August 23, 2007 04:20
Both of the following essays, laying out different perspectives on marijuana use, came in on almost the same day, and we thought we’d post them both and let you decide. Of course, there is some merit in both of them, it’s just very interesting to read them together. For the record, I myself am not a weed afficiando, and am actually known as kinda not a drug guy in general (including psychedelics)—except tons of antibiotics, Rx, etc. But responsible use is clearly the order of the day. I also happen to believe that, given the actual effects of the laws themselves—creating illegal and black markets, etc.—one can make a very good case for legalization of many now illegal substances.
Anyway, here you go….. Ken
Let’s get Edgy…An Integral View of Marijuana
By Elliott Ingersoll
Truth-telling time: I’ve smoked marijuana. I’ve even inhaled. More than that, I’ve held those breaths for Olympian time spans waiting for my favorite herbaceutical to do its thing. Though I’ve practiced yoga and meditation for 25 years my first experiences with marijuana sold me on the value of being a “states” person. It’s also true I live in Ohio and if anyone is at risk for becoming a “states” person, it’s those of us in a state where gubernatorial candidates profess beliefs in Jesus of Nazareth and the good of concealed weapons without a trace of irony (Jesus would’ve carried a .45). It’s also true that I haven’t smoked marijuana for several years. As a licensed psychologist in Ohio that behavior can result in loss of your license. You can drink yourself blind but if you’re suspected of smoking a joint you have to submit to drug testing. Also, when my lovely wife accepted my proposal of marriage she asked only that I refrain from bringing illicit substances into our home. In her view, if the police kick the door in she wants to know we have the makings of a good lawsuit and not be undone by two joints hidden behind the toilet paper. How did we get in the crazy situation where the most powerful government in the world declares war on a plant? As usual, the problem is in partial thinking and a lack of Integral vision.
First a little background. Marijuana is an ancient herbaceutical that apparently has been used since prehistoric times. It is a product of the hemp plant (cannabis sativa - Latin for “planted hemp”); a species that provides a useful fiber, an edible seed, oil, and what many feel is a medicine. Until recent times it has been an important cultivated crop. As recent as 1943, farmers were paid to grow industrial hemp as “hemp for victory” was one of the catch phrases of WWII. Marijuana is derived from the flowers and the tops of the leaves from male and female plants. Cannabis sativa produces a sticky yellowish substance called resin as a defense mechanism. It is in this resin, that the primary psychoactive ingredients of marijuana are found.
Marijuana is one of the few plants that legend says was not discovered by animals. Typically humans learned which plants were safe for ingestion by watching animals eat them (and not drop over dead!). According to an Arab legend, in CE 1155 Haydar, an ascetic monk who founded an order of Sufis discovered the plant dancing in the heat of a summer day. He mixed the plant with wine and found the drink made him laugh – little wonder. Medieval Muslim society disapproved of Haydar’s discovery but alas, the proverbial cat (or herb in this case) was out of the bag. The Sufis became heretics in Arab society but the world was introduced to marijuana, the munchies, the giggles, and the occasional pot-induced mystical vision.
Exploring marijuana from an Integral perspective is fun and educational. There are far more partial lies than partial truths in mainstream society thanks to a government misinformation program funded in large part by pharmaceutical companies who don’t want us growing anything cheaply that might make us feel better than Prozac does (heck, Prozac causes sexual dysfunction and dysentery while pot provides just the opposite). The partial truths about pot are almost exclusively the domain of the upper right quadrant: e.g. we have cannabis receptors in our brain; smoking cannabis irritates the lining in the lungs, increases heart rate and blood pressure, etc. Among the lies, marijuana is misrepresented as a “gateway drug.” A gateway drug is supposed to lead users to “harder” drugs like heroin. This theory has never been supported and any scientist with half-an-inch of forehead knows it mistakes correlation for causation. Just because users of heroin previously used marijuana doesn’t mean the latter caused the former. It is akin to noting that the majority of people with pilot’s licenses had driver’s licenses first and then concluding that getting a driver’s license will cause you to get a pilot’s license. In the same way we could make the argument that diapers are “gateway pants.”
