The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

Just say no...

“Did you do any drugs back when you were younger?”

“I used to smoke cannabis quite a lot, Doc, but I’ve not touched it for 20 years now.”

“You realise that’s possibly the root cause of your recurring depression and lousy sleep patterns.”

“Er, no… I mean, I know cannabis isn’t as harmless as I was told by my mates when I started smoking it. I know it’s up to 5 times more carcinogenic than smoking tobacco, and can trigger psychosis and schizophrenia in some vulnerable people.”

“It also screws up receptors in your brain, which affect your mood and your sleep patterns.”

“But that was half my life ago, Doc.”

“Unfortunately, Mr Ayres, that’s when the damage was done. It’s a bit like having a key put in a lock, then salt water poured in and it’s left to rust. After a while it’s jammed and doesn’t function. We don’t know whether it works as a trigger in certain people with vulnerable brain types, so to speak, or whether it affects everyone to one degree or another. But as doctors, we see and have to deal with the long term results of cannabis use all the time.”

No one ever told me this when I was 17.

Oh, I knew of medical arguments against other drugs. Heroin was a big baddy, so we didn’t touch that. Speed would fry your brain if you took too much, so it should only be an occasional hit – acid should be no more than twice a year if you didn’t want to start suffering flashbacks.

All these things I was carefully told by my fellow 17 year olds, who were in the know.

But cannabis? It was no more harmful than a cigarette or a pint of beer. The only arguments against it were moral ones, not medical. The authorities just didn’t like the idea of us enjoying ourselves, man.

So I was told by my fellow 17 years olds, who seemed to know about all these things.

No one said to me, there’s a risk it might plug up brain receptors so you could end up suffering bouts of depression for the rest of your life.

No one said to me you could end up with a brain wired so feelings of utter despair would be so easy to access that you could drop into them at any time, with no effort and no warning.

No one said to me you could end up with a brain wired so joyful moments would be rare, hard fought for and fleeting.

My caring, compassionate, new 17 year old friends didn’t know.



Unknown said...

Poppycock! Change your Doctor!

Unknown said...

Diagnosis based on what scientific evidence.

Kanani said...

Oh, Geesh.

Why doesn't he shut up and just treat your depression with the right medications that will help your neuroreceptors fire up? Sure, it'll take awhile, you might even be on a med cocktail, but all this ---oh, geesh.... tsk tsk, really isn't helping you now.

savannah said...

my immediate reaction was, "says who, doc?" you need another doctor, sugar, kanani & el-branden are right. xoxo

Sayre said...

Unfortunately, I can SEE the consequences of smoking pot young and consistently for years and years. My stepson is a mess and has come to believe he is cursed. His father has some of the same issues you do. Guess what they have in common?

Unknown said...

This actually made an interesting read for me Kim.

My Brother in Law has smoked cannabis in large quantities for 20 years or so. I mean, it was the first thing he did in the morning before he had coffee even, and was the last thing he did at night before he went to bed. He has (apparently) not had any for the past 18 months and he is in a terrible mess. He has caused huge family breakup's in the past 18 years including with his mum. He has accused family members (including my other half) of unspeakable things which just didn't happen, but he is in a major depression and thinks that the world hates him. He seems to be suffering from a major nurosis and thinks that the world and everyone in it is trying to make his life miserable or trying to kill him. This is so uncharacteristic from the brother in law I've known for the past 10 years it's put us all in shock. He was such a caring, compassionate person who would do anything for anyone, but since he's been clean he is a very angry, un-tolrable person that seems to be out to cause trouble.

I'm not for a minute comparing him to you, but the mis-wiring in his brain seems to have happened since he got clean.

Whether there is truth in what your doctor said or not really doesn't help you get any more sleep or feel better though does it? It's all well and good laying the blame at something you did when you were 17... but I personally think that any drug (prescribed by a doctor or not) has some long term effect on your body.

I never smoked cannabis.. and my brain is fried.. LOL Wonder what my excuse could be?

Eryl said...

Mmm... I definitely agree with the consensus here, get at least one other medical opinion, and have a look at the research yourself too. If it is so there must be something that can be done.

Unknown said...

I do not know. I do not smoke pot, but tried it a couple of times in my twenties and hated it. But I am in the longest depression I have ever been in. Thought I saw the light a month ago, but it has been snuffed out. I just don't know.

Apex Zombie said...

I've got no idea about marijuana's side effects or any research, so I can't add to that. I have partaken of the herb once when I was about 14, though, and I have suffered from depression a few times, and my sleeping patterns are shot to shit. But all that from inhaling one joint and a few spots? I don't know.

Kim Ayres said...

Branden - if you do a search of the web, needless to say you find any answer you want, and opposing ones. But whether it's true or not, the feeling of having the rest of my life written off was not a pleasant one.

Kanani - anti-depressants seem to be about it. I've been on them for over 18 months but would rather find alternate options. But I think I'm on my own with that.

Savannah - what other doctor? This is already the 2nd one in the practice I've moved to after feeling I was getting nowhere with the first. Unfortunately I have neither the money nor the energy to go searching and searching

Sayre - part of the problem is no one really knows whether smoking pot increases your chances of mental illness, or whether those with a tendency towards mental illness are triggered by smoking pot. There are plenty of people with mental health issues who've never been near a joint. But also, dope smoking is so widespread, it's very difficult to separate it out from all the other factors.

