Category Archives: US Commentary

New concerns over marijuana addiction

Ex-Drug Czars Bill Bennett, John Walters: Mr. Trump, please don’t legalize marijuana at the federal level By William J. Bennett and John P. Walters | Fox News

Dr. Marc Siegel examines the effects of the drug.

President Trump has spoken out forcefully about defeating the illegal drug problem—as powerfully as any recent president, including Ronald Reagan. Now he is urged to support marijuana legalization in the midst of the most deadly drug abuse epidemic in American history. President Trump should refuse—it’s a bad deal with unsustainable consequences.

Obviously, decriminalizing the sale and possession of marijuana will make the drug more available and increase use. The advocates of decriminalization contend, however, that the harm of more use is less than the harm caused by current law and its enforcement. This is ridiculous.

First and foremost, marijuana is already associated with more abuse and dependency (now called substance abuse disorder) than all other illegal drugs combined. Roughly four out of seven problem users of illegal drugs are using marijuana. This is a dangerous blind spot exploited by many legalization advocates (although some of them are now warning about the growing risk of heavy marijuana use under legalization).

If you doubt legalization brings a rapid increase in marijuana use and addiction, consider the situation in Colorado. This is the test case; the experiment in legalization created by the Obama Administration. Colorado permitted the so-called “medical” sale of marijuana in 2009 and “recreational” sale in 2013. Some seem to believe, falsely, that marijuana use in Colorado has been accompanied by a decline in other drug use. This is emphatically not true. Last year more Coloradans died from drug overdoses than at any time in the state’s history. The cruel “Colorado experiment” has failed. Nonetheless, legalizers want to repeat it from sea to shining sea.
Second, marijuana use is not safe. Legalization advocates frequently play on the fact that many Americans have used the drug without recognizable harm as proof that most marijuana use is benign. We are all victims of our experience. The genuine research points to massive ignorance about the known dangers.

As the American Academy of Pediatrics notes: “The adverse effects of marijuana have been well documented” and include “impaired short-term memory, decreased concentration, attention span, and problem solving” which “interfere[s] with learning.” Researchers have also reported: “Regular cannabis use in adolescence approximately doubles the risks of early school-leaving and of cognitive impairment and psychoses in adulthood.” And other researchers have warned that States that have legalized “medical” marijuana find an association with higher 12th grade drop-out rates and lessened college attainment.

There is no known, safe level of marijuana use. And the highly concentrated forms of cannabis brought to the market in recent years probably increase all the known harms of marijuana use.

But the most troubling research has found: “Persistent adolescent-onset cannabis users” showed “an average 8-point IQ decline from childhood to adulthood.” Marijuana use can permanently lower intelligence and worsen, perhaps cause, serious mental illness. As the Journal of the American Medical Association has reported: “There is little doubt about the existence of an association between substance use and psychotic illness…studies suggest that the association between cannabis use and later psychosis might be causal, a conclusion supported by studies showing that cannabis use is associated with an earlier age at onset of psychotic disorders, particularly schizophrenia.”

The science warns that marijuana use makes you less intelligent and can bring on serious mental illness. There is no known, safe level of marijuana use. And the highly concentrated forms of cannabis brought to the market in recent years, probably increase all the known harms of marijuana use.

Finally, marijuana is the gateway to greater drug use and for more and more Americans that means early death. Not all marijuana users turn to opioids, cocaine, meth, and other drugs of abuse, but many of them do and each year, tens of thousands of those who move on to other drugs die of overdoses. Such deaths topped 60,000 in 2016, increasing over 20 percent in one year. Substance abuse is additive, not self-limiting. More marijuana users means more users of other drugs—more addiction and more overdose deaths.

President Trump is being asked to expand vastly the marijuana gateway to addiction and death as opioid supply increases, the meth supply is growing, and the supply of cocaine is at record levels. This can only push the historic overdose death rates to staggering new levels.
The President should forcefully reject marijuana legalization. He should direct his staff to get the facts out and push back against the ignorance that risks turning our drug policy into one of the worst self-inflicted wounds in American history.
William J. Bennett was secretary of education for President Ronald Reagan and former director of drug control policy for President George H.W. Bush. John P. Walters is Hudson Institute’s chief operating officer and former director of drug control policy for President George W. Bush.

