Pubdate: Tue, 02 Oct 2012
Source: Seattle Times (WA)
Copyright: 2012 The Seattle Times Company
Authors: Robert DuPont, Andrea Barthwell
Note: Dr. Robert DuPont is a former White House drug chief and former 
director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Dr. Andrea 
Barthwell is a former deputy director for demand reduction at the 
Office of National Drug Control Policy.


Contrary to what baby boomers believe, marijuana is addictive and 
voters should reject Initiative 502 to legalize it, according to 
guest columnists Robert DuPont and Andrea Barthwell.

MANY baby boomers and their children still believe the folklore of 
the 1960s and '70s that marijuana can't be addictive, because it's 
just an herb. But several decades of research clearly show that what 
we believed 40 years ago is wrong. Marijuana addiction is common.

About 9 percent of people who smoke marijuana even once become 
addicted to it, and that figure approximately doubles when people 
begin using the drug as adolescents.

To prevent addiction from spreading, Washington voters should not 
legalize marijuana and reject Initiative 502 on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Marijuana addiction statistics are similar to the percentage of 
people who become alcoholics. Rates of marijuana dependence rise to 
20 to 30 percent when people use it at least five times, and 35 to 40 
percent for those who use marijuana daily. Marijuana dependence is 
the most common type of drug dependence in the United States, besides 
alcohol and tobacco.

As doctors who have practiced addiction medicine for decades, we're 
seeing unprecedented levels of marijuana addiction today. Treatment 
admissions for marijuana-use disorders have dramatically increased, 
accounting for 18 percent of admissions in 2010, higher than for 
heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and prescription painkillers. We 
attribute rising marijuana addiction to increases in use and the 
astounding rise in marijuana potency - more than 760 percent higher 
than in the 1960s.

The neurobiology of marijuana dependence is well understood through 
recent research. But the symptoms of marijuana dependence are the 
most convincing evidence. The main indicators of dependence are 
withdrawal symptoms, unsuccessful attempts to control use, increased 
tolerance and using larger amounts of the drug or for a longer time 
than intended. All of these have been measured in people with 
marijuana dependence. Laboratory studies of brain responses reveal 
neurochemical changes from marijuana withdrawal similar to other 
dependence-producing drugs.

Upon abstinence, daily marijuana smokers experience withdrawal 
symptoms including anxiety, depression, irritability, restlessness, 
sleep difficulty, strange dreams, anger and aggression - the same 
symptoms experienced when people stop using heroin and cocaine.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine recently issued a white 
paper outlining our position against marijuana legalization. Our 
principal objection is that legalization will increase the disease of 
addiction. We must oppose a massive social experiment that would 
increase the disease we strive each day to reduce.

A RAND Corporation study of California's 2010 legalization ballot 
measure found that marijuana use would substantially increase.

Legalization proponents say that addiction and other health problems 
from legal marijuana could be addressed through heavy taxation to pay 
for prevention and treatment and regulation to keep it away from 
kids. That hasn't worked with our two legal drugs - alcohol and 
tobacco - because their powerful industries kill attempts at taxation 
and regulation.

Commercial marijuana would quickly become a highly profitable 
industry. What powerful industry in this country simply allows itself 
to be heavily taxed and regulated?

We often hear legalization proponents argue that alcohol and tobacco 
cause more addiction and other health problems than marijuana. This 
is a curious rationale for legalization. If an illegal drug is not 
causing as many health problems as legal drugs, we should not 
legalize it so it can cause more health problems. Instead, we should 
try to reduce the use of all drugs and the health problems they cause.

Addiction isn't the only health problem caused by marijuana use. 
Recent research also shows that marijuana use is linked to dangerous 
drugged driving; neurocognitive damage, particularly in young people; 
and increased rates of anxiety, depression and schizophrenia. 
Marijuana smoke contains more carcinogens than tobacco.

We know it's hard to admit when we're wrong, but many baby boomers 
got marijuana wrong, and they've passed their denial of marijuana's 
dangers on to their children.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom