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We Need to Get the Facts Right on Cannabis Addiction

  1. RoboCodeine7610
    In 2013, Professor Wayne Hall presented a paper at an International Cannabis Policy Symposium hosted by the New Zealand Drug Foundation in Auckland. It was a review into 20 years of existing research into cannabis titled "What has research over the past two decades revealed about the adverse health effects of recreational cannabis use?".

    So far, so uncontroversial.

    But then the paper was published online in late 2014, and all of a sudden newspapers ran with alarmist headlines saying that cannabis "makes you stupid" and is "as addictive as heroin." These headlines, though, are simply not supported by the scientific evidence.

    So what did the paper actually say? Among other things, it found that cannabis use may be harmful to health, and that the risk of developing dependence among those who have used cannabis across their lifetimes was slightly less than 10 per cent. The risk is lower among people who had used it for only one year and those who had used cannabis for ten years, with a two per cent and six per cent chance of developing dependence respectively.

    But without context, these statistics mean little to most people. More problematically, only citing the addiction rate of cannabis without presenting the rates for other drugs is arguably a case of "cherry-picking the statistics for a purpose."

    The evidence is clear. People who try cannabis are significantly less likely to become dependent than users of just about any other drug: the risk of dependence after a lifetime of use is 67.5 per cent for nicotine, 23.1 per cent for heroin, 20.9 per cent for cocaine, and 22.7 per cent for alcohol.

    Instead of implying that cannabis and heroin dependence are equivalent, we should conceive of the use of drugs as being on a spectrum ranging from non-problematic to problematic use. The fact that the majority of cannabis use isn't harmful has significant implications for our cannabis policies.

    But realizing that a majority of people do not come to harm by their own non-problematic cannabis use does not downplay the seriousness of problematic cannabis use.

    This is particularly true for young people -- one in six adolescent users risk developing a dependence to cannabis. The New Zealand Drug Foundation has seen these problems first-hand and in response set up an innovative online self-help website, PotHelp. It acts as a tool for users who have had enough with their use and want to cut down or quit.

    Based on a foundation of video testimony from everyday New Zealanders, a key aim of PotHelp is to assist visitors to acknowledge that change is possible. Providing online support for people with a drug dependency issue is showing early signs of being a valuable addition to treatment provision in New Zealand.

    However, for all the harm that can come from cannabis use, even more can come from its criminalization. Many of the stories featured on PotHelp identify the criminal nature of people's addiction and the associated stigma as a reason that they failed to seek help sooner.

    Under the current strict prohibition framework, the 90 per cent of people who don't develop cannabis dependency are unnecessarily harmed and the remaining 10 per cent are treated as criminals when in fact they should be treated by health professionals. Our approach needs to shift from being predominantly criminal justice based towards a health and social focus.

    International Centre for Science in Drug Policy


  1. DocToxin8
    Great post.

    When I was 13 the "anti-drug movement" told me cannabis would cause brain damage, psychosis,
    reduced testosterone production (one argument I swallowed and led me to avoid cannabis even while using amphetamine until I was 15), and a number of other straight out lies or half-lies.

    Then when I started smoking I realized it wasn't at all Dangerous, and didn't believe it was possible to get addicted to cannabis.

    Now I realize some do actually get addicted in a way, and many more (like myself) can use it so much
    it will fuck up studies. That's the real danger of cannabis in my mind, using it so much you drop out of School. Working and cannabis mixes much better than studying and cannabis.

    The problem now is that much of the focus on cannabis is its so called ability to cause psychosis,
    which is so rare it should merely be mentioned as a side note.
    Rather, cannabis (when using every day) and School / University is where focus should be IMO.

    And the fact that its illegal in Norway adds to the problem,
    cause even though you just get a fine of 3-5000kr for using,
    you also get stamped as a drug user.
    This takes away several opportunities for at least 5 years:
    -You wont get the approval needed for jobs that require a police sertificate.
    -You can lose your job if working as a doctor, teacher, nurse, etc.
    -Child welfare may interfere

    So the ramifications of smoking can be pretty harsh in some instances.