Because altered states of consciousness are taboo in mainstream America (unless you’re putting your life at risk on a roller coaster) many people don’t know that the “high” many marijuana smokers experience (upper left quadrant) includes enhanced sexual experience, a feeling of well-being, laughter, and sometimes what users refer to as mystical insight. True, some users experience anxiety or paranoia but those people rarely continue to use marijuana. As a psychologist with expertise in psychopharmacology and substance use, I know that very few studies are allowed that explore marijuana’s phenomenological effects (you must get government permission to study marijuana) so these issues are never explored in peer-reviewed journals. The most in-depth study was done decades ago by Charlie Tart (reprinted in 2000 as On Being Stoned). It seems that the state of being high gives you access to making more of your self image an object of awareness and that can be a true gateway to self-transcendence if you use the altered state to move into a permanent trait.
From the perspective of the lower left quadrant marijuana prohibition was motivated by racist sentiments in the early 20th century. Marijuana was viewed as part of the dangerous culture of Mexican immigrants and African-Americans. The sentiment is still in evidence today: good, white folks use consciousness constrictors like alcohol and that is that. It is no coincidence that the alcohol lobby also spends a good deal of money on marijuana prohibition.
As far as the lower right quadrant we hear that marijuana use poses great dangers to society because users are more likely to also use drugs like heroin (the unsupported gateway theory). What we know from Dutch studies is that the availability of marijuana has no relationship on heroin use or even on whether people continue to use marijuana. The Rand Drug Policy Research Center has concluded that, from the perspective of the lower right quadrant, the current marijuana laws are far more harmful than the drug itself.
As easy as it is to be enraged at the unjust laws, racist attitudes, and cruelty inherent in marijuana prohibition, the Integral vision also calls us to compassion for even the most evangelical DARE or DEA officers. Developmentally, uninhibited sexuality, taking oneself more sincerely but less seriously, and mystical vision are not on their radar screens. These things don’t exist for them. The idea of self-transcendence is fearful and that fear is projected onto any drug that expands consciousness and those who use such drugs. What to do? The Integral vision makes it easier to abide unjust laws while at the same time acting compassionately to change those laws. Ken Wilber has noted that the lower right quadrant has the most influence on the average consciousness in the upper left. So… responsible political action, education, and studies on things like the medicinal and phenomenological effects of marijuana are all skillful means to address the problem of prohibition. For those of us who enjoy the drug, prohibition provides a type of fast wherein we can reflect on what we have gotten from being high and how we might decrease the fear associated with it. Feeling into the fear of others almost always shows us glimpses of the shadow we harbor in our own hearts. Don’t get me wrong, once we get pot decriminalized I’ll be among the first to light up – shadow and all. But these glimpses of shadow provided by my adversaries on the topic of marijuana use are another vehicle for growth and compassionate embrace, another type of high as it were and I’ll take what I can get.
A Reality Check of Children and Drugs
by Tom Hahn
When I began my volunteer work at two different jails in northern California, I had no idea of the depth of despair that I would encounter with the men and women that I met.
Taking aside social and cultural factors, their stories all contained elements of physical and emotional abuse when they were children. Their abused lives did lead to a life of crime and abuse. It was programmed. There was no other path available to them.
One man told me the story of his youth. When he was about 7 years old, his mother taught him how roll marijuana cigarettes. She told him that it was his job from that day forward to see that there were ten joints rolled. When he came home from school, he dutifully rolled each joint. It was part of his daily chores while his parents worked. They would allow him to smoke at home with the rule being that he could never smoke outside the house. It wasn’t long before his friends from school came to his house everyday.
After seeing the video, in the news this past week, of two young children encouraged to smoke marijuana surfaced, local drug experts said it’s a problem that’s becoming more common. Texas police found the home video during a burglary investigation, and arrested two teenagers for teaching a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old boy how to smoke pot.
One of the teenagers placed a marijuana cigarette in a child’s mouth. Then, one of the children is seen smoking on his own. The children are called “potheads” and asked if they “have the munchies.” The boys are nephews of one of the teenagers, who now face felony charges of injury to a child.
According to a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 45 percent of 12th graders reported using marijuana at least once in their life. By 10th grade, more than 34 percent said they’ve smoked pot. Plus, 16.5 percent of students have been high on marijuana before entering high school. And, 4.3 percent of children have smoked pot sometime before then.
“I think it’s happening a lot more with marijuana, now than it did years ago,” said Duane Olberding, St. Francis Recovery Center drug counselor “A lot of segments of our society look at it as not being harmful,” said Olberding. “When we have those kinds of perceptions, we have those kinds of beliefs, this type of thing ends up happening more often.” Olberding says it's a misperception, and one that can be very dangerous, especially at such a young age when the brain is developing. "That type of behavior, that type of usage at a young age is very problematic and can lead towards lots of problems down the line," Olberding said.