Ann-Marie - as one doc said to me once, the problem is there are only a few ways the body can express something is wrong with it - pain, tiredness, temperature, rashes, moods and the like - but there are thousands of things that can cause any one of these reactions. However, given the choice, if I could go back, I wouldn't touch the stuff.

Eryl - I will continue to look. I have to. I cannot allow the rest of my life to be written off or seem pointless.

Carole - remember you have my email address. Do write

FLG - don't worry, one joint isn't going to cause anything like that. However, it's possibly one of the worst things to touch if you're trying to control your weight as one side effect is always serious cravings for munchies :)

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

Hm. *thinking*

Kim Ayres said...

Any thoughts are welcome, Daphne :)

hope said...

As God's little Designated Driver, I never smoked nor drank. Nope, no lectures on good clean living. Just the understanding that it's tough being human some days. Sometimes the best we can offer each other is, "Hey, I'm here. I'm a good listener. And I don't repeat what I'm told." ;)

So hang in have people out here who care. Who you make giggle when they have a bad day. Besides, your brain can't be too warped considering all the cool photographic concoctions you cook up. :)

Tom P. said...

Your doctor must have been smoking pot while you were in the waiting room. Recent studies have shown identical rates of depression between pot smokers and non-pot smokers except among heavy pot smokers. There has been some linkage between heavy pot smokers (several times a day) and depression but these studies are still questionable. The main problem with the studies is that they fail to take into account that people with depression are more likely to use marijuana to treat their depression! In fact, studies have shown that occasional use of marijuana can actually reduce the symptoms of depression!

Dr Maroon said...

alas and alack
I had a wonderful doctor once. She gave me anti depressants after a viral infection. chickenpox.
what are these? I asked.
Antidepressants she said
Why? i asked
Because the symptoms you describe sound like depression.

I was aghast. I'm not depressed! I asserted.
You are she said. Nothing to worry about. it's chicken and egg. take the tablets and you will see. She was right. I love the pragmatism. she treated symptoms, didn't give a fig about causation. stopped me dwelling on it. Now i'm only suicidal on a point of principle. For the sake of neatness. The despair has gone.
Christ someone give me a smoke and a large stiff one.

Oh, try abstaining from carbohydrates for a week. you will not be grumpy and you will stop obsessing about food. Sugar is your toxin.

Anonymous said...

I did a lot of speed when I was younger and think it is now responsible for my lack of serotonin. But hey, if anyone had told me back then what I know now - I doubt if I would have listened...

anyway, what's done is done. you have to figure out what can help you now, not mull over things you can't change. I'm not saying you're doing that, just making an observation.

I've found that helping someone worse off than yourself is a good way to manage depression. Good luck Kym.

Kim Ayres said...

Hope - I thought the photographic concoctions I cook up were because my brain was warped...

Tom P - My doc claims he's never touched it. Smoked a cigarette once, but that was it. Single Malt whiskey on the other hand... But the problem with all these studies, is there are others out there which contradict them.

Part of the problem is I do suspect some level of truth in there. I'd never suffered from Depression until I started smoking it, and for a while was completely beholden to it - when I was straight I was Depressed - when I was stoned I didn't care. There's something seriously wrong if the only way you can face the world is through mind altering drugs.

Dr Maroon - welcome back. I've missed you. And I've missed these kinds of comments. Do call round more often - the kettle's always on for you, Ack.

NurseMyra - I'm always much happier when I feel I'm making a positive contribution to someone's life. And the fact I've had recurring bouts of long term Depression most of my adult life means I'm under no illusion about the need to find ways to live with it. But sometimes it all gets a bit too much and I have to write a blog post and eat chocolate.

Mary Witzl said...

Mmm...I can't help thinking that diagnosis sounds awfully simplistic, but what do I know?

There was plenty of pot around when I was in my salad days. At one point, I knew someone who could not live if he didn't have a reefer going practically all day long. I was really put off by this -- and by how forgetful this kid, in his early twenties, became. Plus, I could not afford pot -- I needed the money for rent and food. And chocolate...

What I can't accept is that you can't do anything about this now. As if him telling you that is going to make you feel any better. So take this with a grain of salt. And pass me some of the chocolate, please!

Kim Ayres said...

Mary - it's the written-off aspect which is hardest to take, so I'm going to ignore him on that.

Charlie said...

(Two days of Windows problems are finally fixed, thanks to hours of screwing around!)

I'm not going into my professorial mode here, but I have neither heard nor read that THC, the chemical in pot, causes depression. Rather, you were depressed before you used it, probably without realizing it.

Kanani is correct about neuroreceptors: when the receptors fire too quickly they use up sertonin, which causes us to feel depressed. The newer antidepressants, called SSRIs and SSNRIs, slow down, or inhibit, the re-firing process.

Science still knows very little about brain chemistry and mental illness, as well as why psych drugs work. Personally, I would take what your doctor said with a grain of salt.

hope said...

No, your photos are definitely cool, not psychotic. :)

It's the healthy effect of chocolate. So if you and Mary W. don't eat all the chocolate, I'd love to join you.

If one could be a chocoholic, then I'd qualify for that. :)

Kim Ayres said...

Charlie - I've now read enough different reports and studies across the web to know that he's very unlikely to have any kind of monopoly on truth, so I'm not going to take his words entirely to heart any more

Hope - I already have a chocolate addiction. And we're not alone...

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