 Giving Thanks

In 1607 pilgrims from England settled the first English colony in America. Jamestown, Virginia was the site of a colony that suffered many hardships. The first years were very difficult because of disease, poor water, food shortages, dissension, disillusionment, and Indian hostility. So many people died in those early years that, in April of 1609, the settlement in Jamestown was temporarily abandoned. Other settlements were begun, one being in Plymouth; but here too, there were serious problems.

At Plymouth they entered “their own starving time that winter of 1621-22 (with all the extra people to feed and shelter), and were ultimately reduced to a daily ration of five kernels of corn a piece. (Five kernels of corn – it is almost inconceivable how life could be supported on this.) But as always, they had a choice: either to give in to bitterness and despair or to go deeper into Christ. They chose Christ. And in contrast to what happened at Jamestown, not one of them died of starvation.”    
After that year, the pilgrims, at their Thanksgiving feast, would place 5 kernels of corn by their plates as a reminder of that winter.

What Comes Next?

Gay and Transgendered: What Comes Next?
By Dr. Jeff Mirus, Jul 22, 2014

In 1965, Lyndon Johnson prohibited Federal discrimination in hiring based on race, religion, gender and nationality. President Obama’s latest executive order amends that to include sexual orientation and gender identity. In 1969, Richard Nixon prohibited any sort of discrimination in Federal employment practices based on race, religion, gender, nationality, age or disability. Bill Clinton later amended this to include sexual orientation. President Obama’s new executive order amends it to include gender identity. This applies to all organizations which receive federal contracts. What’s next?

Just about anything could be next, because this latest executive order is completely divorced from reality. It views gender as a social construct or a psychological attitude unrelated to our biological sexuality. Instead of viewing an estrangement from our bodies as a problem, the new executive order insists that behavior based on such a disjunction must be upheld and honored as good. Apparently, we are what we want to be, and nobody can contradict us based on evidence.

Of course, there is nothing really new here. The gay revolution, and particularly the drive for gay marriage, is based on a total repudiation of our reproductive functions as reasonable and moral indicators of sexual behavior. There is a flight from reality at the center of sexual politics which would be almost funny if its personal and social consequences were not so deadly. Even setting spiritual consequences aside, the personal price tag is way too high in terms of health, psychological stability, and even life span. If we add these costs to the destruction of the family, the social and economic results are similarly catastrophic.

It seems to be our lot to witness the end of a civilization. We can trace its death to the empire of desire. Clearly, this pleasure principle began to affect us in unusually deep ways with the wholesale separation of sex from life in contraception. Since then, it seems, there has been no turning back. Our deadly divorce from reality now seems all but irrevocable.
Spiritual Collapse?

It has been truly astonishing to witness the dramatic change of socially dominant opinion on these issues over the past two generations. We have gone from a rebellion against the “restrictive conventions” of sexual identity and morality in the 1960s to the establishment of an entirely reversed set of conventions, already imposed with far greater rigor in both education and policy, all in the space of about fifty years. Nature, strengthened by spiritual formation, has been replaced by desire, legitimated by political diktat.

Nobody likes to deny another person’s desires, lest our own desires should ever be similarly thwarted. And so we have raced from a condemnation of the perverse, to a tongue-in-cheek “not that there is anything wrong with it”, to the acceptance of change on behalf of others, to the moral condemnation of any who dare oppose the latest trend. As President Obama sagely noted yesterday, “We’re on the right side of history.” Of course, this is exactly like the Emperor in

Star Wars saying “Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.”
But do the spiritually blind ever really see? No, and what is even worse, the blindness can sometimes still be found in our own ranks. In a Catholic school system in Vancouver, Canada, when parents of a transgendered boy (who now prefers to live as a girl) complained about their boy not being allowed to use the girls’ bathroom, the administration hastened to devise a new policy. The schools in question will now make ample provision for students who “express their gender in ways that are different from prevailing stereotypes.” What did I just say about diktat?
Moreover, because President Obama deliberately refused to include a religious exemption in his latest executive order, and since court cases have been as uneven as they are unpredictable, we can expect to see other Catholic institutions go along to get along. Dare we hope for resistance by the majority? Perhaps, but it would be historically unusual. At the level of formal compliance, at least, politics tends to trump religion. One certainly expects a certain spiritual dodginess. But will our Catholic maneuvers to be truly “deft” or just plain “shifty”?
God and Politics

Driving down the road to destruction yesterday, I saw an old “Catholics for Obama” bumper sticker. It has its analogues all over the world! How, I wondered, can people fail to see the seeds of a broken future in the heady utopian politics of the present? What causes an entire population to hide from reality, to assume that happiness will grow if we simply refuse to call bad things evil? “How beautiful,” says Isaiah, “are the feet of him who brings tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” Is 52:7). But this does not seem so to us: To shoot our messengers is surely an act of ultimate despair.

