Seniors Situation Room by Dawn Ford – Thoughts on Medical Marijuana March 24, 2014

Seniors Situation Room by Dawn Ford – Thoughts on Medical Marijuana March 24, 2014

DawnFord_SSR_YouthfulCFN -To go to ‘Pot’ or not : that is the question. No offense to our immortal poet but it is the question of the day. Having worked for 14 years at Mount Carmel House Treatment Center in St. Raphael’s, ON which was an Inpatient Treatment Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse , I am often asked what I think of legalizing marijuana for recreational use.


I am retired in the addiction field although I am still active in some areas. I don’t want to get into ‘Addictions 101’ here since I am not actively working in it but “Addictions 101’ has been played out on TV lately on the news with some of our celebrities for all to see.

I have listened to the experts, medical doctors and addiction counselors on TV and they are saying ‘don’t open that door’. I would agree with that. We already have enough problems with alcohol and it is legal. Do you want to see someone ‘high’ flying down the highway, even more than we have now? If you go on Google and type in ‘marijuana’, you can find all the latest information about this highly addictive drug. The Addiction Research Foundation has many interesting and informative sites. One of my favorite sites is Dr. David Ohlms, a well known Addiction Psychiatrist and researcher in the addiction field. He did a fascinating analysis some years ago of the 1969 movie, ’Easy Rider’ which would be still interesting for you to read.

The other question is about whether or not pot is a stepping stone to using other substances. In my experience the answer is yes and no. Users will tell you that they found a drug of choice. Having done many many admission medicals on the incoming residents at the treatment center and having talked with so many others over the years, some told me that they started their chemical use with alcohol because all they could afford was the price of a beer. However, that often led them to places where other chemicals were available. Some liked other drugs, some liked to get high, some preferred the sedative drug alcohol and it became their drug of choice. However, many did tell me they started with pot. A good place to hear these stories is at an open AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting or NA (Narcotics Anonymous )meetings…they are the live experts; they have been ‘there’, done’ that’ and miraculously, have lived to tell the tale.


df bishops house

The above photo is the old Bishop’s Palace where Mount Carmel House was located in St. Raphael’s .

There were always lots of interesting and unusual things happening at the center. Just when I thought I had heard about it all during the admission medical sessions, I would get a surprise. One day ,while doing an admission medical on a new resident, I had to write down a whole list of drugs he had consumed over the years, a list he called ’every drug known to man’. While I was writing all his history down, I was thinking that it was a miracle he was still above the earth and not six feet under it. Suddenly he said ’But I never touch salt.’ Incredulously, I looked up at him and said, ‘You never use salt????? He replied very seriously, ’No! Salt is bad for your blood pressure.’ I kid you not.

I am ok with the medical use of the drug in its synthetic form which is called Marinol (Dronabmol) but I don’t like the idea of’ toke-ing’, ie; inhaling the marijuana smoke. Some call it ‘smoking a joint or ‘smokin’ up’. I also don’t agree with the patient using pot to be able to grow their own in their home. How do the doctors control how much the patient is using?? The use of Cannabis for medicinal purposes is being used to treat chronic diseases, help the terminally ill and apparently for severe pain that is not eased with other meds. Recently, on March 12 th., CNN presented a program on this subject that were very informative. You may be able to pick it up on You-tube or the CNN web site. Doctors talked about the pros and cons and how they are working to help the side-effects and long term effects. In the meantime, as a controlled, medicinal substance it appears to be helping some people who are suffering from severe medical problems. .

Some years ago I attended an Addiction Week at McMaster University, the theme was on disabled people and addictions. At that time, this group was considered to be one of the most addicted group of people because they were already probably on some medications and then added alcohol and /or other addictive drugs. Seniors and disabled people to-day are still at high risk. The Canadian Mental Health /Addictions and the Addiction Research Foundation of Canada web sites offers lots of the latest information.


I was fortunate to have a huge window sill outside my office window at MCH facing west to Frog Hollow Rd. and to fields in the distance. Ah, the country life. I had a birdfeeder on it and another one in a nearby tree. The Finches loved to come and have lunch. The window sill and tree would be sparkling with their wonderful colors. Often a Blue Jay would steal a shelled peanut I had put out for the squirrels and chip monks who also visited. The Jay would soar across the fields with it in his beak. We had an elderly resident who had been using alcohol for many years. Once he discovered the birdfeeders and all the wonderful birds who came for a snack, he took it upon himself to make sure I kept the feeders well stocked. He told me that he hadn’t noticed for over 40 years that there was even a bird on the planet. He had found a Power Greater than himself through the 12 Step spiritual program and now was basking in awe and wonder of being ‘alive’ again. Sometimes he was out there with the birds and feeders before breakfast. That is what love can do.

One day, I had been doodling as I spoke with an irate family member on the phone, trying to draw this old Black Cap Chickadee which frequented my window sill. He used to come often and just sit for awhile. Doodling help keep me calm and focused when I was being yelled at by an unset family member. Most of the time, I doodled daisies because I couldn’t really draw a straight line. But that day, I was sketching this lovely old bird sitting contentedly on my sill. I thought maybe the old bird was an angel in disguise because he came so frequently and just sat, sometimes looking out onto the fields, sometimes looking at me…or so I thought.


df chickThis wonderful photo of a Black Cap Chickadee was taken by Stu Thompson, a well know local photographer. He and his wife Su are friends of mine. Su is a talented and gifted oil painter.

On that particular day, Jean McCormick came into my office as I am drawing this bird. Jean is a well known and beloved local artist. She had been at MCH to donate one of her beautiful paintings as a fundraiser and had learned about the now famous bird feeders. She saw my drawing and said: ‘What a nice duck.” I said:’ Jean, it’s a bird!’ I was crushed. She just laughed and told me to come back to her studio and they could teach me what the paint brush does and that I didn’t even have to know how to draw. Thus began a love affair with oil paint for me but I still can’t seem to paint very nice birds…yet. They still somehow look like ducks. But, nice ducks. Jean’s daughter Bonnie taught me to paint and I am grateful to both Jean and Bonnie for bringing so much beauty and awe into my life and the lives of many people.

Here’s a bit of humor for you:

Three old guys are out walking. First one says, ‘Windy, isn’t it?’ Second one says, ’No, it’s Thursday!’ Third one says, ‘so am I. let’s go get a beer…’.

Have a good week, Dawn

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