Labash seems to think that his subjects’ tenuous connection to the health care industry is some sort of blanket indictment of marijuana use, but fake prescriptions and opportunistic bouts of carpal tunnel syndrome are actually symptomatic of a ridiculous legal system that outlaws marijuana use at the federal level while state and local legislators – who, incidentally, are best positioned to judge the costs and benefits of decriminalization – attempt to look the other way.
When we look at chronic pain or depression and other affective ailments, there often isn’t a bright line between self-medicating and simply enjoying oneself. That’s why there’s a tenuous connection, if any, to health care. The whole point of the medication is to enjoy oneself.
Did the depressive enjoy the sunset because it was beautiful, or because he took his Zoloft? And did I enjoy it because I’d had a martini? Why police the authenticity of joy? Police other things about joy if you want — some joys are dangerous, after all — but don’t tell me my happiness isn’t clinical enough.
Consider tobacco. Despite its many other health risks, it appears to be effective against depression:
New research has suggested that there may be something in cigarette smoke that has antidepressant properties, which explains why cigarette smoking is much more common among depressed patients. A survey of 3,000 individuals in the St. Louis area confirmed that lifetime frequency of major depression was more common among smokers than nonsmokers (6.6 vs. 2.9 percent) This study also demonstrated that smokers who reported at least one episode of major depression were less likely to succeed in smoking cessation programs than smokers without depression (14 vs. 28 percent). These findings have been confirmed many times over.
I find it revealing that Zyban, a popular smoking cessation drug, is also marketed as Wellbutrin, a popular antidepressant. They’re the very same chemical, one which happens to be in the amphetamine family.
As an aspiring conservative politician once confessed to me, “‘Officially’ I’m taking Zyban to quit smoking. I didn’t need it to quit, but I really like the way it makes me feel, so I plan to wage this epic, years-long struggle with tobacco.” In some circles, it’s still the kiss of death for a politician to be on antidepressants. I wished him happiness, if not exactly success. What else could I do?