Pubdate: Thu, 25 Aug 2016
Source: Reno News & Review (NV)
Column: Upfront
Copyright: 2016, Chico Community Publishing, Inc.
Author: Dennis Myers


The Las Vegas Review-Journal recently editorialized, "And no matter 
how much pot enthusiasts argue otherwise, marijuana is both 
addictive-one in 10 people who try pot will become hooked on it-and a 
gateway to more deadly drugs that kill more than 45,000 Americans a 
year." We dealt with the gateway theory in our July 21 edition, 
noting that marijuana functions as a barrier to more deadly drugs. We 
turn now to addiction.

The RJ does not cite any evidence for addiction-nor does it emphasize 
that only one in 10 people-fewer, actually-are addicted to marijuana, 
nor does it mention that it is a mild addiction, akin to coffee. Nor 
does it explain why a major public policy choice should be keyed to a 
tiny slice of the population. Perhaps "And no matter how much pot 
enthusiasts argue otherwise" means that the newspaper believes that 
whoever repeats its viewpoint loudest and longest wins and avoids the 
necessity of supplying evidence. Here, however, we believe in science.

In 1994, leading pharmacologists Dr. Jack Henningfield of the 
National Institute on Drug Abuse and Dr. Neal Benowitz of the 
University of California at San Francisco made separate assessments 
of the addictive qualities of various substances. Their independent 
findings were similar. Among six substances-alcohol, caffeine, 
cocaine, heroin, marijuana and nicotine, the level of dependence of 
marijuana was ranked sixth and last by both. Alcohol and caffeine 
were both listed ahead of marijuana for dependence. There was less 
agreement on reinforcement and withdrawal, but both listed marijuana 
and caffeine either fifth or sixth in both categories. We await the 
RJ's call for prohibition of tea, cola, chocolate and coffee.

That same year, there was another study that has relevance here. 
According to Scientific American, "in a large-scale survey published 
in 1994 epidemiologist James Anthony, then at the National Institute 
on Drug Abuse, and his colleagues asked more than 8,000 people 
between the ages of 15 and 64 about their use of marijuana and other 
drugs. The researchers found that of those who had tried marijuana at 
least once, about 9 percent eventually fit a diagnosis of cannabis 
dependence. The corresponding figure for alcohol was 15 percent; for 
cocaine, 17 percent; for heroin, 23 percent; and for nicotine, 32 
percent. So although marijuana may be addictive for some, 91 percent 
of those who try it do not get hooked. Further, marijuana is less 
addictive than many other legal and illegal drugs."

The first Bush administration, which in 1989 set off a national 
anti-drug hysteria, reported to Congress in 1991, "Given the large 
population of marijuana users and the infrequent reports of medical 
problems from stopping use, tolerance and dependence are not major 
issues at present."

Finally, has government prohibition been a success at discouraging 
use? What is more effective at dealing with addiction of any kind: 
health care or prohibition which creates the allure of the forbidden 
and incentivizes black markets?

Incidentally, underneath the Review-Journal editorial on its website 
we spotted an advertisement for "The most addictive game of the year! 
. Forge of Empires." Let's outlaw it.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom