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Yo, Potheads! Being a Stoner is Not the Native Way

Donna Ennis
8/8/14

I have a message for all of you “stoners” in our Native community; there is nothing “traditional” about using a natural herb found in our environment if your method of using it is smoking the herb for recreational purposes.

The pot-smoking supporters of legalizing medical marijuana are going to be in for a rude awakening when, and if, the drug is ever legalized in the state that you live in. Some of the pot smokers that I know have visions of running to their medical provider to get a script for a variety of ailments ranging from managing the pain of a paper cut to “treatment” for a traumatic brain injury to alleviating symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD.

The medicinal purposes of THC are for appetite stimulation, nausea, anti-seizure effects and severe pain management. Those who have scripts for medical marijuana will be those suffering from diseases like cancer, cachexia, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV and MS. This list isn’t exclusive obviously but I think you get this gist of what I am saying.

My next message is for those that advocate for the legalization of marijuana in general. I call them the hipsters. “Make peace not war” say these cool stoners. I used to be one myself. I smoked pot from 1978 until 1993 and I know that it enhanced by appetite and I looked forward to the munchies after I smoked a joint. I used recreationally two or three times a week for 15 years. But I was also self-medicating for my depression, anxiety and PTSD symptoms. During this time I also self medicated with nicotine and alcohol.

In 1993 I began working for an employer that frequently drug-tested its employees. I had to make the decision to quit smoking pot or I risked losing my job—and I had a husband and three children who depended on me for financial security. Once I gave up smoking pot I needed a different way to deal with my symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD.

There are several natural ways to manage your symptoms of depression and anxiety and these include lifestyle change, exercise, diet and counseling. If none of these things work for you then you can consider anti-depressants. Serotonin is produced by antidepressants which is often lacking in the brain in people with depression. THC affects anandamide which is also present in the brain and the interaction between the two can actually increase the depression and lead to other mental illness, including schizophrenia. There are other products like St John’s Wort which is an herbal supplement which seems to mirror Serotonin’s effects. The bottom line is that marijuana use can have a negative effect on your mental health.

Depression and anxiety are prevalent in the Native community maybe because of the disproportionate amount of trauma that we experience but we need to find ways to cope with it and heal from it instead of indulging in yet another addiction and calling it is a medical necessity or recreational use.

We give away our power when we allow addictions to control our lives. The abuse of alcohol and the resulting trauma almost destroyed our native communities. Nicotine addiction is wreaking havoc in our community as indicated by the high cancer rates. The use of marijuana is just another addiction that users will try and rationalize as “recreational” and/or “medically necessary” when in reality it is another crutch to avoid coping with our trauma in a healthy manner.

Donna Ennis is employed in the Behavioral Health Program and is a Tribal Elder at Fond du Lac Reservation. She is on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Board of Social Work. She is also on the Approved Continuing Education Committee for the Association of Social Work Boards.

