Yet another post on marijuana and addiction

Is marijuana addictive? Yes.

Is marijuana addictive? No.

Both answers may be correct, depending on how you define addiction, and the question itself is probably irrelevant.

I chided Maia Szalavitz yesterday for her “both sides have been wrong” nonsense, but she redeems herself somewhat in a pretty strong piece in Time: Is Marijuana Addictive? It Depends How You Define Addiction

After exploring the differing definitions of addiction, she gets to the heart of the matter — the important thing is harm.

According to Stanton Peele, author of the classic book Love and Addiction, the real question is not the substance’s addictive quality, but its potential for harm. “I wrote an article on this titled ‘Marijuana is addictive — so what?'” he says. “How harmful is this addiction compared to other addictions? It can be disruptive to people’s lives; I have a treatment center, and some people end up there because of marijuana. On the other hand, in terms of physical assaults to your body, it’s better than smoking and better than alcohol.” […]

As Dr. Elders also said on CNN, marijuana is nontoxic. You can fatally overdose on alcohol, heroin or cocaine, but the only way a dose of marijuana will kill you is if someone crushes you under a bale of it.

In fact it may be the social consequences of using marijuana that are more harmful than the physical ones. Peele notes that being convicted for marijuana possession can make a college student ineligible for federal student aid. “No psychologist in the universe could possibly say that smoking marijuana is worse for you than being deprived of the opportunity to get an education,” says Peele.

Hart agrees. “I’ve studied the effects of marijuana withdrawal and effects on cognition. I was ambivalent about it for a long time,” he says. “I now have a 15-year-old son. I am far more concerned about him interacting with law enforcement than I am with marijuana, based on the research.”

This, of course, won’t sit well with many of the treatment professionals, who depend, for their bread and butter, on a broad definition of addiction and the automatic assumption that addiction=harm, without looking at relative harm.

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16 Responses to Yet another post on marijuana and addiction

  1. bobreaze says:

    See his is what i have been telling people all over. The true harm of marijuana comes from the laws against it not the actuall use. If only people would begin to realise the truth.

  2. bobreaze says:


  3. Ben Mann says:

    I’ve long said that marijuana is not physiologically addictive, but it IS habit-forming. And sometimes people have a lot of difficulty changing certain habits.

  4. darkcycle says:

    This is the same old same old. Marijuana is addictive. So is running, sky-diving, eating cheeseburgers, masturbating, weight-lifting, flying, and holding your infant child (incidentally, holding an infant causes a veritable storm of happy neuro-transmitters in the human brain, and is VERY addictive. Why do you think some women have seven or eight kids, considering the toll it takes on the human body and the incredible level of pain involved in child birth?)
    Addiction is a fact of life and part of the human condition.

  5. Matthew Meyer says:

    Agreed, it’s insightful. I think the moral repugnance some people feel about “drugs” (whatever the particular substances this category includes for them) is partly grounded in a sense of their excess, superfluousness. The suspicion is that people are jiggling the handle of physiology (or even Jiggling the Handle that God Made, even worse). But somehow we make exceptions for non-nutritional (or marginally nutritional) substances like coffee and tea. We even joke about people being addicted to coffee, and many of us have even gotten coffee withdrawal headaches. On balance, however, we think our lives are not worse for our addiction to Coffea arabica. Why should Cannabis sativa be different, especially given that its “withdrawal” symptoms are so mild?

  6. Servetus says:

    Any word which fails to distinguish between the ill effects of opiate addiction versus the behavior of people who merely like to inhale cannabinoids is a word that has become far too vague to be used in discussions of illicit drugs. The prohibitionists are primarily at fault for making ‘addiction’ a meaningless bit of propaganda in a vain attempt to slander marijuana.

  7. claygooding says:

    Maia did an excellent job exposing the fact that the propaganda put out about addiction by DARE,Drug Free America and the Baptist press are lies.
    Even better is the publisher,,,,,Time has been stepping up to the plate and putting some very positive articles out recently that have spread the debunking of propaganda to a group of Americans we never see here or at any other advocate sight,str8 America.
    I thank them for that.

    US: Bill O’Reilly Bets John Stossel $10K that Prop 19 Loses

    I really want to see Bill O’Really lose this bet,
    latest poll by Survey USA,,,,44% against,,,48% for.

