No such stupid thing

It was a normal meeting with cannabis users in a prison. It was yet another group to discuss the dangers and consequences of addiction and trying to make the participants reflect on their own consumption. Everything was going according to procedure; one of the facilitators was trying to explain that, in reality, cannabis effects were not funny and indeed very stupid putting people away from their realities by immersing them in a world of foolishness.

The prisoners seemed to agree, although one mentioned that she did not want to quit because she enjoyed it too much.  A little bit intrigued the other facilitator asked her reason for being there. She said she wanted to make a point, that cannabis was not bad for her and that it helped a lot to calm her down and focus her attention by shooting the voices in her head. Thanks to cannabis she could be herself and run away from her problems. She could listen to music and feel every single instrument and appreciating every single note. She could also stop feeling stupid and sorry for herself and most importantly she could feel safe, away from everybody thinking that people would not laugh at her for saying the stupid things she thought she was saying when she was not stoned.

She went on and on about how she could not stop talking when she was not smoking, constantly repeating that she had more than a loose screw and that she needed help but no one seemed to care. Cannabis for her was her solution, even if it meant loneliness, even if it meant isolation and the inability to leave her home. She needed the calm to cope with all the bad things happening in her life, her inability to find a job due to her criminal records, her insecurities to relate to people and, most importantly, her constant search for self-esteem.

Such quest could only happen in the prison, where she was a regular, because she could feel at home. Unlike the home she shared with her own shadows the prison was like a family home where there was always someone ready to listen and care about among the rest of the inmates who would not judge her and would also make her feel secure. Nobody laughed when she broke in tears saying she was bipolar and she could go on and on talking nonsense. 

Her comments left a bitter taste in the person who had invited to explain her views, not because it had been unusual, not because it had been sad but simply because he had to shut up being unable to give a good advice and offer a helpful hand. The facilitator had the same mental health problems than the prisoner and he had also used cannabis in the past to overcome his distress and, for the record, he was a fervent advocate of the medical use of marihuana. However, he had to remain quiet, because he was neither allowed to disclose his mental health problem nor to subscribe his personal views based on personal experience with marihuana. The whole episode detonated a vocational crisis when he realised that he had let down a fellow human being.

Had the facilitator been able to explain that that sense of feeling worthless and lonely were nothing more than the consequence of mood disorders which could be treated by self-empowerment and losing the fear of being different the outcome of the meeting, perhaps, had been different. But he was unable to explain how cannabis could help her to truly know herself and shut for ever the voices in her head, using his own experience, based on six months as a “guest” of a psychiatric ward.

He would have liked to tell her that, first and foremost, cannabis was an excellent tool to explore the origins of the voices and that instead of pretending to relax when she was stoned she should have look for her motives of distress. This is not easy and sometimes people called it psychosis but whenever someone is maturely enough to recreate the traumatic episode they experienced when they were stoned to a professional, they are half way there to see the light. This of course implies using cannabis as a way forward, not as a smoke curtain to disguise the reality and escape for the continuous traumas which keep hammering the conscience.

Cannabis should encourage people who suffer from manic-depression to freely talk about their problems with other people alike enabling them to share experiences and produce self-help knowledge to deal with all the common symptoms. Feeling crazy and rejected is the most normal one, it normally happens when people are not aware of their condition because many doors have been closed to them. In the case of the young prisoner the lack of education and opportunities confined her in a world of her own. The same circumstances sent the facilitator to hospital but he recovered and he never stopped smoking marihuana afterwards. He became aware of his own condition and he managed an education and a successful life. The hospital worked, the prison did not. Drug therapy did not work for any of them because one discovered his limits after finding himself locked away for his hypomania while the other is still going in and out of prison for petite crimes in order to maintain an addiction which only makes her live like a zombie, with no future and a very difficult present.

Punishment for being a cannabis user when there are mental health problems is not and should not be the solution. Regardless of how hard drug workers try to convince bipolar cannabis users to give up the causes which originate their problems will never disappear. Abstinence is not the solution simply because in most cases cannabis help people to cope with their manic-depressive condition, either as a way to begin to see the light or either as a form to maintain all the progress done with self-help, pier support groups and professional help which not only tolerates but also understand the need to keep researching on the benefits of cannabis.