As a retired police detective from Bath Township, Michigan (near Lansing), I read with interest your idea to increase tourist dollars by legalizing/regulating and taxing marijuana (a la Amsterdam-type coffeehaus). Thank you for your courage to propose such a sensible step. May I add another, perhaps more important aspect of ending marijuana prohibition?
During my 18 years of police service I was dispatched to zero calls generated by the USE of marijuana. Its use is NOT a societal problem. I have always urged my fellow citizens to not use any mind-altering, intoxicating and addictive drug, which includes marijuana. However, having my profession still chasing the Willie Nelsons of Michigan does REDUCE public safety.
Offr. Howard J. Wooldridge (ret.)
Law Enforcement Against
Prohibition Washington, DC
Present the other side
Re: Recent articles in Northern Express: Are Our Kids Being Overdosed? and Is Our Pill-popping Society Losing Its Mind?
I was taken aback by the one-sided perspectives in these recent articles, which imply that there is a concrete line between neurological diseases and mental health disorders.
The idea that I object to most significantly is that there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance in the brain.
The brain is a physical organ of the body, just as is the pancreas, the liver, the heart, etc. Why would someone believe that the brain is not vulnerable to physical anomalies, when we easily understand physical problems in other organs? The brain is indeed vulnerable to disorders and diseases, as well as to individual differences.
Serotonin, Dopamine, and Norepinephrine are some of the chemicals that affect the brain directly. Hormones also affect the brain in many ways.
The brain is a complicated organ, to be sure, so the research involving that organ is often more controversial than research regarding some of the other organs. But research involving the other organs is not without controversy, nor are the medications for diseases of those organs without side-effects. Psychotropic medications are not the only medications that have side-effects.
The side-effect issue is difficult and often not easily solved. The problematic symptoms must be balanced against the side-effects. One persons tolerance for either the mental health symptom or the side-effect of the medication will vary from another persons tolerance of the same symptom or side effect.
There is no magic pill, and patients are often encouraged to work first in therapy (my specialty), rather than relying on medications. However, there are some mental illnesses that create such difficulties for the afflicted person, that medication is life-saving and sometimes relationship-saving (either temporarily or on a longer-term basis).
It is true that some depression is triggered by the grief and loss that happen in everyones life. Each person must make the choice about whether (and when) he or she will seek therapy or counseling and /or consult with a physician or psychiatrist about the possibility of medical treatment (medication). These are valid choices and should be done with the understanding that there could be side-effects to the medication.
The neurological side of mental health problems is vastly complicated, just as is the environmental side of these problems. Large libraries are filled with books on both subjects. Both are valid and intertwined.
Marilyn Madison, MSW, LMSW
Death with compassion
Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who claims to have helped at least 130 terminally or chronically ill people die, was paroled this month. Kevorkian has served more than eight years of a 10- to 25-year sentence for second-degree murder in the 1998 death of Michigan resident Thomas Youk, who had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrigs disease.
Covert, clandestine aid in dying occurs every day in the U.S. It is a symptom of a national health care crisisthe unbearable suffering and violent options that many dying patients face at the end of life. Dr. Kevorkians notorious actions demonstrate the desperation patients feel, and the need for rational public policy on end-of-life choices. Only Oregon currently has rational policy.
Instead of being forced into considering options like Dr. Kevorkian, guns and other violent methods, patients should be able to talk with their physicians about a range of legal, safe, peaceful options for easing a painful dying process. Covert practice of aid in dying is inherently dangerous and irresponsible. The only way to protect patients, families and doctors and enforce safeguards is through laws such as Oregons Death with Dignity Act.
Compassion & Choices advocates that all mentally competent, terminally ill patients should have a full range of end-of-life choices, including aggressive pain and symptom management, palliative sedation, voluntarily stopping eating and drinking, forgoing life-extending interventions and aid in dying. This is the only way we can prevent future Kevorkians from preying on the desperation of those experiencing the fear, anguish and unremitting pain of prolonged terminal illness.
Seventy-eight-year-old Dr. Kevorkian suffers from diabetes and active hepatitis C. He deserves the same chance for a peaceful, dignified death that is the right of all people. Kevorkian drew the national and international spotlight to the desperation of patients whose legal choices are inadequate. But in the end Dr. Kevorkian told the Michigan Parole Board that he should have advocated for aid in dying through legal channels.
As media coverage of spectacular cases like Kevorkian and Terri Schiavo peaks and subsides, let us not forget the many Americans who each day suffer needlessly prolonged illness due to the lack of a rational policy on end of life care.
Robynn James, CFRE assistant VP for development Compassion & Choices Denver, CO (Williamsburg resident)
Violence & mental illness
For the great majority of people afflicted with mental disorders, an act of violence is no more a consequence of mental disorder than is true of the general population.
This fact, despite the tragedy at Virginia Tech, points to the need for a rational understanding that people with a mental disorder are morally, spiritually, intellectually and functionally intact in some aspects of their lives, while still engaged in a constant struggle for social integration and participation.
Anti-stigma and recovery efforts are significant operations of the Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority.
It is incumbent on society to understand that the needs of people with a mental disorder must be met with programs of support, inclusion, prevention and early intervention, with voices raised to dispel myths and preconceptions about the nature and course of lives encumbered by antagonisms, rejection and, sometimes, neglect.
No conglomeration of agencies which serve people in need of treatment can bring better lives for mentally disordered clients without the understanding and compassion of a society which can share in bringing hope to all of its members, whatever the state of their problems in living.
Frank Tosiello, Ed.D. TC
Prevent future Katrinas
Rebuilding New Orleans and helping the people get back on their feet is crucial, but it must not be done in a way that exposes the residents to continued danger. The levees must be rebuilt stronger and the wetlands restored, but America must also take effective action to curb our fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions that are melting the polar ice and raising global sea levels. If we dont act to stop global warming, Katrina may prove to be the beginning of a very ugly period in human history.
Hurricane Katrina did not cause the New Orleans catastrophe as much as human arrogance and ignorance did. From the channelization of the Mississippi to the destruction of barrier islands and hundreds of square miles of wetlands, to the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels that caused the sea to rise a foot in the last century, unwise human actions set the stage for horrendous damage and loss of life blamed on Katrina. If we dont come to understand this, we wont have a clue what to do about it.
We need to acknowledge human responsibility and take action: stop building in lowlands and in flood plains, stop the channelization of waterways at public expense for private benefit, reverse the destruction of wetlands, and do everything in our power both as individuals and as a country, to cut back on fossil fuel use
Members of Congress should co-sponsor Rep. Waxmans Safe Climate Act and Sen. Jeffords Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act. These bills are our best shots of saving ourselves from the disastrous effects of global warming - and would help prevent future Katrinas.
These are exactly the bold, science-based solutions we need.
Cheryl Zarn Manistee