By Robert Schubring.
Sunday would have been Michael Jackson’s 60th birthday. 9 years ago, when he died, police searching his home, Neverland, seem to have made no record of any cannabis in his possession. Whether he had none, it all got stolen, it belonged to other people, or officers decided to ignore it, can’t be determined at this time.
What was interesting among the list of drugs found at Neverland, was a stimulant called Aminorex that got taken off the market in 1972 because it caused lung damage, along with three other stay-awake drugs often prescribed to treat ADHD.
Attorney Brian Oxman, who defended Mr. Jackson against criminal charges for suspected child molestation a few years before, mentioned an exchange he had on the subject of addiction. He advised Mr. Jackson that an addiction doctor could probably help him. Mr. Jackson responded by accusing Mr. Oxman, whose photo makes him appear overweight, of being addicted to carbohydrates.
Proving that moralizing about addiction is useless. People use the substances they use, for a reason. Unless we understand the reason, we cannot persuade them to try safer and more effective ways to achieve the same goal. In psychology, as in mathematics, there are infinitely many wrong guesses one could make, in trying to arrive at the correct answer. So, it’s far more efficient simply to ask the person what the hell is going on, than to ignore their personal knowledge.
What’s known for dead certain about Mr. Jackson’s condition, is that the drugs he was on gave him trouble sleeping. He had in his possession at Neverland, several prescribed sleeping medications that apparently were ineffective at undoing the damage caused by the stay-awake meds he was taking. At Dr Conrad Murray’s trial, it came out that for 2 entire years, Dr Murray came nightly to wherever Mr. Jackson was staying, to inject him with the surgical sedative Propofol and knock him unconscious, and carefully position him in bed so that his oral secretions did not drain into his lungs. About 15 minutes later when the Propofol wore off, Mr. Jackson would be asleep and Dr Murray would leave him. Nobody tried backing off the stay-awake meds to see if that could help the problem. One of those stay-awake meds was Methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance that has serious withdrawal symptoms including psychosis.
Our DEA keeps trying to tell parents that it’s safer to put children on addictive stay-awake meds to treat ADHD, than it is to put them on cannabis-derived medication. Mr. Jackson, whom Nancy Reagan cited as an exemplary supporter of her “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign, showed us in death what these stay-awake meds are able to do to people. DEA dismisses all reports of adults who switch from stay-awake meds to cannabis, as “co-morbid cannabis use disorder”, and refuses to consider even the possibility that people who suffer ADHD find cannabis beneficial for their illness.
CDC statistics reveal there to be 2 million opioid addicts and 23 million methamphetamine addicts in the US population. Opioid addiction remains stable at around 2 million. Methamphetamine addiction continues increasing.
People who cannot afford a doctor like Conrad Murray, but are having trouble sleeping because of the meth they’re on, need another source of sleep aid from their local dope house. Usually that sleep aid is a concoction of alcohol, over-the-counter or prescription sleeping pills, and a milligram or two of fentanyl. Accidental overdose is fatal and the body count keeps mounting.
Kentucky and West Virginia, where meth use is rampant and caniphobia dominates their police forces and law courts, record huge numbers of these deaths from cocktails of sleeping drugs. Meth users who wind up like Mr. Jackson, desperate for sleep but terrified of going through Meth withdrawal, take whatever sleeping drugs they can buy from their meth supplier and keep dying. Our DEA keeps ignoring the link between stay-awake drugs, sleep disorders, and deaths from desperate attempts to self-treat those sleep disorders. And the reason our DEA does that, is it has too much invested in defending its past claims, that meth is safer than cannabis for treating ADHD. So, when Colorado statistics reveal no increase in “opioid-related overdose deaths”, the fact that adult ADHD sufferers there are abandoning prescribed stay-awake drugs and switching to cannabis, safely and successfully, is not discussed.
But it should be.
“Just Say No to Drugs” completely failed to help Michael Jackson. Just as it’s failing to help everyone else.
Bob Schubring is a Michigan-born filmmaker who funded and produced HIGH: The True Tale of American Marijuana (2008) for Director John Holowach. In making the film, Bob learned that pain is under-treated because of irrational fears about cannabinoids and opioids, and in helping his ailing father and many friends with chronic pain, became an activist, co-founding GivePainAVoice.org with Canadian film director Tina Petrova. Bob, 60, himself is partly disabled by a nerve disorder that causes spasms in his lower back, the result of a car crash 4 years ago. Last year Bob submitted a paper reviewing decades of Federal studies on opioids, cannabinoids, pain, and brain disorders to the FDA, that expands on these editorial comments with 2 pages of references: Evidence-Based Policymaking: What’s Absent From the Opioid Crisis.