Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Michael Phelps Getting Just Rewards

Filed under: American Life and Society,Sports and Athletics — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 02:30

phelps.jpgEarlier this week, a photograph showing 14-time Olympic gold medalist and professional swimmer Michael Phelps smoking marijuana from a water bong was leaked to the press. The photo was published by News of the World and was allegedly taken when Phelps was partying with a girlfriend at the University of South Carolina in early November 2008. Yesterday, the Olympic Swimming Committee handed Phelps a 3-month suspension and today Kellogg dropped him as a sponsor and is not renewing his endorsement contract. While generally speaking I am a fairly liberal person, I have a low threshold of tolerance for drug use and abuse.

Many people think marijuana is an “innocent” drug and claim it is safer than alcohol and should be legalized because of its strong medicinal value and relatively “harmless” effects. These people are dead-wrong. Research has shown that one marijuana joint causes the same amount of lung damage as between 2.5-5 tobacco cigarettes. If every American quit smoking cigarettes, 1 out of every 3 hospitals could be permanently closed! As a Nurse Practitioner who has worked in Pulmonary Critical Care for over 5-years now and from my RN experience managing patients in the Emergency Department who are slowly reaching their deaths from asphyxiation, I have witnessed the horrific effects of smoking first-hand.

Legalizing marijuana would only further cripple our healthcare system and drain even more resources from federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid that are already pouring-in millions of taxpayer dollars annually to care for smokers who have acquired debilitating lung diseases which make their lives an absolute living hell. Watching a patient gasp for air because their lung tissue is ravaged by emphysema, seeing patients die painful and difficult deaths due to lung cancers which have spread through their chest and brain, and witnessing a patient fail medication regimens because lung diseases are non-reversible is one of the most heart-breaking and challenging aspects of my practice. And of course, the crimes supported by the purchasing of marijuana  have devastating effects on our society. Gang-related crime, murder, and theft are just a few crimes perpetuated by the purchase of marijuana.

Marijuana is not an “innocent” drug and it’s essential that Americans understand that. Michael Phelps is a role model that millions of children admire. He represents the athleticism of America and the victory and success that hard work and dedication can ultimately provide. Being caught in a photograph isn’t Phelps’ issue here. The real issue is that he made a terrible decision that not only poorly reflects his character but has far-reaching negative impacts. Phelps deserves to lose sponsorships and the money that comes with it. But perhaps even worse, he has simultaneously lost the respect of people all across the world. Forgiveness is divine and after all, Phelps is only a 23 year-old young man and 23 year-old young men often make immature mistakes. But repairing a reputation that was built over years and years of hard work but destroyed in a matter or minutes might take the rest of his life. For more information about smoking cessation and the damages caused by smoking cigarettes and marijuana, please visit the Web Site of the American Lung Association at http://www.lungsusa.org.

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