Sex is God’s marvelous gift for making babies in the wedded love of family. Families are for nurturing children in the security of life-long commitment. Men and women together mirror the wholeness of God, and in their families they participate in God’s incomparable fecundity. Those who cannot (or are not called to) mirror God’s fecundity in their own flesh, are called to mirror it in other ways, for all are made in the image of God’s Trinitarian love. So it is that countless families combine to form full-fledged societies, imbued with solidarity, raising up rich and varied civilizations to the glory of the Creator.

Yet it is just this that we have forgotten, that our blessed dominion begins with an act of creation: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gn 1:27). If awareness of this primal gift is lost, what will follow? Polygamy? Pedophilia? Bestiality? Termination of the sexually irrelevant? Life in the test tube and the petri dish? Nurture by the State? Exploitation of all by all? This and even worse than this! I do not say we have reached the antichrist or the end, but I do say we should be grateful that God always shortens the days for those with Faith (Mt 24:22; Mk 13:20). For we are certainly witnessing the wholesale substitution of man’s plans for God’s. We are witnessing the substitution of politics for love.

Some “Catholics” are not really Catholics

Pope Francis: Some “Catholics” are not really Catholics
By Dr. Jeff Mirus Jun 24, 2014

Considering the subject of my last In Depth Analysis (Speaking clearly about dangerously imperfect communion with the Church), Pope Francis’ statement last Thursday that mobsters are excommunicated calls for additional comment. What did the Pope say, and how is it to be understood?

The key sentence in his homily in Calabria on June 19th is this: “Those who in their lives have taken this evil road, this road of evil, such as the mobsters, they are not in communion with God, they are excommunicated.” Our first question, then, must be about the meaning of “this evil road, this road of evil”. The antecedent to which “this evil road” refers is found earlier in the same paragraph:

When adoration of the Lord is substituted by adoration of money, the road to sin opens to personal interest…. When one does not adore the Lord, one becomes an adorer of evil, like those who live by dishonesty and violence…. The ‘ndrangheta (Calabrian mafia) is this: adoration of evil and contempt of the common good.

What are we to make of this?
The first thing to notice is that the Pope is here giving a homily to a specific audience. He is not articulating a point of Catholic teaching to the whole Church. The Magisterium is not engaged. We cannot, therefore, leap to the conclusion that Pope Francis is teaching that all who devote themselves to evil are formally excommunicated latae sententiae (that is, as an automatic result of their violation of a particular Church law).

Still less is the Pope pronouncing a sentence of excommunication (ferendae sententiae, that is, by a specifically passed sentence). For Francis describes the condition of these sinners not as an external judgment but as simply being “not in communion with God”. It is perfectly legitimate to assume that by “not in communion with God”, Francis means both not in communion with Christ and not in communion with the Church, for St. Paul’s letters reveal these to be exactly the same thing. But again the Pope appears to be talking about a condition, not a specific sentence, of excommunication.

Imperfect and Severed Communion
In my earlier essay, I wrote:
By a formal repudiation of something essential to the Church’s constitution, communion is wholly severed; membership is lost. Even without a formal repudiation, in any sort of persistent rejection of essential ecclesial authority…communion is at least impaired. It is fractured if not decisively broken; at best, it is rendered incomplete…. With respect to fractured or imperfect or impaired communion, this fracturing may be recognized as a complete break by excommunication. When that happens, the situation is clarified and all doubt is removed.

In this homily, Pope Francis is talking about those who are guilty of “adoration of evil and the contempt of common good”. Obviously, adoration of evil alone covers everything, but Francis presumably specifies contempt for the common good to make the human impact clear. From the congregation’s perspective, I suppose, it is one thing for someone to adore evil in the abstract; it is quite another for him to act in evil ways that harm us.

More to the point here, it is obvious that the adoration of evil is an absolutized description of a spiritual state that must inescapably not only fracture but decisively break our communion with Christ and the Church. The Pope does not fear to describe this as the habitual mindset of the Calabrian mafia, though he is also referring to all those who adore evil, which he sees as rooted in the “adoration of money” (cf., 1 Tim 6:10) and, even more fundamentally, in the failure to “adore the Lord”. There is scope for a lifetime of meditation here.

But is Francis therefore arguing that all those who fail to adore God are decisively out of communion with Him? I suspect the answer is yes if we are referring to those who consciously refuse to adore God, thus seriously embracing some evil as a substitute (pride, power, wealth, pleasure, etc.). And certainly there is a broader sense in which people can be very distant from God (though He is obviously never far from us) through their ambivalence toward and neglect of the Good, of which God is the sole source.

Principles and Signs of Separation
In any case, the Pope insists, in this Calabrian homily, that certain commitments are sufficient to create a real break between the soul and God, and therefore a break between the person and the Church. He specifies the decision to be a “mobster” as one of them. This raises a delicate question. Is every mobster living in mortal sin? Well, not necessarily: Mortal sin requires that we both understand the gravity of an evil and consent to it fully. Obviously there could be many mitigating circumstances, from a failure to recognize the evil to a lack of freedom in the position in which one finds oneself.

Yet the Church could make formal excommunication automatic for all mobsters latae sententiae, as she has for all who participate in abortions, or she could excommunicate all mobsters as a class ferendae sententiae. This would be a huge wake-up call even for those (if any) who are not guilty of mortal sin. It would force people to clarify their commitments, to recognize God’s will more clearly, to face reality and make a decisive choice.

However, that is not what Pope Francis was doing in this homily. What he was doing was stating that there are some commitments, choices and actions which either fracture or completely break our communion with Christ, even without a formal sentence of excommunication. He was demonstrating by example that it is not wrong to speak clearly about those who, despite their continued use of the Catholic name, have rebelled against God and ceased to be members of His Church.

Marijuana can change your brain

Even casually smoking marijuana can change your brain, study says
BY TERRENCE MCCOY April 16 2014 Washington Post

Marijuana buds at Oregon’s Finest, a medical marijuana dispensary in Portland, Ore., on April 8. (Reuters/Steve Dipaola)

The days when people thought only heavy Cheech-and-Chong pot smokers suffered cognitive consequences may be over. A study in The Journal of Neuroscience says even casual marijuana smokers showed significant abnormalities in two vital brain regions important in motivation and emotion.

“Some of these people only used marijuana to get high once or twice a week,” said co-author Hans Breiter, quoted in Northwestern University’s Science Newsline. Breiter hailed the study as the first to analyze the effects of light marijuana use. “People think a little recreational use shouldn’t cause a problem, if someone is doing OK with work or school,” he said. “Our data directly says this is not the case.”

“This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences,” he added.

The study analyzed 20 pot smokers and 20 non-pot smokers between 18 and 25. Scientists asked them to estimate how much marijuana they smoked and how often they lit up over a three-month test period. Even those who smoked once a week showed brain abnormalities, while larger changes were seen in those who smoked more.

Marijuana is by far the most recognizable drug in the United States, with almost 19 million people reporting recent use, according to the National Survey on Drug Use. Cultural attitudes toward the drug are changing fast. What would have been inconceivable a generation ago — the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana — has happened in several states over the last several years. Nascent industries around the plant have sprouted in Colorado and Washington since they legalized the drug.

The study did not look at the behavior of the pot smokers, only their brains. What effect, if any, Wednesday’s findings will have on future legislation remains unclear.

The drug’s effect on the human brain, however, is substantially more clear, researchers say. In the study, scientists compared the size, shape and density of the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala, which control emotion. Those who had smoked had abnormally large nucleus accumbens, an area of the brain that controls pleasure, reward, and reinforcement learning.

In the brains of marijuana users, natural rewards are less satisfying.

“Drugs of abuse can cause more dopamine release than natural rewards like food, sex and social interaction,” said lead author Jodi Gilman. “In those you also get a burst of dopamine but not as much as in many drugs of abuse. That is why drugs take on so much salience, and everything else loses its importance.”