Monday, July 20, 2009

Marijuana- a gateway drug?

An article in the New York Times this week talks about a couple of individual stories of people who are dependent on marijuana. One of the people interviewed, Joyce, had this to say about pot: Smoking pot, she said, “was a slow form of suicide.” The article touches on the stigma of marijuana addicts- mainly that people who were addicted to substances like heroin or crack cocaine looked down on people who had problems with marijuana. However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that the marijuana of today is up to five times more potent than the marijuana of the 1970s.

“We need to be very mindful of what we are unleashing out of a Pandora’s Box here,” said Dr. Richard N. Rosenthal, chairman of psychiatry at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan and professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University. “The people who become chronic users don’t have the same lives and the same achievements as people who don’t use chronically.” However, you can say this about EVERY drug. I mean, if someone had the ability to drink one glass of wine a week as opposed to someone who drank a bottle of wine a night, the person who drank less would have less adverse consequences, right? And you can repeat that with ANY drug.

More adults are now admitted to treatment centers for primary marijuana and hashish addictions than for primary addictions to heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, according to the latest government data, a 2007 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. However, those numbers are a little skewed, as 57 percent of those people were admitted due to court requirements- so they may not have been a complete addict.

So the question that defines this- are there consequences from marijuana use? Are lives made unmanageable as a result of smoking pot? The answer, of course, is yes- and with the genetic link for addiction a proven fact, then obviously any psychoactive substance can activate that addiction. So- marijuana, like any other substance, can be addictive when it's used by a person prone to addiction.

About legalization- my view is this: If alcohol and tobacco are legal and cause as many negative health consequences as they do, then we really need to review our policies on marijuana. If controlled and managed well (at least as regulated as alcohol and tobacco), then we'll see a safer, more controlled version of the drug that's out there now. But we'll see what happens.

Here's a great article by Freakonomics author Stephen J. Dubner from the New York Times about the economics of legalization.

Stephen Baldwin vs. Ron Paul on legalization:

And here's the trailer from "Reefer Madness," the overblown movie from 1936 against marijuana:

Here's something funny.

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  1. I found this to be one of your most interesting blogs, and that's saying quite a bit. Thanks a lot especially for the link to Dubner's article as well as your own opinion.


  2. Hey M,
    Great post. I often get comments from people who think marijuana can never be addictive. They use misnomers like psychologically, but not physically, addictive - as if the brain is somehow not part of the body.
    Also, my view on legalization has changed s bit (I used to be more open to it) before realizing that international opium production back in its legal days was a full 500 times greater than it is today!!! You might have heard about the outcome - The Chinese opium wars fought with Great Britain.

    Anyways, keep up the good work!