“What a rush!” exulted Idaho resident Monte Stiles after completing his first tandem skydive on July 10. That description was not metaphorical: The chemical reactions involved in skydiving and similar high-risk activities have a consciousness-altering effect – and addictive properties — far stronger than narcotics use. In fact, this is a selling point for those who promote, and profit from, this high-risk behavior.
“Fear is an incredibly strong emotion,” explains Dr. Michael Davis, a neuroscientist at Emory University. “If something scares us, the body immediately releases endorphins, dopamine and norepinephrine. Endorphins mitigate pain, dopamine and norepinephrine are performance enhancers…. [The] general scientific thinking is that the more fearful a certain sport makes you, the greater the release of these chemicals. The greater the release of these chemicals, the greater the addiction-like symptoms.”
Psychology Today points out that “cocaine—long considered the most addictive substance on earth—does nothing more than flood the brain with dopamine. Norepinephrine, on the other hand, mimics the second most addictive drug on earth: speed. Nor are our neurochemicals one to one matches for these illicit drugs. In fact, they’re significantly more powerful. The most common endorphin produces by the body is 100 times more powerful (thus more addictive) than morphine. Which is to say, the particular neurochemicals produced by action sports are far more potent than any drug single drug around and—since one cannot cocktail massive amounts of speed, cocaine, and heroin without ending up dead—adrenaline sports are really the only way to get this kind of taste.” (Emphasis added.)
Monte Stiles is a mature adult. Like every other human being, he is – or at least should be – recognized as the owner of his life, and free to seek out the services of those who are willing to provide him with the consciousness-altering “rush” he can only get through such risky behavior. Servicing that appetite is an expensive proposition, but this isn’t an obstacle to Stiles: The former federal prosecutor, who spent roughly a quarter-century imprisoning people who pursued a “rush” through the less potent means of narcotics consumption, enjoys a lavish pension and steady income as a full-time anti-drug agitator.
For all I know, July 10 was an ordinary day for nine-year-old Idaho resident Alexis Carey, who suffers from an intractable form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome. If this is the case, it’s likely that while Stiles was enjoying the narcotic-grade “high” he experienced through high-risk behavior, little Alexis endured one or more of the frequent and irrepressible seizures that have stunted her growth, impeded her development, and left her with a dramatically abbreviated life expectancy.
Conventional FDA-approved drugs have done nothing to mitigate Alexis’s suffering. The most promising treatment protocol is the administration of cannabidiol, a marijuana derivative that is illegal in Idaho despite the fact that it has a very low concentration of THC, marijuana’s psychoactive component. Her parents, both of whom are medical professionals, have tried, without success, to persuade the state legislature to modify the law. In desperation, they have considered the possibility of smuggling cannabidiol into Idaho from Colorado – thereby risking prison terms, dispossession, and perhaps even the loss of their child at the hands of the Gem State’s anti-drug gestapo.
Stiles, who has no formal office but acts as Idaho’s unofficial anti-drug Ayatollah, insists that marijuana has no legitimate medical use and that efforts to modify state law to accommodate Alexis and others in similar straits are part of an insidious plan to decriminalize the use of narcotics that have a far milder psychoactive impact than his preferred way of feeling a “rush.”
So it is that while Stiles was soaring, Alexis – who seeks nothing more than relief from her tragic and life-threatening illness – continued to suffer needlessly because of policies promoted by Stiles to punish those who pursue a “rush” in a fashion he considers objectionable.4:15 pm on July 13, 2014