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swrussel's picture
I completely respect this op-ed, because it's advice to us that is relevant to us rather than support for locking up minority individuals who make contrary choices way out of proportion to white people who make the same choices. Still, there's a subtext that is worrisome...understanding it could be just me reading my own life into somebody else's words. When my wife died, I learned the meaning of "clinical depression." My doc gave me some chemicals to help me walk around the black pit. I'll never forget her remark, "sometimes, there's a reason to be depressed." It would be good to assure people that seeking help when you are in that place is not a sign of weakness and, for men, it does not reflect on your masculinity. I was not on the chemicals for very long, but she might have saved my life.
swrussel
Danyel Mcfarlane's picture
Its odd the writer makes no mention of CCBs and CCDs which are the true medical aspects of marijuana, this article is purely her opinion with no real facts, or legit information!
Danyel Mcfarlane
AD Youngman's picture
Is it better to use a plant found in nature or use man made chemicals. For me it is the plant of life. Is this still a topic, there is more devastating drugs out there taking over our reservations. Drugs are being made every day out of nothing. This plant is real, and been around for thousands of years. Why would our federal gov. own that patent on the medicinal part of the plant CBD, they have known along with all of America that this plant is healing people at a alarming rate. They can take a little CBD for an entire range of ailments, its snapping kids out of there seizures, and given people with cancer a way to live better. I was Chemically dependent on Oxycodone for 4 years of my life, the problem started when tribal clinic doctors gave me hydrocodone for Arthritis pain. opiates from our clinics are taking over our people at a alarming rate, when the plant of life can heal them. Opiate dependency is no joke, marijuana is the only medicine that healed me. This is just a thought, Marijuana only comes from brown skinned countries if that isn't Native I don't know what is. NAMMM -- Native American Medical Marijuana Movement
AD Youngman
KiltThis's picture
This is really a very misinformed article. It's scary to think you are writing such an ignorant article and posting it here. First of all, I am a long time user and I own and run my own business. I have a medical marijuana recommendation here in Washington State and I smoke on a daily basis. Second of all marijuana does not cause schizophrenia as explained in an article released by Harvard titled; Harvard: Marijuana Doesn’t Cause Schizophrenia By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on December 10, 2013 In addition, marijuana is now being used to help heal alcoholic brains and articles have been written about it as far back as; Marijuana To Control Alcohol Abuse By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on December 1, 2009 You are telling Native people not to smoke an herb but take manufactured psychoactive drugs????!!!! Seriously?? With all due respect Ms Ennis, I think you've sat back on your title(s) on this one, because the simplest Google search can prove that your op-ed is rubbish. And that's coming from a Stoner. I work for myself and have a thriving business and I am a Stoner. At least I educate myself before giving advice. Unless you read and educate yourself about the new information coming out everyday about the many benefits of cannabis, all you are spewing is the kind of garbage that has kept healthy alternatives from people suffering from depression and PTSD. Even Austism is being treated with cannabis. Please, read up on what you are talking about because I am sure that whatever street weed you were taking for your "self medication," is not at all the quality and professional grade of cannabis farmed by professional growers that take pride in their product and not brick weed you get from Mexico. It's quality, not quantity.
KiltThis
Donnaennis's picture
http://www.nami.org is the site that I get most of my information about marijuana use and mental illness. This article did not include CCB's and CCD's as aspects of medical marijuana because that was not the focus of my opinion. I am a Native American mental health professional with 26 years of experience. In addition I have had anxiety, depression, PTSD and smoked marijuana for 15 years. This opinion is purely anecdotal and based on my knowledge of addictions especially in the Native community. I am not pushing anti-depressants but am suggesting lifestyle changes as a way to manage symptoms of anxiety, depression and trauma. Finally I am suggesting that if you use marijuana, and it is not for medical reasons, then you are self medicating.
Donnaennis
James Hallicola's picture
You have been shown to have false information and as someone who is in your position you should share the truth. As a member of the confederated tribes of grand ronde and a yakima nation descendant I have used marijuana to help me with my ptsd and I have never hid behind it like you so casually say people do. They also hide behind cheeseburgers, football and fucking doggy style. Without it I would never have gotten to college my flashbacks of my sister getting raped by my step brother were too much until a friend who cared showed me what Zoloft and counselling couldn't. So please think before you must spew trash forth from your face. Wrapping things in cute packages gets us the cold war remember...
James Hallicola
James Hallicola's picture
You have been shown to have false information and as someone who is in your position you should share the truth. As a member of the confederated tribes of grand ronde and a yakima nation descendant I have used marijuana to help me with my ptsd and I have never hid behind it like you so casually say people do. They also hide behind cheeseburgers, football and fucking doggy style. Without it I would never have gotten to college my flashbacks of my sister getting raped by my step brother were too much until a friend who cared showed me what Zoloft and counselling couldn't. So please think before you must spew trash forth from your face. Wrapping things in cute packages gets us the cold war remember...
James Hallicola