Tag Archives: Janina Fisher PhD

The Persistence of Trauma, Problems in Adulthood

Time conceals rather heals wounds, and traumatic experiences convert to disease later in life.  Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) cause diseases that carry into adulthood, as well as numerous psychological issues and addiction.  (Read about the mind-body connection, part 1 and mind-based healing solutions, part 2)

A long-term study from Denmark, explored a number psychological factors that may or may not have adverse outcomes on the children.

The Danish study determined that parental factors most likely to create either violent or suicidal tendencies in adulthood are 1) parents who used marijuana; 2) having parents who are sociopaths or 3) having parents who attempt suicide.   In other words, marijuana abuse is far more serious in predicting adverse behavioral outcomes than other parental mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder and alcoholism.

Salvador Dali , The Persistence of Memory, 1931: Time goes on, but the conscious mind may not know how memories hidden in our body and brain persist. The effects of early trauma are carried into adulthood. Photo: MoMA, New York

What is Known about ACEs?

Because the research is so extensive, we are coming to understand some of the precise mechanisms by which biography turns into biology.  Heart disease, diabetes, all forms of auto-immune disease (a growing problem), addiction and obesity are connected to high ACE scores.   While choices such as smoking, maintaining a good or bad diet and exercise are within a person’s control, ACEs are not.

Today there are more than 1500 studies about how ACEs affect the mental and physical health.  The exploration into ACEs began with an accidental discovery by Dr. Vincent Feletti of Kaiser Permanente in San Diego.  His obese patients who had high rates of cancer and heart disease also had high rates of childhood trauma.  Dr. Feretti teamed up with Dr. Robert Anda of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) whose specialty was the link between heart disease and depression.

Drs. Anda and Feretti conducted a huge study on childhood trauma and disease between 1995 and 1997.    The information they discovered can be revolutionary in terms of treatments linking mental and physical health.   They found that 2/3 of those who suffer chronic disease had traumatic childhoods. In other words, genetics is not the only predictor of susceptibility to disease; experiences also play a crucial role.

It is interesting that two causes of death — strokes and diabetes — do not correlate with high ACE scores.   However, chronic pain and addiction are highly correlated to traumatic childhoods, just like autoimmune diseases, heart disease and obesity.

There’s Also Substance Abuse

Victims of trauma will often use marijuana, alcohol and other drugs to create a numbing effect, and to allow disassociation.   Marijuana and heroin have the greatest numbing effect, writes Janina Fisher, PhD., in a paper on Traumatic Abuse and Addiction. 

When the numbing is too much and the victims need to feel energized and alive again, stimulants such as cocaine and opiates can be used.  Other chronic marijuana users become anxious and get prescriptions for Xanax to cope with anxiety. The need to use multiple drugs becomes a cycle, and the addicts of today tend to develop multiple addictions.

This fragile coping mechanism often blows up when drugs users have families.  Raising children and needing to care for another person will expose the inability of drug-abusing parents to maintain an equilibrium.

Multigenerational Drug Abuse

Yasmin Hurd of New York University writes of an additional risk.  She spoke about neuroepigenetics and addiction vulnerability at the Neuroscience conference on November 16, 2016.  She believes marijuana is much more addictive than most people acknowledge. Her research demonstrates that both adolescent marijuana use, as well as exposure to THC in utero, makes epigenetic changes to the brain, priming it for greater susceptibility for later addiction to opiate drugs.

Hurd concludes that future generations who use marijuana are more susceptible to heroin addiction. Children of drug users often carry a legacy of having been abused or neglected. Since they grew up in homes where drug use was normalized, they will tend to do the same.

Another problem is that medical marijuana practitioners are encouraging pregnant women to smoke pot for morning sickness and for breastfeeding.  Dr. Steven Simerville explains the reasons why we should be concerned about the mental development of children whose mothers did not protect them from THC during crucial stages of life.

Today, it’s not ‘just’ marijuana.  The marijuana of today is at least five times stronger than it was in the 1970s.   (Read Part 4 to understand more about how we are creating new generations of traumatized children.)

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Successful Strategies for Deep Healing of Trauma and Pain

Using Mind-Body Connection for Deep Healing

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

Another part of the equation is that physical pain often develops as a result of stressful events lodged in the body.  It’s also possible that many ‘patients,’ including those who are veterans, actually suffer from deep emotional pain and trauma.  (Read Part 1 for the Mind-Body Connection to trauma and pain.)

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.

Dr. Libby Stuyt is Medical Director for the Circle Program at the Colorado Mental Health Institute

Besides Brain Synchronization Therapy, Dr. Stuyt recommends both EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Recovery) and Biofeedback based on heart rate variability.

Neurofeedback is another therapy which can heal trauma, PTSD and ADHD without drugs.  Even the Washington Post describes very positive outcomes from Neurofeedback for healing additional problems such as depression and severe pain.

Some therapists have found a newer technique, Brainspotting, to be  even more effective than EMDR.   The theory is that Brainspotting taps into the body’s innate self-scanning capacity to process and release focused areas that are maladaptive.  Brainspotting can often reduce and eliminate body pain and tension associated with physical conditions.

Listen to Dr. Libby Stuyt’s video about why marijuana is not an effective treatment for PTSD.

Another technique, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy provides healing in which the victim need not remember or relive the painful experiences.   This therapy changes the brain’s reactions to events to change how legacy of trauma affects the victim.  Sensorimotor therapy treats the effects of events as they recur in response to reminders of the trauma.

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.

At the Alternative Wellness Club, published in Oregonlive, 2014, patients were introduced to “dabbing.” Some of these  users  claimed to have bipolar disorder which may in fact be related to trauma–or triggered by marijuana. Dabbing increases the risk for addiction and psychosis.

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.

Read Parts 3 and 4 to find out more about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and drug policy.

*Quote is from Professor Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon.

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