We’ve been having a fabulous conversation about the meaning/validity of the phrase “marijuana addiction” and how that has been and should be addressed.
Danny Chapin, the managing editor of AllTreatment.com, a directory for drug rehab centers and substance abuse information resource, originally approached me about having a dialog about marijuana addiction with all of you, as he searches for understanding himself.
If you haven’t had a chance to read those, I recommend that you do so â€” the comments were extraordinary â€” and it leads to this one.
Danny Chapin has now responded to my response. Check it out and take your shots. I’ll react later.
Thank you, first off, Pete, for hosting this discussion (and quite a discussion it has lead to). It’s fantastic to be able to participate with your community. In a responsive style, I’ll address Pete’s points chronologically.
Pete’s numbers are illuminating, and perhaps the best metrics to show the differences in the quality of admissions between a drug like Marijuana and a drug like Heroin.
I do, however, have issue with the notion that “itâ€™s certainly not possible to use treatment data to support the existence of any kind of significant levels of marijuana addiction.” Rhetorically, this presents a contradiction since Pete uses this data to argue his initial point. But, less superficially, even if we do take seriously the 14.8% of referrals that are from individuals, we’re still left with 45,187 individuals seeking treatment for marijuana abuse, a number which is significant.
Pete’s metrics do point out the obvious fact that more people (relatively and absolutely) are personally admitting themselves into treatment for cocaine addiction as opposed to marijuana addiction (60,782 people if we take 34% of 178,771, compared to 45,187 at 14.8%), but this higher percentage of admittance is not a refutation of the notion that marijuana can have a destructive, negative impact on an individuals life–it simply supports the notion that cocaine addiction motivates more individuals to admit themselves into treatment.
The differences between these admissions statistics should drive policy, I would argue. Marijuana treatment is less a product of an individual’s will and more a product of an inefficient court system’s regulatory power. From a purely utilitarian perspective, marijuana addiction is the lesser of two evils, yet, forty five thousand people annually admitted to treatment seems a large enough number to justify talking about marijuana addiction as a real social issue. Something which, if decriminalized or legalized, we must educate our young people about.
People can and do get addicted to marijuana, and it can and does have a negative impact on the livelihood of many Americans. The question then is about marijuana: is marijuana the cause or simply a conduit for an addictive personality to unfold?
What is Addiction
Pete is spot on in arguing that addiction is more a function of an individual than the inherent properties of a substance–marijuana itself isn’t addictive, it’s the individual’s behavior that expresses their compulsive relationship with the world and its objects. If addiction were defined by the inherent properties of an object, then we’re all addicted to food–yet we know, by the absurdity of this example, that actual addiction is understood as that uncontrollable, compulsive drive to consume more and more. The cause of one’s addiction to marijuana is not inherent to marijuana but to the user, otherwise we would see far more serious legal and social repercussions for the widespread and liberal use of marijuana–we could posit that the relatively mild physical relationship marijuana has with its users is one of the reasons it is so popular despite its illegality.
When marijuana becomes a problem, anyone has the right to seek treatment. We’ve seen from the numbers that many Americans can’t handle smoking pot responsibly and treatment is a smart, responsible choice. The numbers Pete has pointed to show us that most Americans in treatment have unwillingly been forced into treatment–a fact which can produce ill-will during a therapy session where other addicts have serious intentions of stopping their cycle of abuse. That unwilling participant can only hurt the treatment process for those serious patients. This is something we need to change–for the sake of fiscal responsibility, to minimize inefficiency, and as a duty to Americans deterred by the half-assed intentions of unwilling participants.
Marijuana addiction isn’t a joke, it isn’t impossible, and is large enough of a phenomenon to pay attention to. Legality aside, most marijuana users in the United States do find and use marijuana responsibility (or at least, not in a compulsive, criminal manner). And for those that don’t, treatment is 100% their best option. And above all, education is the mother of prevention, so if marijuana is used as much at it is, let’s admit there’s an elephant in the room, and at the very least empower our citizens to say yes or no in a safe, responsible manner.â€” Danny Chapin