Had a prolonged debate the other day with a member of Floyd County’s marijuana advocacy community (yes, there is one).
He, of course, advocates legalization of grass. I oppose it.
Marijuana emerged in public conversations again Wednesday with the revelation that Vincent Lumia had a "considerable amount" of grass in his system when he turned his Ford Explorer into a weapon and created a situation where a Virginia State Trooper had no choice but to shoot and kill him.
Lumia was also bi-polar and reportedly not taking his medication when he went on the rampage. The lack of drugs to control the erratic behavior of bi-polar condition most likely contributed more to his violent behavior than smoking grass but a friend of Lumia told me recently that the young man used grass because he felt it helped control the bi-polar symptoms.
The results of Jan. 12 — when Lumia died after being struck by bullets in the head and other parts of his body — effectively refute that argument for self-medication.
Writes Dr. Alan N. Schwartz on MentalHealth.Net:
I have directly witnessed the tragedy of patients going off of their medications for Bipolar Disorder, using marijuana and ending up re-hospitalized in worse shape than any time prior to the relapse. In fact, it has been my experience that many of these unfortunate patients experienced multiple relapses and were caught in an endless cycle of hospitalizations marked by periods of instability in between.
It is important to keep in mind that there are many intensities of this disorder. There are those people who experience rapid cycling while others rarely become manic. However, when they become symptomatic, they experience Major Depression. Also, there are those who experience Auditory and Visual Hallucinations while others do not. It is possible to have hallucinations at either end of the spectrum: major depression or mania. Then too, there are cases where the illness is so severe that is considered in the realm of schizophrenia and is called Schizoaffective Disorder. It has been my experience with the patients I knew who suffered from severe bipolar disorder and with those who fell into the Schizoaffective domain, that they were not helped by marijuana and were made much worse through its use.
Leaving aside anxiety, those who experience severe depression and who use marijuana end up feeling much more depressed, at least that is what I have witnessed.
There is a lot of denial around the problems of not only marijuana but other drugs of abuse and severe mental illness. In order to break through some of this denial I was, at times, able to get patients to agree to stop their marijuana use for a few weeks just so they could determine whether there was or was not an improvement in mood. These individual were surprised but were willing to admit that they felt real improvement in mood and functioning.
Police found nearly 1,000 marijuana plants at Lumia’s home in what they called an obvious manufacturing facility. That’s sale weight in Virginia and a felony. He was also under the influence when he went to the home of his mother and stepfather and tried to use his SUV to ram through his front door.
He was breaking the law by manufacturing grass and by smoking it. He put his own life and the lives of others at risk by driving while stoned and his actions, fueled by a lack of medication that controlled his bi-polar condition, created a situation that led to his death.
We can argue until the cows come home about whether or not grass should be legalized but the events of Jan. 12 involved the use of marijuana. Was the grass in Lumia’s system a contributing factor to the actions that led to his death? The end result suggests it didn’t help and, in the opinion of some experts, it certainly hurt.
(Updated at 3:50 p.m. to add information from a doctor and clinical social worker)