The short-term effects of marijuana include problems with memory and learning, distorted perception, and trouble thinking and problem solving. In the long-term, marijuana use can cause cancer, breathing problems and damage your immune system. You can tell if someone has been using marijuana if they seem dizzy and have trouble walking, seem silly and giggly for no reason, or if they have very red, bloodshot eyes.
When marijuana is smoked, its effects begin immediately after the drug enters the brain and last from 1 to 3 hours. If marijuana is consumed in food or drink, the short-term effects begin more slowly, usually in 1/2 to 1 hour, and last longer, for as long as 4 hours. Smoking marijuana deposits several times more THC into the blood than does eating or drinking the drug.
Within a few minutes after inhaling marijuana smoke, an individual's heart begins beating more rapidly, the bronchial passages relax and become enlarged, and blood vessels in the eyes expand, making the eyes look red. The heart rate, normally 70 to 80 beats per minute, may increase by 20 to 50 beats per minute or, in some cases, even double.15 This effect can be greater if other drugs are taken with marijuana.
As THC enters the brain, it causes a user to feel euphoric - or "high" - by acting in the brain's reward system, areas of the brain that respond to stimuli such as food and drink as well as most drugs of abuse. THC activates the reward system in the same way that nearly all drugs of abuse do, by stimulating brain cells to release the chemical dopamine.3
A marijuana user may experience pleasant sensations, colors and sounds may seem more intense, and time appears to pass very slowly. The user's mouth feels dry, and he or she may suddenly become very hungry and thirsty. His or her hands may tremble and grow cold. The euphoria passes after awhile, and then the user may feel sleepy or depressed. Occasionally, marijuana use produces anxiety, fear, distrust, or panic.
Heavy marijuana use impairs a person's ability to form memories, recall events, and shift attention from one thing to another. THC also disrupts coordination and balance by binding to receptors in the cerebellum and basal ganglia, parts of the brain that regulate balance, posture, coordination of movement, and reaction time.11 Through its effects on the brain and body, marijuana intoxication can cause accidents. Studies show that approximately 6 to 11 percent of fatal accident victims test positive for THC. In many of these cases, alcohol is detected as well.
In a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a moderate dose of marijuana alone was shown to impair driving performance; however, the effects of even a low dose of marijuana combined with alcohol were markedly greater than for either drug alone. Driving indices measured included reaction time, visual search frequency (driver checking side streets), and the ability to perceive and/or respond to changes in the relative velocity of other vehicles.
Marijuana users who have taken high doses of the drug may experience acute toxic psychosis, which includes hallucinations, delusions, and depersonalization - a loss of the sense of personal identity, or self-recognition. Although the specific causes of these symptoms remain unknown, they appear to occur more frequently when a high dose of cannabis is consumed in food or drink rather than smoked.
In regards to a comment from the NIDA this is a quote from their website “Studies show that someone who smokes five joints per day may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day”
And so is this “The authors also suggest that smoking marijuana may be more of a cancer risk than smoking tobacco. The tar portion of marijuana smoke, compared to that of tobacco, contains higher concentrations of carcinogenic hydrocarbons, including benzapyrene, a key factor in promoting human lung cancer. And marijuana smoke deposits four times as much tar in the respiratory tract as does a comparable amount of tobacco, thus increasing exposure to carcinogens.”
The worst thing about pot smokers is their reluctance not to look at the all facts! Jail and prison is only a respite for those addicted. It’s the time to “clean up,” taking a break form the outside world, only then to return to the only worlds they know; the same friends and environment beget the same results.
Take the time to research and understand these subjects. For every parent and child who believes that this will not touch lives, think again. Eighty percent and up of the jail and prison population is imprisoned because of drug abuse in some form. The state cannot afford to bring drug and alcohol education to all. The answer does not lie with the state. The answer lies with the parent.
Here is another essay on the topic of marijuana use that has been submitted to KW.com:Marijuana and Other Exogenous Substances
by Siri Dhyan
There was a time in my life where herb got me high. This had its effect in the uppper right quadrant by THC crossing the blood brain barrier and binding to receptor sites in the nervous system. For a time I held out that it was a co-evolution as the endogenous compound which also bound to the THC receptor site hadn't been found yet . . . in 1996 with its discovery I had to drop that rationalization.
In the upper left quadrant I can report back a deep sense of self reflection opening up. In the lower left I felt pathways of meaning opening up in so many fields of artistic cultural exploration. It was as if in some cases I was really hearing the artist for the first time. A type of communion with other persons opened up interiors of relations really taking another persons perspective to a whole new level of absorption. Words from the tao te ching or gita would seem to resonate to my very core. In the lower right my interaction and participation in groups seemed more fluid and relaxed. I encountered and interacted with totally different groups of persons. An amazing time.
