The Blog of Brian Ballard Quass

Time for science to chill out on the subject of anxiety

Medical Marijuana and Anxiety

Why no U.S. states consider anxiety to be an eligible condition for using pot




Everyone knows that the chief benefit of using marijuana is to "chill out," or in other words to become less anxious. So why does no U.S. state accept anxiety as a valid medical reason for using marijuana?

The reason, I believe, is that Western society views marijuana from a scientific mindset.

This mindset sets no store in anecdotal evidence, no matter how overwhelming. Let 99% of the world affirm the efficacy of marijuana for reducing stress, the scientific community will only hem and haw until they reduce all the relevant phenomena to numbers. I suspect they are particularly on their guard in the case of a drug like marijuana, where experiences of the user are so subjective as to implicitly threaten the very relevance of the objective method on which modern science pretends to rely. The scientific mind is more comfortable at analyzing the drug in the abstract than attempting to factor in the touchy-feely emotional states of the users, which are not so susceptible to quantification.

And so, anxiety sufferers can say with the poet Rimbaud: "Science is too slow for us," for it deprives the sufferer from an obvious cure merely because the relief obtained is subjective, and no fact-bound scientists would dare commit the faux pas of merely accepting a patient's statement for the fact that the drug works. If mere subjective feelings are to count, they must have a biological or neurological correlate that can be shown on charts, and until such correlation is found, the anxious are out of luck.

Of course, even scientists have limits to how ardently they can insist on "hard data": even they will fast-track the use of marijuana for conditions like cancer. Who, after all, wants to appear hardhearted in the face of the suffering of cancer victims? Yet this very exception proves the hypocrisy of the scientific position when it comes to choosing eligible conditions for using pot. After all, marijuana does not treat cancer per se, but rather lessens the anxiety of those who are forced to endure it. Thus the scientific OK of pot for cancer (and other catastrophic diseases) represents tacit scientific acknowledgement of the drug's efficacy in fighting anxiety, thereby underscoring the hypocrisy of the scientific community's failure to OK the drug for that very condition.





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