Originally posted September 20, 2015
One of the longest standing myths about marijuana, that still continues to find its way into political debate, is the claim that the substance is highly addictive; thus explaining the Schedule I placement, or so the government would have the public believe. This is the most frequently cited perceived harm associated with marijuana today.
Can marijuana be addictive, yes, but in order to understand addiction in relation to marijuana, one must first have an understanding of the psychology behind addiction in the first place.
“People can have sex without being addicted to it, they can go shopping, but some people become seriously addicted to all these pursuits. Is a pack of cards addictive? Well no or yes depending on the individual. So it’s the same process no matter what the addiction. The only difference really is whether the substance addict is getting his dopamine from an outside substance or the behavior addict is having it triggered by outside behavior. The person that occasionally smokes marijuana, but generally has no negative consequences, it does not impair their health, it does not endanger their lives, it does not impair their personal relationship, you can’t call these people addicts and you can’t call those behaviors addictive.” – Dr. Gabor Maté, Addiction Specialist, “The Culture High”
Marijuana can be addictive in the way that anything or any action can become an addiction, and that is psychologically. There have been some recent studies that show even that type of addiction is relatively rare, having a rate of only 9% of users who regularly use cannabis. This major distinction between a chemical and a psychological addiction is abused in a political fashion to manipulate the masses who do not understand the difference. One can become psychologically addicted to anything that is abused, but that does not make everything addictive, especially not enough to be added to the Controlled Substance Listing.
A chemical addiction is one that produces the widely known physical effects of withdrawal. The body adapts to the drug, requiring more of it to achieve a certain effect (tolerance) and eliciting drug-specific physical symptoms if drug use is abruptly ceased. This is the form of addiction that the Controlled Substance List was created to impede. In comparison to physical addiction, psychological addiction occurs when a person does not have a physical need for a drug but rather a mental desire for it. There is a fundamental difference between the two that is widely disregarded when discussing the “addictive” properties of cannabis. In most cases one can be addicted to cannabis in the same fashion that one can be addicted to jogging. Obsession is not the same as addiction, especially when determining a possible restriction on that basis. The intention is not to diminish the very real effects of a psychological addiction, of which there are many, rather to demonstrate the game of misdirection used to maintain the placement of cannabis on a restrictive listing.
There have been recent studies that show some minor withdrawal symptoms associated with long-term, everyday cannabis consumers suggesting a very small percentage of chronic users do develop a chemical, albeit minor, addiction. These symptoms were relatively mild, elevated pulse, irritability and headaches, when compared to even the lowest level opiate (Schedule II). It is important to understand that these were the only negative withdrawal symptoms from a lifetime of cannabis use. One could hardly consider this withdrawal, being less intrusive than a caffeine addiction. An everyday, long-term opiate user would have an extreme and possibly deadly withdrawal.
To put that in perspective, cannabis is on the Schedule I Controlled Substance List, which is the home of what the government perceives to be the most highly “chemically addictive” drugs, such as heroin, LSD and mescaline. Topping the Schedule II listing is Codeine, or opiates, which are indisputably the fastest rising addiction problem in the U.S. yet they are in a lower risk category than cannabis which has the lowest recorded addiction of all the drugs in any Schedule. One in four who use heroin will become chemically addicted. One in every three who smoke cigarettes will become chemically addicted, yet tobacco, which has a higher death and addiction rate than any of the controlled substance, is freely available. Even caffeine, one of the most commonly used drugs in this country, has a higher rate of addiction and withdrawal than that of the demonized enemy number one, marijuana.
A new study suggests that one can feel serious withdrawal symptoms from abstaining from something as common place as junk food. According to a study published by Dr. Stephanie Fulton of the University of Montreal’s Faculty of Medicine a heavy consumer of fatty foods can feel symptoms like that of an addiction withdrawal, such as anxiety and depression, when beginning a diet. Based on the government’s usually broad understanding of addiction, and the logical association of the symptoms, junk food might be next in line to join the arbitrary Schedule I listing. Do not fret junk food lovers, there is far too high a profit and demand for this country’s beloved fast-food, for it to ever be restricted.
“I’ve got a friend whose aunt had to go to rehab for buying two boxes of Krispy Kreme every day and eating them in the woods so nobody found her, based on that anecdote we should make Krispy Kreme illegal, I will fight any man, by the way, that suggests that.” – Rufus Hound – Comedian/Actor
There are a multitude of reasons one can become psychologically addicted to a substance or an action, yet one can not definitively label these as addictive or dangerous for the majority. Especially in the case of cannabis which contains so many valuable uses and byproducts. Cannabis can certainly have adverse effects on a person choosing to use the substance in excess, especially as a child with a developing brain, however all the facts make it quite obviously mis-represented in the current Schedule I listing. Is it potentially harmful in excessive circumstances? Like most things, absolutely. Is it highly addictive, definitively not.
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Myth #1 – Marijuana is More Harmful Than Alcohol, Tobacco and Prescription Drugs
Myth #2 – Marijuana is Addictive
Myth #3 – Marijuana Causes Schizophrenia
Myth #4 – Marijuana Has no Proven Medical Benefits
Myth #5 – Marijuana Use Leads to Harder Drugs – “Gateway Theory”
Myth #6 – Marijuana Causes Memory Loss and a General Reduction in Logic
Myth #7 – Marijuana Contains Over 400 Chemicals
Myth #8 – Marijuana Has Yet to be Subjected to Adequate Scientific Study
Myth #9 – The Marijuana Movement is Just an Excuse for People to get High
Myth #10 – Opposition to Marijuana Legalization is Driven Entirely by Cautious Prudence
Sources: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1360-0443/issues,http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-12/uom-cey121112.php,http://www.theculturehigh.com/, http://www.clarityway.com/blog/physical-psychological-addiction/, http://drgabormate.com/topic/addiction/,http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/addictive_properties#sthash.izh9aq0j.dpbs