Blog | Monday, October 15, 2012

How pot causes delusions

The New York Times Times is carrying a wacko Op-Ed piece. Titled "Pot for Parents," I thought on first read it was a humor piece. I ran it by a few other people who think it's the real deal. Either way, it's either very funny or very sad and can serve as a lesson to us on self-delusion. Let's take a look.

"The youngest of my three daughters was born around the same time I became a card-carrying medical cannabis patient. Even though I was only 44, I'd been suffering from occasional back pain. I also suffered bouts of stress, compounded by anxiety. The causes were unknown, but there seemed to be a correlation with work deadlines and flying coach with three children under the age of 5. Sometimes it got so bad I had trouble falling asleep at night, leaving me groggy and irritable."

Sounds like me. Mid-40s, bad back, crazy kid, busy work. Groggy and irritable. Sounds like a lot of parents and professionals, really. Most get by. Some are disabled by anxiety. Either the symptoms of stress are manageable with exercise and rest, or they aren't and parents come to someone like me to help them out by doling out meds or sending them to therapy. And this parent did seek medical help.

"I received a thorough physical examination from my CannaMed doctor, who checked not only my pulse but my blood pressure as well. Examining the results, he concluded that I would benefit enormously from a cannabis-based treatment regimen ..."

A pot doctor recommended pot. What a shock. And they took not only the pulse but the blood pressure too! Just like a real doctor! What else was involved in this exam? Did he take a complete history? Physical? Blood work such as thyroid hormone? Did he consider therapy or standard prescription medications? An exercise regimen? I don't know. But the author makes it sound like he went to a pot doctor and got pot. This has nothing to do with practicing medicine. When all you have is a hammer ...

Look, I'm not judging. I don't care if some dude in Cali wants to get high. But to spend an entire Op-Ed piece justifying it?

Up to this point, this sounded like a pretty common story, nothing unusual about the tone, but then it seems to slide into parody … I hope.

"After two years of treatment, I can state unequivocally that I feel much better about pretty much everything. Sure, my back still hurts, but I'm cool with it.

But the best part is an amazing off-label benefit I call Parental Attention Surplus Syndrome.

Before beginning treatment, I was a dutiful if not particularly enthusiastic father. Workaday parental obligations were a necessary, unfortunate chore. I was so stressed out by the end of the day that bedtime, with its interminable pleas for more stories, songs, sips of water and potty breaks, felt like a labor to be endured and dispatched as quickly as possible."

Yes, kids are like that: whiny little brats demanding songs, sustenance, love. What a friggin' drag. Maybe no one told The Dude parenting is hard. Most folks "endure" it without getting drunk or stoned on a daily basis, especially not while watching the kids.

He goes on to give examples of how pot makes him a great dad, many of which sound like conversations from my dorm in Ann Arbor.

Is it possible that cannabis might improve someone's parenting skills? I suppose it's possible but the piece comes off as a convoluted rationalization for why it's ok to parent while impaired. And perhaps it isn't helping his imagination as much as he thinks.

"But I just can't imagine how it could possibly be worse for them than the consequences of their father's former stress-fueled frustration and withdrawal. When I'm rolling around the floor with my giggling daughters, clicking into an easy dynamic of goofy happiness and love, I feel it's just what the doctor ordered."

Maybe part of raising kids is teaching them that to succeed in the world we must learn to deal with our problems rather than hiding them in a cloud of smoke.

Peter A. Lipson, ACP Member, is a practicing internist and teaching physician in Southeast Michigan. After graduating from Rush Medical College in Chicago, he completed his internal medicine residency at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. This post first appeared at his blog, White Coat Underground. The blog, which has been around in various forms since 2007, offers "musings on the intersection of science, medicine, and culture." His writing focuses on the difference between science-based medicine and "everything else," but also speaks to the day-to-day practice of medicine, fatherhood, and whatever else migrates from his head to his keyboard.