Marijuana opened the door to my brother’s death

Posted on February 9, 2022 View all news

To paraphrase from A Christmas Carol, this must be understood or no good can come from the story I’m about to relate. My brother died on September 13th, 2018, from a brain aneurysm that was brought on by a drug overdose.

Danna in elementary school

That is the end of his story.

Of course, his story begins with a life filled with potential and possibilities. He was Salutatorian of his High School class, graduated Summa Cum Laude from Denison University, and went on to become an MD at Jefferson Medical School.

Warning signs of impending trouble were swirling all around. When I visited my brother at medical school, he introduced me to some of his fraternity brothers. Like my brother, they seemed likable and smart, but in their down time, they would break out a bong and smoke marijuana. I was astonished that this was happening, and that medical students didn’t know the horrific health issues that marijuana brings with it. My big brother was always my role model, and he was the one that had steered me away from the dangers of drugs and alcohol, so it broke my heart to see this development. But who was I to tell them what to do?

Dana with his son while he was a medical resident.

While my brother graduated from medical school, his grades had dropped significantly during his last two years. Always a star student, this was an alarm bell for my parents. Yet he graduated, so we thought all was good. While working on his residency, it was soon discovered that my brother had moved on to harsher drugs. He got into a car accident and had his blood tested: he was high on cocaine.

That was a tipping point in my brother’s life. He went through rehab centers, eventually lost his medical license, divorced, and became destitute. He was in halfway houses, psychiatric centers, and eventually prison. He also destroyed trust in every relationship he entered into through lies and thievery.

After over 20 years of this lifestyle, he quit drugs and got a job at a drug rehabilitation center as a counselor. He had a new fiancé, apartment, and money finally coming in rather than going out.

Sadly, my brother had a relapse. That’s when we got the call. Dana had suffered a brain aneurysm, and it left him “brain dead” and on life support.

We said goodbye to him and let the staff turn off life support.

Dana, a month before he died.

Did marijuana kill him? No, but I believe that it opened the door to my brother’s sad journey to addiction and eventual death. I believe that it wholeheartedly affected his grades in medical school, and I believe marijuana altered his work ethic from well-focused student to barely hanging on.

I will forever refer to pot as the “Devil’s Weed”. It’s defenders and advocates are my enemies as I cannot unsee my brother’s path to addiction beginning with this drug. For those who think it is a victimless drug, you’re blind to the millions of people affected by pot addiction and the dreadful effects on families and friends. Those people represent the ignorance and want Charles Dickens wrote about so long ago.

I beg anyone who reads this, please stay away from marijuana. It is not a friend. It is not a medical treatment. It is your enemy. Treat it as such. That is the good that can come from my brother Dana’s story, which I have now related to you.

Andrew Wheelock

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