mental illness

  1. Feds light controversy over medical marijuana

    The U.S. Department of Justice has finally responded to a 2002 petition to reclassify marijuana as a medical treatment.

    Nothing like a sense of urgency, right guys?

    Of course, after sitting on this for nearly a decade, the department responded with the same old line -- ruling against medical marijuana under no uncertain terms.

    The DOJ even went as far as to state that "marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no accepted medical use in the United States, and lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision."

    Sorry -- as serious as this is, I can't help but find that a little funny. Replace the word "marijuana" with the name of the useless Big Pharma med of your choice, and you might have something.

    Antidepressants, painkillers, and ADHD drugs all spring immediately to mind.

    In fact, studies have shown that medical marijuana is not only effective for many forms of pain, including cancer pain, it comes with few side effects -- unlike the dangerous and addictive opioid painkillers openly and legally abused across the country.

    Back in 1999, the Institute of Medicine -- a part of the National Academy of Sciences -- told Congress that pot can help keep pain and vomiting in check, and that even with all the risks we've come to associate with this stuff, it's worth a try when other meds have failed.

    The FDA has even approved of at least two synthetic drugs based on the ingredients in marijuana -- which only proves
    that if marijuana itself could be patented by Big Pharma, it would have been approved ages ago.

    After all, the science is there: In addition to cancer pain, it's famously effective against glaucoma -- and studies have
    shown that it can fight inflammation, mental illness, Alzheimer's disease and more.

    One review last year found that marijuana can even help multiple sclerosis patients with both pain and mobility issues. (Read about it here.)

    But this is a political battle, not a scientific one -- and all the research in the world won't convince those who are against it otherwise.

    The one bright side to the Department of Justice's recent ruling is that medical marijuana backers can now take the issue to court -- and maybe now we won't have to wait a decade to see the science finally overcome the politics.

  2. The answer is not in a pill

    It's been clear for some time now that there's been an explosion in the use of prescription drugs to control mental illness.

    But a new study shows just how far overboard we've gone.

    Between 1996 and 2006, use of drugs such as antidepressants and antipsychotics have increased 76 percent among adults and 50 percent among children, according to a study published in May in the journal Health Affairs. Use of these drugs, including Alzheimer's medications, doubled among seniors during that period, according to that study.

    Researchers believe the increase is due at least in part to the fact that more insurance plans cover these drugs, and more family doctors are comfortable writing prescriptions for them.

    But the larger issue is that these drugs were already too widely used before, and now their use has just spiraled out of control.

    I'm quite certain that most of these people could have been helped without these meds, which are often dangerous and can have very unpleasant side effects.

    Some antidepressants even carry a black-box warning on the label, because youths who use them are at increased risk of suicide while taking them.

    I rarely prescribe antidepressants to my patients. Not only are they too dangerous, but they often just don't work.

    In most cases when I do, it's a short-term solution at best while we work to get the body functioning normally again. My goal is to get my patients off those antidepressants as quickly as possible.

    To me, the most tragic part of this involves the children.

    Kids simply should not be on these drugs in these numbers, especially when you consider that some of the worst side effects – such as that potential for increased suicidal behavior – disproportionately impacts the young.

    I know that when children fall ill, the parents often suffer just as badly as the kids. All you want to do is see them better, and many people truly believe that's what a pill does – makes you better.

    But that's not how it really works.

    Take depression, for example. Most antidepressants do nothing to treat the underlying condition, which is often low serotonin levels.

    The patient may look or seem better for a limited period of time, but unless you treat the cause, the problem never really goes away.

    If you or your child is prescribed one of these pills, the first thing you should ask is if you really need it – and then ask about your alternatives.

    A cure is better than an endless chain of prescription meds.

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