    And the real dangers of cannabis (in itself) isn't focused on.
  2. detoxin momma
    cherry picking indeed.and it would be nice to not feel like a damn criminal!

    as someone whos used marijuana consistently for roughly 17 years,and cant seem to completely cut ties,i do believe marijuana is under estimated in addiction potential.

    and as someone whos beat heroin completely,i to understand why they get compared.
    theres been times,after smoking too much potent weed,i get a nod like effect similar to a heroin high.

    also,i understand the thought process that comes into play when trying to stop using marijuana.

    i'll try to put into words the thought process that happens to me:
    with heroin,the withdrawals were rough,only physical though.because I knew life couldn't go on normally on heroin.for my lifestyle anyway.
    so there was no psychological addiction,never did I talk myself using heroin,because there are no positives.

    with marijuana,complete opposite.as soon as withdrawals kick in,i talk myself into using everytime.
    no one dies from marijuana.
    I can still be a good parent.
    still keep a normal functioning life.
    we see it everywhere,marijuana tends to be glorified.
    and of course theres the whole,medicinal purposes aspect to.
    legalization happening more everyday.

    so its hard,damn near impossible for me to quit.

    anyways,just got a little diarrhea of the mouth from reading this article.
    good read robo.
  3. RoboCodeine7610
    Well that last part about reducing testosterone I do believe is true, however, weather the reduction is significant I cannot say. Cannabis is relatively safe compared to pretty much every other drug out there, but it's not safe period. It does have negative consequences, and it's safety is often offset by overuse, due in great part to it's perceived safety.

    This also seems to be my problem. There's no 'bottom' to fall to, other than spending too much money on weed. There's no wake-up call no matter how long you use it for, just a haze that persists through days, months, and years that you never really wake up from, because you're never clean for long enough periods of time for the drug to leave your system.

    What I do find, however, is that in due time, at least in my case, tolerance causes you to lose interest. Still, a habit is a very powerful thing, and is very hard to get rid of even when the rewarding effects are no longer there. I would imagine this would be much more difficult if one had access to high quality product such as what is found in states with medical or recreational marijuana.

  4. DocToxin8
    Reduced testosterone output has been found during acute cannabis intoxication in some studies,
    but chronic users doesn't have lowered testosterone levels in most studies i've seen.

    This abstract from a small pilot study kinda supports the notion I have from most studies on this:

    Plasma testosterone, FSH, and LH levels were obtained from 25 healthy consecutive heterosexual male marijuana smoking university students. All values were within the range of normal and the means did not differ significantly from those of 13 normal controls. These data suggest that the casual marijuana smoker (at least one time weekly with an average of 5.1 joints per week) may have plasma testosterone levels which are normal for the time of day and the laboratory.

    When it comes to the addictive nature of cannabis I do believe the fact that you never get into any other problems than 1) being broke and 2) procastinating, especially studying, which can have serious
    consequences long term, but rarely does it infuence the ability to work a job.
    As stated, this means you never get any wake up call,
    not in the way you do with amphetamine f.ex.
    As such, just like tobacco, the need to quit rarely reaches a point where the motivation to quit exceeds
    the satisfaction of being high.
    Actually, I would say tobacco might for many be easier to quit than cannabis,
    as the "high" you get is smaller. But then again, tobacco has even lower incidence of causing "problems",
    untill long term effects may appear like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease/COPD,
    or short term effects of smoking a lot of tobacco (if you are an active person) -feeling out of breath & generally like shit.

    For others again tobacco is clearly more difficult to quit,
    some react with a quite severe withdrawal syndrome (although the majority will say it "wasn't VERY difficult" to quit, after quitting),
    and for most, the need to quit doesn't outweigh the pleasure of a smoke now and then.
    In Norway, the the trend the latest years have been an increase in oral tobacco use,
    and most people who start using tobacco (Young users) tend to start with oral tobacco, not cigarettes,
    and a lot of smokes (older users) switch to oral tobacco.
    Aside from oral tobacco Products e-cigs have also taken over much of the traditional cigarette market,
    something most doctors in Norway deem much safer, and even going so far as calling it a Health revolution.

    With cannabis I think a trend towards the same could help long term Health;
    -switching to vaping (if a cheap and effective way of doing this becomes widely available)
    -oral use (if more culture around this appears, as well as recipes/techniques which make the onset and peak effects happen quickly)
    And apart from this:
    -decriminalizing growing for Your own use; while much of the cannabis is very strong,
    it is bred to contain high levels of THC, not necessarily the best Balance between the different active compounds; with home grown cannabis People that want other aspects than just a high THC content could achieve this. (Provided the ordering of seeds from pharmaceutical strains is possible & legal.
    Aside from this much/some cannabis (mostly hash) is smuggled in gasoline tanks or in other ways which may lead to Dangerous contamintants.

    Just my thoughts.
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