles from the intellectual component of the “turned on” generation had made pretty short work of the common myths about pot “flashbacks” and so on, and pointed sharp questions at the authorities; questions the authorities still refuse to discuss.

“We’re the authorities, you dunce,” (oooh, how I hate bullies).

I clearly remember that I felt nothing the first few times I “took a puff” at a party. But a close friend gave me a small stash, and I got high one night while watching television. I have often heard that people can remember the time they first got stoned (but not the last). Vivid, lucid, arcane, lyrical, hysterical, colorful, carefree, euphoric. Not the craziness and out-of control state promised by the government propaganda. As my experience with the drug increased, I realized that it made me feel unstressed. Even though I was more likely to make mistakes, forget things and so on, it was much harder to get upset when stoned.

Indeed, I much preferred smoking pot to taking Dilantin. Pot is interesting, with a paradoxical expansion of consciousness and mild euphoria to balance its sedative effects, whereas Dilantin is purely a “gorker.”

There were a lot of students smoking at the University. I stopped Dilantin because I felt really stupid on it (couldn’t take notes, couldn’t think) and finished my last year in veterinary school smoking pot every day. Tests in the last year were more of a challenge, but I sailed through the last year and the veterinary board examinations and went into practice still smoking quite a bit of the illegal herb every evening. Veterinarians, above all professionals, need compassion and patience and I felt acutely more compassionate and patient when a little stoned. While pot was ideal for dealing with animals, it was a distinct handicap when trying to keep track of multiple things or dealing with clients. I couldn’t smoke at work (I know some who can) because you can’t think as fast, you tend to get distracted and you can become confused.

I remember doing some mechanical work on an old VW engine for a friend. Things went from bad to worse under the summer sun and my anger peaked after recognizing how totally I had wrecked things; I was ready for an embolism. Injuring a toe as I kicked the steel toolbox, I stomped upstairs and rolled a joint. From red faced furious to amusedly befuddled in a matter of a few minutes. Within 15 minutes I was downstairs picking up all of my tools and realizing that things weren’t so bad after all. “What in the world was the matter with me?”

Highway driving in big cities is a dangerous fast-paced potentially adversarial procedure. I fully understand road rage after having spent many long times in rush hour traffic with horrendously inconsiderate and discourteous drivers. Smoking a little pot makes me more laid back. I know it is supposed to slow your reflexes and cloud your judgment, but if you are following less closely and are not upset when people pull out in front of you, you are still a lot safer. Yes the person behind you is tight on your bumper because you let in another buttinsky, but he is safer too because you have more reaction time and smoother responses. Besides, I don’t really believe it slows your reflexes. You do have to learn to maintain attentiveness to the road. The answer to the question of whether pot would increase or decrease road accidents would depend on whether people were using pot responsibly.

One of the advantages of the altered perspective is a sort of outward interest in your surroundings; you become less self-centered. You sort of slow down and start to notice subtleties below the subliminal level of your “straight” radar. I found out, to my dismay, that I am a bully. I hate bullies, but even more I hate being a bully. One tends to always think one is being fair, but when you resort to solving conflicts by pronouncement, one is usually being a bully, especially if you are a doctor, I think. Most painfully, my expanded consciousness led me to recognize that it is very hard for women to get equal treatment from a man. Men tend to be quiet until making a decision, and then hand it down like a decision from a high court, “take it or leave it.” Women like to discuss things and be a part of the process. It seems only common courtesy to make allowances for this in the medical field. But in the times I was not smoking pot regularly, I was much faster, more efficient, more abrupt, more decisive and, well, more of a bully.

Sometimes my mind returns to situations in the past where the bully in me came out to quickly solve a problem. I cringe with internal embarrassment and a sense of having wronged some man or woman or child because of impatience in human relations. Pot helped me see that in myself and others. While I seem to have it much better under control now, others seem clueless. It seems society in general is clueless about the inhumanity with which we treat each other almost daily in the name of efficiency and economy – but that is a different story.

Reading is a hassle when stoned. It is harder to avoid distraction and slower going, but it didn’t keep me from smoking every day I was in graduate school in biochemistry and that didn’t keep me from getting straight A’s. I’ve been forced several times to stop from a lack of availability, but the psychological withdrawal is minimal. I’ve never felt physical withdrawal, unless you count mild irritability.

In brief, while the “recreational” uses of pot for euphoria and distraction are attractive, my own use has brought about control of stress-related psychiatric problems. Whether my paroxysmal emotional vulcanism and difficulty dealing with emotions (including anger) are mainly epileptic or neurotic, pot has proved adequate under most circumstances to maintain an even keel.

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