Calling B.S. on The Idea of 'Marijuana Addiction'

Calling B.S. on The Idea of 'Marijuana Addiction'
Posted by CN Staff on March 22, 2008 at 07:43:23 PT
By Paul Armentano, AlterNet
Source: AlterNet 
USA -- The U.S. government believes that America is going to pot -- literally.Earlier this month, the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse announced plans to spend $4 million to establish the nation's first-ever "Center on Cannabis Addiction," which will be based in La Jolla, Calif. The goal of the center, according to NIDA's press release, is to "develop novel approaches to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of marijuana addiction."
Not familiar with the notion of "marijuana addiction"? You're not alone. In fact, aside from the handful of researchers who have discovered that there are gobs of federal grant money to be had hunting for the government's latest pot boogeyman, there's little consensus that such a syndrome is clinically relevant -- if it even exists at all.But don't try telling that to the mainstream press -- which recently published headlines worldwide alleging, "Marijuana withdrawal rivals that of nicotine." The alleged "study" behind the headlines involved all of 12 participants, each of whom were longtime users of pot and tobacco, and assessed the self-reported moods of folks after they were randomly chosen to abstain from both substances. Big surprise: they weren't happy.And don't try telling Big Pharma -- which hopes to cash in on the much-hyped "pot and addiction" craze by touting psychoactive prescription drugs like Lithium to help hardcore smokers kick the marijuana habit.And certainly don't try telling the drug "treatment" industry, whose spokespeople are quick to warn that marijuana "treatment" admissions have risen dramatically in recent years, but neglect to explain that this increase is due entirely to the advent of drug courts sentencing minor pot offenders to rehab in lieu of jail. According to state and national statistics, up to 70 percent of all individuals in drug treatment for marijuana are placed there by the criminal justice system. Of those in treatment, some 36 percent had not even used marijuana in the 30 days prior to their admission. These are the "addicts"?Indeed, the concept of pot addiction is big business -- even if the evidence in support of the pseudosyndrome is flimsy at best.And what does the science say? Well, according to the nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine -- which published a multiyear, million-dollar federal study assessing marijuana and health in 1999 -- "millions of Americans have tried marijuana, but most are not regular users [and] few marijuana users become dependent on it." The investigator added, "[A]though [some] marijuana users develop dependence, they appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs (including alcohol and nicotine), and marijuana dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs."Just how less likely? According to the Institute of Medicine's 267-page report, fewer than 10 percent of those who try cannabis ever meet the clinical criteria for a diagnosis of "drug dependence" (based on DSM-III-R criteria). By contrast, the IOM reported that 32 percent of tobacco users, 23 percent of heroin users, 17 percent of cocaine users and 15 percent of alcohol users meet the criteria for "drug dependence."In short, it's the legal drugs that have Americans hooked -- not pot.But what about the claims that ceasing marijuana smoking can trigger withdrawal symptoms similar to those associated with quitting tobacco? Once again, it's a matter of degree. According to the Institute of Medicine, pot's withdrawal symptoms, when identified, are "mild and subtle" compared with the profound physical syndromes associated with ceasing chronic alcohol use -- which can be fatal -- or those abstinence symptoms associated with daily tobacco use, which are typically severe enough to persuade individuals to reinitiate their drug-taking behavior.The IOM report further explained, "[U]nder normal cannabis use, the long half-life and slow elimination from the body of THC prevent[s] substantial abstinence symptoms" from occurring. As a result, cannabis' withdrawal symptoms are typically limited to feelings of mild anxiety, irritability, agitation and insomnia.Most importantly, unlike the withdrawal symptoms associated with the cessation of most other intoxicants, pot's mild after-effects do not appear to be either severe or long-lasting enough to perpetuate marijuana use in individuals who have decided to quit. This is why most marijuana smokers report voluntarily ceasing their cannabis use by age 30 with little physical or psychological difficulty. By comparison, many cigarette smokers who pick up the habit early in life continue to smoke for the rest of their lives, despite making numerous efforts to quit.So let's review.Marijuana is widely accepted by the National Academy of Sciences, the Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, the British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and others to lack the severe physical and psychological dependence liability associated with most other intoxicants, including alcohol and tobacco. Further, pot lacks the profound abstinence symptoms associated with most legal intoxicants, including caffeine.That's not to say that some marijuana smokers don't find quitting difficult. Naturally, a handful of folks do, though this subpopulation is hardly large enough to warrant pot's legal classification (along with heroin) as an illicit substance with a "high potential for abuse." Nor does this fact justify the continued arrest of more than 800,000 Americans annually for pot violations any more than such concerns would warrant the criminalization of booze or nicotine.Now if I can only get NIDA to fork me over that $4 million check. Note: It's laughable that the Feds are pushing the concept of pot addiction when science shows that withdrawal symptoms from caffeine are far worse. Paul Armentano is deputy director of NORML and the NORML Foundation. Source: AlterNet (US)Author:  Paul Armentano, AlterNetPublished: March 22, 2008Copyright: 2008 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters Website: -- Cannabis Archives
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #9 posted by Mike on March 22, 2008 at 16:20:34 PT
Other comments on this article
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by rchandar on March 22, 2008 at 15:33:35 PT:
