The Aresan Clan is published four times a week (Tue, Wed, Fri, Sun). You can see what's been written so far collected here. All posts will be posted under the Aresan Clan label. For summaries of the events so far, visit here. See my previous serial Vampire Wares collected here.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A spoonful of Sugar

A new study in the Journal of Psychoactive drugs from Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz shows that the legalization of medical marijuana in California has led to a lot of people seeking marijuana prescriptions for an increasing variety of ailments (via Norml):
[R]elief of pain, spasms, headache, and anxiety, as well as to improve sleep and relaxation were the most common reasons patients cited for using medical marijuana.
Compared to earlier studies of medical marijuana patients, these data suggest that the patient population has evolved from mostly HIV/AIDS and cancer patients to a significantly more diverse array. ... This suggests that the patient population is likely to continue evolving as new patients and physicians discover the therapeutic uses of cannabis.
This reminds one of the rise of medical alcohol during prohibition. During the 19th century many doctors had believed that alcohol had a number of medicinal benefits. But as medicine advanced into the early 20th century, skepticism about the benefits of alcohol were on the rise, such that the AMA issued a statement discouraging the use of alcohol as a "therapeutic agent." But nothing like some good old prohibition to make doctors reconsider:
Alcohol was prescribed for a variety of ailments including anemia, high blood pressure, heart disease, typhoid, pneumonia, and tuberculosis. Physicians believed it stimulated digestion, conserved tissue, was helpful for the heart, and increased energy.
Medicinal alcohol grew popular enough such that eventually, "Over a million gallons were consumed per year through freely given prescriptions." Even though medical alcohol was confined to hard liquor, congress held hearings in 1921 considering whether it might be possible to permit medicinal beer.

In the case of both medicinal alcohol and marijuana, the distinction between medical and non-medical drugs is becoming blurred, and the authors of the study note that this is on the rise (via Jacob Sullum):
Prozac and other SSRI-type antidepressants, for example, are often prescribed for patients who do not meet DSM criteria for clinical depression but who simply feel better when taking it. Such "cosmetic psychopharmacology" likely to grow as new psychiatric medications come to market. The line between medical and nonmedical drug use has also been blurred by performance enhancing drugs such as steroids, so-called "smart drugs" that combine vitamins with psychoactive ingredients, and herbal remedies like mahuang (ephedra) available in health food stores.
This is a circumstance that may be on the rise, but it's hardly new. Beyond medicinal alcohol we can also consider the case of the vibrator, which was first introduced as a medical device in the late 19th century. Since doctors, during the Victorian period believed that the way to relieve the bogus ailment of "female hysteria" was through orgasm (they thought this hysteria was caused by the buildup of "female semen" which was apparently released during orgasm) this meant that the manual stimulation of a woman's nether region was an established medical treatment. Doctors apparently welcomed the introduction of the first steam-powered vibrator as something much easier than fingering their patients to orgasm. As more affordable models of vibrator were introduced for the consumer market, its popularity rose sharply. We can imagine that a great many women discovered that they quite liked taking their medicine (some medicines don't need a spoonful of sugar to go down; they are the spoonful of sugar) and vigorously applied themselves to treating their hysteria.

The common thread through all of these is a sanction against something that people want to do (be it alcohol consumption, marijuana consumption or masturbation) and a plausible medical reason to skirt that sanction. In such cases the distinction between medical and recreational use becomes unclear and people take advantage of it to do what they enjoy.

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