British Pothead Too Depressed to Work

By Dirk Hanson 06/21/11

Judge outraged by 21-year old British man's benefit check for marijuana addiction.

British doper on the dole.
Photo via thecomingcrisis

A 21-year old British father of two has received more than $25,000 in government benefits because his marijuana addiction has made him too depressed to work, the UK Mail revealed last weekend. Paul Holland’s $100 per week incapacity benefits outraged a British judge when Holland appeared for sentencing on charges of growing marijuana at his home in the village of Church. The man claimed he had been addicted to pot since the age of 10, and had suffered depression since the age of 13. He left school at 16, the Mail revealed. We can’t fault the judge for noting sternly that no doubt “a significant part of your problems are caused by excessive use of cannabis.” So stipulated. “I’m not a doctor,” continued Judge Heather Lloyd, “but there is plenty of medical evidence to show it is not uncommon for depression and anxiety—which could lead to paranoia—to be found with cannabis use.”

Understandably, the prevailing local reaction to the story has been to urge the young man to get up and find a damn job. We can’t make a call from here—after all, depression and addiction are real and treatable diseases. But on the other hand, they are diseases requiring the active participation of the sick person in the healing process. The whole sorry episode speaks to a common complaint about how addiction is sometimes handled in Britain—there is maintenance money, but precious little money for treatment.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]