The article reintroduces what many of us have known is a huge shysterism designed to pump us with fears that only the government--and those "who know what's best"--can resolve. Actually, the concept of "marijuana addiction" started circulating in the late 1990s--based, of course, on the notion that pot was "more potent" than it was in earlier times.Of course, there's no truth at all to this concept. "Potent" pot means the hydroponic kind, which has a THC content of 17%. There's nothing to this label; hashish was widely consumed in the 60s and 70s and could reach 26%. Then there's the problem of dosage: if you buy "chronic", you're likely to smoke less of it than the "schwag" which is still common.Another thing that irks me: saying that this is a "health problem." Folks, schwag isn't good for you; it's rotted bud and sometimes is full of contaminating stuff. So the government is saying that this doesn't matter; pot should never be a "clean" product because its dangerous. Okay, addiction. So treatment cycles are Is there something wrong with more pot users seeking treatment? Did we build a treatment center for you to complain that you actually have to do your job now? Or--more true to the fact--why are you upset about it? In reality--pot is illegal. Naturally, that means that a lot of people will want to go to rehab so that their lives are legally unscrutinizable, uninvestigable. They should be doing their job and giving words of sympathy, not complaining about more cases.For the record. Pot--even in its hydroponic variety and 17% THC--is nowhere near the disaster that is alcohol. Let's face it, and face it bravely--alcohol is bad, it produces a sense of personal invulnerability that is dangerous and physically destructive. Until the government can accept that many people know this and have made a "choice" in their favor, all this talk is a shysterism, a trick calculated to reviving a BS drug war. What we can admit. Federal studies showed that MJ could cause psychoses as early as 1970. Now, I won't argue with you that MJ is good for everyone--there are things that it causes which are negative, such as paranoia. BUT: Given the effects of the "drug," we SHOULD NOT BE PUNISHING PEOPLE FOR HAVING A SMOKE, AND MAYBE HAVING A FEW DOUBTS ABOUT THE WORLD. And suicide? No clear link, none whatsoever.--rchandar
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by Sinsemilla Jones on March 22, 2008 at 12:58:33 PT
1/3 haven't used pot for a month before treatment!
"...36 percent had not even used marijuana in the 30 days prior to their admission."!!!I wonder how many folks entering treatment for pills, potions, or powders don't use for at least a month before beginning treatment?"...70 percent of all individuals in drug treatment for marijuana are placed there by the criminal justice system."It's amazing how cannabis "addicts", who don't even want to quit, are able to do so when circumstances dictate, whether they be legal, family, financial, or availability problems.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by potpal on March 22, 2008 at 12:56:26 PT
the real addiction
The NIDA is addicted to drug war. The NIDA is addicted to tax payer dollars. The NIDA is addicted to junk science. The NIDA is addicted to prohibition.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by unkat27 on March 22, 2008 at 12:50:27 PT
Poverty sucks -- Cannabis helps
"As a result, cannabis' withdrawal symptoms are typically limited to feelings of mild anxiety, irritability, agitation and insomnia."Funny, all of these withdrawl symptoms are also the symptoms of most poor working-class people who are over-worked and underpaid, and in need of a vacation. I've suffered from these problems all my life, including when i was an adolescent teenager before I started smoking cannabis. After being off of cannabis for 4 years, due to its unavailability in my neck of the woods, I continue to suffer from these problems. About a month ago, I finally did get to smoke some cannabis, and I felt much better. For a few days, the anxiety was gone and everything was much easier. But I only had a small bit of it and it didn't last, and now I'm back to my usual self - suffering anxiety, pains all over my body, general discomfort, insomnia. I do my work and get by as best I can, despite the discomfort. I was diagnosed with a schizoid personality disorder, which includes anxiety and insomnia, in the early 90s. Cannabis is a medicine for me, but it is impossible to find most of the time, so i suffer through my work to no end, dreaming about moving away to a more cannabis-friendly state in the future if and when i can.But I am not addicted to cannabis. If I was, I would not have been able to manage so well for the past 4 years without it. Yes, I have suffered constantly and my general mood has been lousy most of the time, but that has nothing to do with cannabis and everything to do with my life-long situation below the poverty-line. Poverty is my problem, not cannabis addiction. Poverty sucks.So, cannabis makes poverty easier. Maybe that's why the ruling-class fascists hate it so. They want poor people to suffer. They get a sadistic kick out of it.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by afterburner on March 22, 2008 at 12:09:50 PT
You Can't Fool the People Forever!
Maybe a great magnet pullsAll souls towards truthOr maybe it is life itselfThat feeds wisdomTo its youth
}K.d. Lang  Constant Craving (3:44) Lang - Constant Craving Ease with Kirk Tousaw. 
This time Kirk shows us how the myth that cannabis "grow-ops" are dangerous is not true.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by ekim on March 22, 2008 at 10:54:45 PT
upcomming Leap events
Mar 26 08 Drake University Brian Leininger Des Moines Iowa 
 Olmstead Center Bulldog Theater 29th Street and University Ave Mar 27 08 American University Howard Wooldridge Washington DC 
 Presentation: "Cops Say Legalize Drugs. Ask Me Why." 400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Mar 27 08 Keene State College Rick Van Wickler Keene NH 
 Presentation: "Cops Say Legalize Drugs. Ask Me Why." Mountain View Room, Student Center 229 Main Street
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by ekim on March 22, 2008 at 08:51:59 PT
Lima back in the news
speaking of marijuana addiction please seePetes site; 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by FoM on March 22, 2008 at 08:24:47 PT
OT: Talking Easter Eggs
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment