Getting High: Medical Marijuana and Government Entitlements

Advocates of making medical marijuana legal are gaining ground in Washington, D.C. and around the country.

The American Medical Association itself supports the concept of easing up on the illegal status of marijuana in the interest of using it to treat pain and other conditions and develop what may prove to be very potent products derived from cannabis. Proponents of legalizing medical marijuana point to its positive effects in battling pain and nausea.

Millions of people use it regularly (and illegally) and claim that it reduces anxiety and irritability. Marijuana is legal for medical use in certain conditons in 14 states, including Colorado, California, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Maine, Hawaii, Nevada, Vermont, Montana, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Michigan and New Jersey. Make no mistake about it, the legalization of medical marijuana will ultimately lead to its much more routine use to address issues like panic disorder and agoraphobia (fear of crowds) and attention deficit disorder (even in teens) and insomnia and eating disorders.

Without even arguing the real merits of marijuana as a treatment for such conditions, and without addressing the potential that marijuana can cause side effects including long-term and severe depression, I think it is worth noting the cultural context for the medical marijuana movement. We are, as a nation, and perhaps as a species, increasingly seeking ways to anesthetize ourselves from reality. It seems like we will go to any length to avoid pain-even if we can only delay it. So we use the Internet to remove ourselves from daily life and real relationships. We use sex (and ceaseless discussion about it, including non-stop news coverage of celebrity sexual behavior) to distract ourselves. We use bailouts and entitlements and freebies to avoid facing the gathering economic storm on the horizon. We eat and eat and eat until we are fat and diabetic and hypertensive. We bury our heads in the sand as a rogue nation like Iran develops nuclear weapons that could easily lead to the destruction of one of our closest allies in the world, or to a World War.

And now we want to get high because we feel like throwing up and have headaches and anxiety. No surprise, right? I know, I know. This is all about treating sick people with pot. I get that. And it's certainly possible that amongst the tens of millions of Americans who will end up using prescribed marijuana on a daily basis that there will be a significant number who could get relief in no other way and for whom medical marijuana will be a Godsend. But we should at least pause to note why this issue may be on the table now. We are drugging ourselves senseless. We dislike the truth and aren't willing to do the hard things required by it. The world looks pretty tame and rosy after a few hits from a joint, eh?

Well, then, inhale very, very deeply, my fellow Americans. Coming down off the high is going to be very, very ugly.

Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for FOX News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His book, "Living the Truth: Transform Your Life through the Power of Insight and Honesty" has launched a new self-help movement including Dr. Ablow can be emailed at