By

Neal Smith

03-24-2011

 

What is an addiction? www.dictionary.com defines addiction as:

the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

 

“…its cessation causes severe trauma” is a rather important phrase when talking about Marijuana. Now taking a look at the medical dictionary offered online through the National Institute of Health (NIH):

Compulsive physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be physically, psychologically, or socially harmful—compare habituation

Habituation is a word we don’t see used much anymore, perhaps a laziness on the part of some researchers, perhaps a deliberate obfuscation of definitions to reinforce negatives about Marijuana use.

1 : the act or process of making habitual or accustomed
2 a : tolerance to the effects of a drug acquired through continued use b : psychological dependence on a drug after a period of use—compare addiction
3 : a form of nonassociative learning characterized by a decrease in responsiveness upon repeated exposure to a stimulus

http://www.merriam-webster.com/medlineplus/addiction Apparently NIH contracts through Merriam-Webster, a recognized and accepted dictionary.

Philosophically, most human activities can be habituative…some habits are good, some are bad. But there is a difference between “Addiction” and “Habituation.”

An industry has grown up to combat Marijuana “Addiction.” They’ll tell you all day long how Marijuana is physically addictive. But the truth is, It just doesn’t meet the criteria for addiction.

A 2009 study out of Germany shows that any “Withdrawal” symptoms peak on the first day of abstinence and symptoms from “dependent” subjects are relatively mild, short-lived, and “may only be expected in a subgroup of … patients,” Further:

“Most symptoms ranged on average between low to moderate intensity. The most frequently mentioned physical symptoms of strong or very strong intensity on the first day were sleeping problems (21 percent), sweating (28 percent), hot flashes (21 percent), and decreased appetite (15 percent). … Other often highly rated psychological symptoms included restlessness (20 percent), nervousness (20 percent), and sadness (19 percent).”

The abstract from this study can be found at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19783382 Fewer than 50% of the test subjects reported any kind of withdrawal symptoms at all. That would indicate there might be other factors involved with those who reported withdrawal symptoms that weren’t controlled for.

The 1999 Institute of Medicine study showed that withdrawal from Cannabis is usually easier than withdrawal from caffeine. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=6376&page=83 denotes a lot of the tests conducted to back the findings.

Supporters of the notion that Marijuana is addictive like to point to the number of “Treatments” that are given to pot smokers.  What they don’t like to tell you is that a majority of people who check into “Treatment” programs are there only because they were court-ordered to go rather than go to jail. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA),  In 2010, Indiana had 3,852 treatment admissions for Marijuana, the most of any category, out of a total of 18,390 for all drugs and alcohol. Nationwide in 2008, the latest available, 346,679 went to treatment for Marijuana, out of a total of 2,016,256. Most of those referred to treatment for Marijuana came from the Criminal Justice system, as an alternative to jail time:

  • The criminal justice system was the principal source of referral in SAMHSA’s Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) for substance abuse treatment admissions reporting marijuana as their primary substance of abuse. The proportion of criminal justice referred treatment admissions increased from 48% of all marijuana admissions in 1992 to 58% of all marijuana admissions in 2002.
  • Specific criminal justice venues and programs referring clients to substance abuse treatment include State and Federal courts, other courts, probation programs, other recognized legal entities (e.g., local law enforcement, corrections, or youth agencies), diversionary programs (e.g., Treatment Accountability for Safer Communities [TASC]), prisons, and “driving under the influence/driving while intoxicated (DUI/DWI) programs.
  • Marijuana treatment admissions referred by the criminal justice system were more likely than marijuana admissions referred by all other sources to be admitted to ambulatory (outpatient) treatment services (86% vs. 79%) and less likely to be admitted to residential/rehabilitation (13% vs. 16%) or detoxification services (1% vs. 4%).

You can see this and other information at: http://www.oas.samhsa.gov/2k5/MJreferrals/MJreferrals.cfm

Marijuana does not meet the criteria to be a physically addictive substance. For government to force “Treatment” for a substance not known to cause severe withdrawal, with no practical overdose potential and no connection to causing violent or anti-social behavior is unnecessary and capricious.

And who gets to pay a big chunk of this forced “Treatment?”

Government programs will pay for the treatment of 62% of admissions where marijuana is the primary substance of abuse, and 60% of the admissions referred by the criminal justice system. In thousands of cases, taxpayers appear to be funding treatment for non-addicts whose only problem is that they got caught with marijuana.

This from Dr. Jon Gettman through http://www.drugscience.org/Archive/bcr5/bcr5_index.html

According to a study published in Addiction magazine, researchers French, et al, determined:

 

The average economic costs of the five types of outpatient treatments ranged from $837 to $3334 per episode, and varied by both direct factors (e.g. hours of treatment, treatment retention) and indirect factors (e.g. cost of living, staff level, case-load variation).

This and more information on this study is available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1360-0443.97.s01.4.x/full

So let’s do a little math. If you’re in outpatient treatment for six hours a week at $837 per hour, that’s $5,022 per week. Assuming 30 days of treatment or 24 hours, that’s $20,088 for that month, per person. If there are 346,679 treatment cases total, and taxpayers pay for 60% of the cases, that’s 208,007 cases we’re paying for at a cost of  Four Billion, 178 Million, 452 Thousand and 615 Hundred dollars EVERY MONTH, and 50 Billion, 141 Million, 431 Thousand 814. That’s over 50  Billion dollars a year taxpayers have to pay to “Treat” people who don’t have a problem. Of admissions to these “Treatment” programs, 37% haven’t used Marijuana in the previous 30 days, (2007 figures) and another 16% had used Marijuana three or fewer times in the previous month. http://oas.samhsa.gov/TEDS2k7highlights/TEDSHighl2k7Tbl3.htm gives you that data.

Over 50 Billion dollars spent on “Treatment” of a non-existent problem every year at least! It would make more sense to tax and regulate Marijuana like alcohol. On a nationwide basis, estimates are taxing and regulating would bring in 14.1 Billion dollars, at least, every year. Which makes more sense to you?