Toddler’s death highlights how marijuana use becomes abuse
Jesse James Bullard’s sweet smile lit the world of all those with whom he came in contact, but he lost his life abruptly on January 22. His father, Isaac, smoked a marijuana “dab” that morning, backed his car out and ran over the baby boy. Jesse was was about a month shy of his second birthday. But this was Colorado, and health officials don’t find parents’ marijuana habits unusual.
By Gordon MacDougall, Ludington, Michigan My heart is broken. I taught my son that peer pressure is dangerous and that action is never justified because someone else said it was “okay.”
Less than one year ago I received a parent’s worst nightmare at my front door: a Police Officer informing me Henry had been in a horrific car crash. He died a 16-year-old junior at Ludington High School, full of potential. No father should ever have to bury his son. The cause? Recreational marijuana.
How It Happened
It was the evening of October 6, 2017 (homecoming night!). Henry was at the home of a 19-year-old young man, “dabbing”, which is the use of an inhaler to breathe marijuana into your system, making it extremely potent.
This 19-year-old took videos of my son Henry both while he was dabbing and also after he passed out; he then let Henry get into his car to drive home. Apparently, Henry passed out again, only this time behind the wheel. Driving through a stop sign, he hit a semi-truck. He would die a few hours later. And my life has never been the same.
You can imagine my agony as my state now faces a decision on the November ballot on whether or not to legalize the very drug that took my son. I implore Michigan voters: please vote no to legalizing recreational marijuana in Michigan.
Marijuana is Too Accessible
When someone loses a child, you ask yourself, “how can I honor his legacy to make sure this never happens again to someone else’s child?” Some people have said, “if it was legal it would mean less trouble in the world.” Those who make that argument are short-sighted, basing their rationale on their own desire and not on facts or responsible judgment.
Medical marijuana is already legal in Michigan but its use is already being abused. This ballot initiative addresses recreational marijuana, allowing every adult in a home to have up to 12 plants. Can you imagine how accessible it will become to children?! In spite of parents’ best efforts, when a dangerous substance is that easily within reach (often cloaked in gummy bears and brownies), children and teenagers will find access. By making recreational marijuana legal – this will increase abuse on this dangerous drug, not curb danger.
It is not helpful to point fingers at those who have lost someone and suggest we are to blame as parents. On top of poor choices, Henry made that night, this substance was way too accessible and acceptable to the people in this community.
We must do all we can now and in the future to empower law enforcement and the justice system to address those who are using it irresponsibly in our communities. To make it legal, will make their jobs all the harder. Facts show that very few in Michigan are in prison because of marijuana use. Let’s not open the door to unnecessary problems like recreational marijuana flooding our streets and homes more than it already is. Please, as a state, let us NOT lift the regulations on a dangerous substance just to make it more convenient. Your children are too important to make recreational marijuana more accessible.
Redeeming the Future
I know first hand that talking to those who are for legalizing recreational marijuana is a waste of time: one excuse leads to the next. I am not interested in rationales, or unsubstantiated claims. I lost my son because of his misuse of this terribly misrepresented drug. I am interested in truth and in protecting other parents from having to experience the pain I felt, and still feel.
I would do anything to go back in time and keep my son from going to that house that fateful night. In the same way, I want to do all I can to keep the canary in the cage when it comes to legalizing this poison. Please share my story, tell your neighbors who are not aware, inform your churches and your social clubs, make sure the coaches and teachers are educated and make sure your teenagers know about my Henry and the dangerous drug that took his life.
Together, we must tell others so we can be informed and responsible citizen voters on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. Please, Michigan – say NO to recreational marijuana before it’s too late.
by Brad Roberts, MD: I recently finished my residency in emergency medicine and began to practice in Pueblo, Colorado. I grew up there, and I was excited to return home. However, when I returned home, the Pueblo I once knew had drastically changed. (Above photo is of people lining up at the opening of a pot dispensary in 2014.)
Where there were once hardware stores, animal feed shops, and homes along dotted farms, I now find marijuana shops—and lots of them. As of January 2016, there were 424 retail marijuana stores in Colorado compared with 202 McDonald’s restaurants.1 These stores are not selling the marijuana I had seen in high school.
Multiple different types of patients are coming into the emergency department with a variety of unexpected problems such as marijuana-induced psychosis, dependence, burn injuries, increased abuse of other drugs, increased homelessness and its associated problems, and self-medication with marijuana to treat their medical problems instead of seeking appropriate medical care.
I had expected to see more patients with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (and I have), but they were the least of my concern. Our local homeless shelter reported seeing 5,486 (unique) people between January and July 2016, while for the entire year of 2013 (before recreational marijuana) that number had been 2,444 people.2
Most disturbing, we weren’t seeing just homeless adults but entire families. It is a relatively common occurrence to have patients who just moved here for the marijuana show up to the emergency department with multiple medical problems, without any of their medications, often with poor or nonexistent housing, and with no plan for medical care other than to use marijuana.
They have often left established medical care and support to move here for marijuana and show up to the emergency department, often with suitcase in hand.
Increasingly Potent & Dangerous Drug
This new commercialized marijuana is near 20 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis), while the marijuana of the 1980s was less than 2 percent THC.