  8. The “Baptist” church is masonic, and thereby socially worthless.

  9. Ben Mann says:

    Kerlikowske goes out of his way to mention that the former DEA officials calling for US DOJ to sue the state of CA are attorneys, and that in their (nonsensical) opinions, “preemption is certainly applicable”.

  10. DdC says:

    You’re enough of a pro,” Nixon tells Shafer, “to know that for you to come out with something that would run counter to what the Congress feels and what the country feels, and what we’re planning to do, would make your commission just look bad as hell.”
    – Richard Milhouse Nixon

    “Marijuana does not lead to physical dependency, although some evidence indicates that the heavy, long-term users may develop a psychological dependence on the drug”
    The Shafer Commission of 1970

    Popular Science’s conclusions about marijuana…
    Though medical men agree that marijuana is not physically addictive (unlike cigarettes and alcohol), many classify it as “psychologically addictive” — a term that Dr. Malleson considers “extremely imprecise, misleading, and unuseful… In practice it means nothing more than the statement, ‘I want.’”

    Poppy Seeds Led to Drug-Related Baby Seizure
    The American Civil Liberties Union is representing a western Pennsylvania woman who says her newborn baby was seized by county welfare workers after she failed a drug test because she ate a poppy seed bagel.

    Remembering John Lennon
    CANNABIS CULTURE – The most political Beatle sang for freedom from marijuana law repression and was targeted by the U.S. government for deportation, ostensibly over pot busts in England.

    New Report: U.S. Government Data Demonstrates Failure of Cannabis Prohibition
    CANNABIS CULTURE – A new research report from a leading international scientific body demonstrates the clear failure of U.S. marijuana prohibition and supports calls for evidence-based models to legalize and regulate the use of cannabis.

    1925: Concerned by the high number of goof butts being smoked by off-duty servicemen in Panama, the U.S. government sponsors the Panama Canal Zone Report. The report concludes that Marijuana does not pose a problem, and recommends that no criminal penalties be applied to its use or sale.

  11. Carol M. says:

    I must say, I have a beautiful old horse I have loved and had to visit most every day for 26 years. When I can’t see him I miss him. Am I addicted to him? He has stepped on my toe and I’ve taken falls, too. Will he be taken away by “those who know best?” I never could really afford him either as I’m not wealthy, and I raised two children during this time.

    Is that an addiction? I always just thought it was a pleasant lifestyle choice, and like everything else, has certain rewards and certain difficulties (though I must say I don’t see much in the way of difficulties with respect to cannabis).

    These people would say I have behaved in an addicted manner for these 26 years.

  12. ezrydn says:

    It’s hard for me to expain to people my “addiction.” I use Cannabis to offset my PTSD from Nam. In doing so, I get to experience the reality of LIFE, without the triggers going off.

    I have to say I’m addicted to the life I been given back through the use of Cannabis. Would that be considered being addicted to Cannabis? I don’t think so. For me, it makes life real and livable again. Which, of course, we all know to be a deadly offense.

  13. Duncan20903 says:

    Wow no wonder you’re seeking help from kicking your cannabis habit being all strung out and such probably has your brain suffering lock out. As if that isn’t enough you are now moving to the really hard drugs just like the gateway theory predicted. You got bored with pot so now you need that PTSD junk. Isn’t that the new and super potent LSD that they put on Sunday comics sections of the newspaper in order to make it more appealing to the chilled wrens at the elementary schools and lock in a customer for life? You’re just damning those poor chilled wrens to a life of misery and addiction.

    I’d really like to get some insight into what the truth ever did to these people to make them hate it so much. Did the truth sneak into their homes at night and get their chilled wrens addicted to black tar super duper new and improved this is not your Daddy’s placebo heroin from the 1960s potent mexican heroin that was manufactured in factories that were built with money collected from the selfish cannabis consumers who just won’t do what they’re told to do. They even try to claim that the gateway theory isn’t supported by any of those drug user enabling facts, but I’ve just posted the solid evidence that it is real. So if you really value our freedom you have to obey the orders you’re given. This can only remain a free country if the citizen’s would just start obeying orders because this freedom thing is just selfish and mucking up for the rest of society.

    Did the truth batter down their doors and shoot their dogs dead? There’s got to be a reason for such deeply seated hatred. John Walters may have been required by law to fabricate evidence and lie, cheat and steal but Mr. Walters sure didn’t need a proctor to make sure he complied with those laws. He was a natural as witnessed by the fact that he took such pride in both covertly and overtly torturing the poor truth, well what’s left of him after the politards and religionists got through twisting the poor bastard until he’s unrecognizable to most people. Is it any surprise that Mr Walters is now employed by the Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe Foundation which stands for protecting this country’s government’s god given right to a truth free way of life? With facts just being a couple of rocks on the road to a dedicated and well financed propaganda machine bringing us protection from any honest improvement in our way of life, standard of living, and particularly to insulate the true American Citizens from ever having to engage their brains??

    The Canadians say cannabis use costs their government $20 per user per year. I’d also be willing to make a substantial wager that that figure could be reduced to zero or even better negative if we could talk people into giving up smoking cannabis. Quit smoking it, not quit consuming. I do wonder if that was intended to be so amusing. The government publishing a web site ‘here to help.’
    The only reason that the people in Peoria jump on this particular band wagon is because they trust the government to not lie to them and they’ve never had a serious problem with a truly addictive drug. The fucked up thing is that trust shouldn’t be misplaced trust. They (we) should be able to trust the government to tell the truth, although I guess we could settle for a gov’t that doesn’t engage in blatant dishonesty and bald faced lies. A couple of weeks back on the forum I posted my observation that if you go to an NA meeting and claim to be a cannabis addict, you will be ridiculed an hazed without mercy. You mean that you’ve never sucked off a cop to keep from getting arrested?

    I don’t believe anyone that has had a serious crack addiction or gotten their brain pickled in a bottle of cheap liquor would give any credence whatever to cannabis being a ‘serious’ addiction. Probably the other popular MADs as well but those I can’t speak about from personal experience. I can barely give tobacco that rating but the facts are plain that it is. Still somehow tobacco seems to me to not belong in this category. I can’t give any credence whatever to tobacco being a ‘gateway’ drug even though I see that the ‘gateway’ thing is supercilious nonsense. Claiming tobacco as the gateway just makes it nonsense beyond compare.

    This is simply speculation based on years and years of observation, but I’m inclined to believe that the ‘disease’ called ‘addiction’ is actually a catchall category of a number of different brain disorders. When was it, in the 1700s and the 1800s they would diagnose people with a bunch of different pulmonary disorders as ‘consumption’ which was TB the great majority of the time but not always? The doctors back then would have prescribed a bottle of cannabis tincture available over the counter at the local apothecary so you could at least feel good about your imminent death. This is a significant issue in the 12 step religion’s pathetic ‘cure’ rate. Oh wait, I had someone tell me that wasn’t a valid metric to use to describe the cult like practices and and the rote sacrifices. Oh yeah, that guy also told me that the ‘cure’ rate for the 12 step programs is actually 100%. Every member of the 12 step cult that has followed the guidelines in the “Big Book” precisely and has put forth the required effort is clean ans sober. The 95% of the people who go back out to ‘do more research’ just didn’t do it right. The evidence is clear, had they followed the program they would be sober today, 100% cured. Mention the fact that Bill W. hung out with Aldous Huxley and dropped acid in the 1950s and 60s and their brains simply can’t accept the idea as true. What, you say you didn’t know that the high prophet of the 12 step cult was dropping acid 20 years after he started AA? Well he was also into seances and using Mediums to communicate with the dead. The man was certifiably certifiable and this was after a couple of decades without booze.

    AA, Bill Wilson and LSD

    One of his therapeutic journeys lead him to Trabuco College in California, and the friendship of the college’s founder, Aldous Huxley. The author of Brave New World and The Doors of Perception introduced Wilson to LSD-25. The drug rocked Wilson’s world. He thought of it as something of a miracle substance and continued taking it well into the ‘60s. As he approached his 70th birthday, he developed a plan to have LSD distributed at all AA meetings nationwide. The plan was eventually quashed by more rational voices, and a few years later the Federal government made the point moot by making the drug illegal. (That Wilson’s plan was shot down is probably fortunate. LSD is a beautiful thing, but nothing sounds more horrifying to me than a roomful of chain-smoking, frightened, needy drunks tripping their heads off in the basement of the local Y.)

    Google “bill w” +lsd for lots of fun reading about how LSD almost became the 13th step.

  14. Duncan20903 says:

    On a serious note ezrydn, I do understand that PTSD is a serious and potentially crippling brain disorder. I got stuck up in 1987 and the asshole shot and almost killed me, and the next 3 or 4 years of my life were significantly affected by that event.