In my volunteer counseling for a 'spiritual enlightenment' program with incarcerated youth, the theme of mood adjustment and stress relief via herb and other drugs is very commonly reported by many of the teens. I can totally relate to that . . . it is very effective short term medication. You get to be your own doctor and pharmacist. The key piece I like to share with the kids (grounded out by own experience) is that we take drugs to change the way we are feeling in a very effective short term way. Where ever your state of mind or consciousness at the time of snorting, shooting, drinking, inhaling, eating, patching or hey even a sepository :P, the goal is to shift states along a line out and away from your current state along some pathway via your drug of choice. People take drugs because they work . . . at least in the short term.
Unfortunately what many of us take time to learn is that drugs are a high interest loan. The body builds up tolerance nearly across the board as it attempts to restore equilibrium. The feelings or thoughts which you were able to get away from are still there when you get back plus some new accretion. So how do we deal with these feelings or stress? The three pathways I've seen with dealing with the stress of our times are self medication, professional prescribed medication, and or a deep mind body practice such as tai chi or yoga which actually balance out our internal pharmacy of glandular secretions. The later seems to point the way to the longest term satisfaction and unfoldment.
In my own experience and energy work associated with deep martial arts training, herb can attune you to the chi energy but at the same time it actually decreases the energy at the same time :( So you've got this contradictory thing going on in that you are more aware of it but depleting it. (As a 2nd chakra side note many report a sensitized experience of sexual pleasure - but at least in men', sperm count may actually be lowered by THC use - how 'bout dem apples?)
Lets now shift gears to the III quadrant. The lower left quadrant legal relationship to drugs is often not aligned with the actual physiological interaction in the first quadrant. A drug is defined as anything which crosses the blood brain barrier and has an effect on the nervous system and behavior of the recipient. As with meanings of words like spirituality and religion we have a disconnect in our dialogue on drugs given its many meanings. Some folks talk about drugs AND alcohol, well just in case your not paying attention alcohol is a drug! The most widely used drug in the world? Anyone? Caffeine! Number two and three are alcohol and nicotine. Folks looking for a 'gateway' drug are missing a few when they name marijuana ;)
The legality of marijuana is so befuddled. US society has a federal drug schedule with 4 levels. From an integral point of few we're comfortable with the idea of holoarchy and rankings. A schedule 1 drug is declared as dangerous and having no medical uses. Schedule 2 drugs are recognized as having a medical use but requiring very controlled usage. Schedule 3 drugs require a prescription (eg tylenol with codeine. Schedule 4 drugs (eg aspirin) can be purchased willy nilly. Without going into too much detail I would argue that there is something seriously wrong with the federal drug schedule which places marijuana in schedule 1 and methamphetamine as a schedule 2 drug. This is meth people - crank! In what possible realm can meth be safer to use then herb?
So I started this talk out by describing that marijuana used to get me high and from where my consciousness was at that time it was 'high.' I was locked in an intellectual prison of my own making and slowing my brain down and tuning me into simple sensual pleasure really truly helped me stop and smell her flowers as it were . . . Over a period of time of serious spiritual inquiry I developed the capacity to open to higher states and established myself in more advanced stages. From THAT vantage point herb started to seem foggy and limited. In the upper right quadrant we can talk about the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood, strength and integrity of nervous system and balance of glandular
secretions throughout the body as limiting our conscious experience in the upper left quadrant of realization. The clarity of a deep spiritual practice can't be matched with exogenous substances in my opinion especially in terms of stage development. Having said that, criminalizing peoples desire to change the way they are feeling short term by self medicating seems pretty limited developmentally.
Tying it all together. In an integral view we talk about the relationship to mind, body, spirit and emotions. There are plenty of smart, physically fit people doing drugs of legal and illegal variety. That leaves the 3rd and 4th legs of the table to be supported and addressed. While some folks have access to counseling to do shadow and emotional work we find that still folks are self medicating. That leaves us with a deep chasm relating to our spirit. It is my belief and experience when the mind, body, spirit, and emotions are all cared for, that the need to self medicate drops away because the higher stages transcend the self medicated states and includes them by bringing the bodies endogenous chemicals, which most drugs mimic to have there effect, in to proper balance producing a more lasting deeper experiential 'high.' How does that old saying go? Why buy a cow when you get the milk free?