This tenfold increase in potency doesn’t include other formulations such as oils, “shatter” (highly concentrated solidified THC), or “dabbing” (heated shatter that is inhaled to get an even more potent form) that have up to 80 or 90 percent THC.3
The greatest concern that I have is the confusion between medical and recreational marijuana. Patients are being diagnosed and treated from the marijuana shops by those without any medical training. I have had patients bring in bottles with a recommended strain of cannabis and frequency of use for a stated medical problem given at the recommendation of a marijuana shop employee.
My colleagues report similar encounters, with one reporting seeing two separate patients with significantly altered sensorium and with bottles labeled 60 percent THC. They were taking this with opioids and benzodiazepines.
In some cases, places outside of medical clinics, like local marijuana shops, are being used to give screening examinations for medical marijuana cards.4 Reportedly, no records are available from these visits when requested by other medical providers. A large number of things treated with marijuana, often with no cited research at all or with severe misinterpretation of research, are advertised online.
These include statements that marijuana treats cancer (numerous types), cystic fibrosis, both diarrhea and constipation, hypoglycemia, nightmares, writer’s cramp, and numerous other conditions.5–7
Although there are likely some very effective ways to use the cannabinoid receptor (probably better termed the anandamide receptor), putting shops on every street corner and having nonmedical personnel giving medical advice is a very poor way to use this as a medicine.
Furthermore, to suggest that combustion (smoking) be the preferred route of medication delivery is harmful.3,8–10 I am also concerned that this is being widely distributed and utilized as a medicine prior to safety and efficacy studies having been completed; widely varying dosing regimens, concentrations, and formulations are being developed, sold, and utilized.
Patients are not being informed of the adverse effects associated with marijuana use, but instead, they are being told, “There are no adverse effects.” I am in favor of using the anandamide receptor for treatment purposes. However, we should do this safely and appropriately. What is occurring now is neither safe nor appropriate.
There are numerous adverse effects of marijuana that are significant. Marijuana use may lead to irreversible changes in the brain.3,9,11,12 Marijuana use correlates with adverse social outcomes.3
It is strongly associated with the development of schizophrenia.13–16 Dependence can lead to problem use.17,18 There are adverse effects on cardiovascular function, and smoking leads to poor respiratory outcomes.3,19,20 Traffic fatalities associated with marijuana have increased in Colorado.1
Pregnant women are using marijuana, which may lead to adverse effects on the fetus, and pediatric exposures are a much more common occurrence.21,22
Different Approach Is Needed
We should approach mass marijuana production and distribution as we would any other large-scale public health problem. We should do what we can to limit exposure, and we should provide clear, unbiased education.
In the case of prevention efforts being unsuccessful, we need to provide immediate treatment and assistance in stopping use. If we are going to use this as a medication, then we should use it as we use other medications. It should have to undergo the same scrutiny, Food and Drug Administration approval, and regulation that any other medication does. Why are we allowing a pass on a medication that very likely would carry with it a black-box warning?
As emergency physicians, we are on the front lines. We treat affected patients; we need to be at the forefront of public policy recommendations at both state and national levels.
Originally published by ACEPNow, a journal of Emergency Medicine. We also published the testimony of another emergency doctor in Pueblo, Dr. Karen Randall.
The average medical marijuana cardholder in California is a 32-year-old male who uses it for chronic pain. If so many young people have so much chronic pain, it’s tempting to think medical marijuana is for “anyone who can fake an ache,” according to Professor Jon Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon
Two young women who wrote to Parents Opposed to Pot explained their need for medical marijuana to deal with traumatic childhoods. One said it was because her mother had committed suicide, while the other said she had experienced traumatizing sexual abuse.
Using marijuana in order to numb painful feelings, or for getting high, will only mask the underlying emotional pain. In all cases of psychological issues, including PTSD, marijuana works against true healing, no matter how much temporary relief it provides.
21st Century Strategies for Healing
Since pain or disease (dis ease) is imbalance, the body which created the disease can also be the body which heals the disease.
Dr. Libby Stuyt, a professional advisor to Parents Opposed to Pot uses Brain Synchronization Therapy to heal trauma in the body and bad memories. The neuroplasticity of the brain means that even post-traumatic experiences can be weakened or discarded. At the same time, the brain can relearn forgotten neural pathways.
Besides Brain Synchronization Therapy, Dr. Stuyt recommends both EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Recovery) and Biofeedback based on heart rate variability.
Treating Root Causes Rather than Just the Symptoms
The good news is that there are ways to treat PTSD and chronic pain that don’t involve drugs, ways that treat the root causes rather than symptoms. “Medical” marijuana does not provide deep healing.
Medical marijuana is an addiction-for-profit industry which needs new users and promotes long-term use. Habitual users run the risk of becoming psychotic. Like continuous opiate users, they may also develop addiction.
The recent report from National Academy of Science found marijuana can give moderate relief to three medical conditions, pain being one of the conditions. Although the human body has cannabinoid receptors, marijuana’s cannabinoids are foreign to our bodies. They’re not endo-cannabinoids, the body’s natural occurring chemicals, but exo-cannabinoids. With marijuana use over time, THC will replace the cannabinoids associated with joy and happiness.
Therefore, it’s hard to claim THC is truly “natural” for humans.
Mind-body healing solutions are the “natural” solutions, and they cannot be addictive. They offer help for chronic suffering in ways “medical” marijuana and pharmaceutical medicines cannot help.