    Since it was only an isolated event in my life my PTSD was probably a very ‘minor’ case. ‘Minor’ when compared to haw bad it could have been, not ‘minor’ as in being easily discarded. Hell, I still occasionally get ‘flashbacks’ to that day. Remember, if a man with a gun wants your shit just give it to him. It’s not a good idea to tell him to go fuck himself and to try to take his gun away.

  15. undrgrndgirl says:

    actually the institute of medicine in “marijuana as medicine assessing the science base,” concluded that cannabis is NOT addictive…they also concluded that is is no more harmful than coffee…

  16. DdC says:

    Actually the IOM never touched a bud. They simply reiterated previous tests and studies and found them to be true. The FDA has never conducted tests either. So the information has been available to anyone seeking it. Just shows how many politicians and drug worriers pass it by for gossip. No lung damage, the only comparison was to cigarettes with hundreds of added chemicals. No comparison. Not addictive as defined. No physically debilitating withdrawal symptoms. Nothing that would place it as a schedule#1 narcotic, especially hemp. Cigarettes and Booze would fit. The reason for prohibition remains as nothing more than prison profits, rehab sales and pisstastes from plea bargains. Plus keeping all those fossil fool, booze, pharmaceutical corporatists from competition.

    The Politics of Pot (more links and quotes)

    Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, 1894
    “The commission has come to the conclusion that the moderate use of hemp drugs is practically attended by no evil results at all. … …moderate use of hemp… appears to cause no appreciable physical injury of any kind,… no injurious effects on the mind… [and] no moral injury whatever.”

    Panama Canal Zone Report, 1925
    “There is no evidence… that any deleterious influence on the individual using [cannabis]”

    LaGuardia Commission Report, 1944
    “Cannabis smoking] does not lead directly to mental or physical deterioration… Those who have consumed marijuana for a period of years showed no mental or physical deterioration which may be attributed to the drug.”

    The LaGardia sub-committee of New York 1944
    “The use of marijuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction and no effort is made to create a market for these narcotics by stimulating the practice of marijuana smoking”

    “Marijuana is not the determining factor in the commission of major crime….The publicity concerning the catastrophic effect of marijuana smoking in New York City, is unfounded”

    Dr J. H. Jaffe,
    The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics.
    L.Goodman and A Gillman, 3rd edn. 1965
    “There are no long lasting ill-effects from the acute use of marijuana and no fatalities have ever been recorded … there seems to be growing agreement within the medical community, at least, that marijuana does not directly cause criminal behaviour, juvenile delinquency, sexual excitement, or addiction.”

    “Having reviewed all the material available to us we find ourselves in agreement with the conclusion reached by the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission appointed by the Government of India (1893-94) and the New York Mayor’s Committee (1944 – LaGuardia) that the long-term consumption of cannabis in moderate doses has no harmful effects” “the long-asserted dangers of cannabis are exaggerated and that the related law is socially damaging, if not unworkable”

    The Shafer Commission’s (named after commission Chair, Gov. Raymond Shafer of Pennsylvania) 1972 report, entitled “Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding,” boldly proclaimed that “neither the marihuana user nor the drug itself can be said to constitute a danger to public safety” and recommended Congress and state legislatures decriminalize the use and casual distribution of marijuana for personal use.

    Jamaican Study 1970
    “This study indicates that there is little correlation between the use of ganga and crime, except insofar as the possession and cultivation of ganga are technically crimes”

    “… as a multipurpose plant, ganga is used medicinally, even by non-smokers. ….

    There were no indications of organic brain damage or chromosome damage among smokers and no significant clinical psychiatric, psychological or medical) differences between smokers and controls.”

    “No impairment of physiological, sensory and perceptual performance, tests of concept formation, abstracting ability, and cognitive style, and tests of memory”

    “[Cannabis smoking] does not lead directly to mental or physical deterioration…

    Those who have consumed marijuana for a period of years showed no mental or physical deterioration which may be attributed to the drug.”

    Cannabis Shrinks Tumors: Government Knew in 74
    The DEA quickly shut down the Virginia study and all further cannabis/tumor research

    The USA Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy 1987
    “Cannabis can be used on an episodic but continual basis without evidence of social or psychic dysfunction. In many users the term dependence with its obvious connotations, probably is mis-applied… The chief opposition to the drug rests on a moral and political, and not toxicologic, foundation”.

    Richard Nixon’s Vengeful War on Marijuana

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