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  1. #1

    Drug-addiction research warns against decriminalizing pot

    Top U.S. drug-addiction research warns against decriminalizing marijuana
    STEVE MERTL
    December 7, 2004 - 17:51

    VANCOUVER (CP) - A top American clinical researcher in the field of drug addiction warned Tuesday that decriminalizing marijuana could lead to increased abuse of the drug.
    Studies show wider availability of a drug coupled with a relaxed attitude towards it help predict the level of use and addiction, said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Volkow said surveys indicate that if a drug is considered safe and benign, its use spirals. Drug addiction rates can range from 20 to 30 per cent of users.

    "The notion of legalizing and making drugs accessible, what it will do is ultimately increase the number of people that get exposed to the drug," Volkow said in an interview.
    "Some of those people will become addicted that may have not become addicted had it not been so easily accessible."

    The best examples, she said, are alcohol and tobacco, both widely available and relatively acceptable socially and with the most widespread addiction rates.

    The federal Liberal government is mulling the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of pot. The Canadian proposal is drawing frowns within the U.S. government - notably drug-policy czar John Walters - accompanied by warnings about implications at the border.

    Volkow, here to speak to people working in the drug-addiction field, said many scientists used to believe marijuana was not addictive.

    But she said the pot consumed by the Baby Boom generation had much less of the active ingredient THC - which interacts with receptor proteins in the brain that translate pleasure responses - than the types now available.

    "It is this chemical that can lead to the addiction," she said. "When people were taking marijuana in the past, they were consuming a very weak drug.

    "The experiences that people may have had - that are now in their 40s and 50s - who say 'I never became addicted to that drug,' that does not necessarily pertain to the type of compound we're seeing today."

    Research since then has also revealed a lot more about the effects of marijuana on those brain receptors and how they help regulate things such as memory and learning, she said.
    Volkow was appointed in 2003 to head the institute, an arm of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

    With a budget of more than $900 million US, it is the world's largest supporter of clinical research on addiction and funds about 85 per cent of studies worldwide.

    A research psychiatrist, Volkow, 48, has published more than 200 papers and specializes in the study of brain imaging to investigate what role dopamine, the brain chemical that triggers sensations of pleasure and motivation, plays in addiction.

    Volkow's skepticism about marijuana is based partly on her experience.

    She made her reputation in the 1980s with a ground-breaking study that discovered regular cocaine use caused tiny strokes. Coke was the drug of choice in the go-go '80s, popularly thought to be safe for recreational use.

    "I had serious trouble getting that study published," she said. "Nobody wanted to believe it."
    The organization Volkow now heads even rejected her grant application. It took the cocaine deaths of two prominent sports stars to alert people that maybe cocaine wasn't so safe, she said.

    Those kinds of causal links don't yet exist with pot, she said. But some studies have tied its use to a rise in psychotic episodes and schizophrenia.

    The institute is funding research to look at the effects of marijuana in the developing brain.
    Volkow told the meeting research indicates adolescent brains are at higher risk of drug addiction because areas of the frontal cortex that affect reasoning and judgment, as well as a deeper region that involves pleasure responses, are not yet fully developed.

    Environment also plays a role, she said, because studies show a connection between stress levels and addiction. Poverty itself is not the cause, said Volkow, but the stress of dealing with poverty is.

    Despite her concerns about decriminalization, Volkow said drug addiction has to be treated as a disease, not a moral weakness to be stigmatized.

    "It doesn't help anyone and it certainly doesn't help the addicted person," she said.
    With a lot of criminal activity linked to drug addiction, Volkow said the institute favours treatment intervention in prisons.

    A Delaware study found a sharp drop in drug use and arrests among people who went through the correctional system's program and received followup care.
    Such programs could be pivotal because in the United States, only about 15 per cent of addicts get any kind of treatment, she said.

    Volkow, who had a history of alcohol abuse in her family, was interested in addiction from an early age but never went further than experimenting with cigarettes.

    "My French teacher was a smoker and she was very glamourous and I wanted to be like her," she said. "I tried it and I hated it."

    Volkow is the great-granddaughter of Leon Trotsky. She was born in the Mexico City house where the legendary Bolshevik leader, forced into exile by Stalin, was murdered with an ice axe by a Russian agent in 1940.

    Article Source http://www.macleans.ca/topstories/ne...ntent=n120753A

  2. #2

    Drug-addiction research warns against decriminalizing pot

    I don't think criminalizing large numbers of our youth and increasingly large numbers of our middle-aged citizens is the way to deal with this.

    Don't forget that the US invented Prohibition -- that didn't turn out to be such a great idea. Then we got to Ronald Reagan declaring "The War on Drugs" to divert attention aaway from his disastrous economic policies.

    I do agree that we need to do a better job of getting out the word that pot is not a "natural" or "safe" drug but to criminalize pot and not alcohol or tobacco doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I'd also point out (1) that Canada isn't legalizing pot, just decriminalizing simple possession, and (2) this really isn't anything new in terms of actual policy, since the police and the courts have been treating it as "decriminalized" now for quite a while -- this is just acknowledging that.

    And for the record I am not a pot smoker nor do I advocate promoting its use. I'm just bothered by a philosophy that criminalizes otherwise prosocial youth and encourages them to see the police and the courts as a joke.

  3. #3

    Re: Drug-addiction research warns against decriminalizing po

    Quote Originally Posted by HeartArt
    Studies show wider availability of a drug coupled with a relaxed attitude towards it help predict the level of use and addiction, said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
    (http://ideas-canada.ca/medmj/canusage.htm)
    ...Studies which must not take into account Countries / States in which it has been decriminalized in the past. Eg. The Netherlands and Alaska, in which Cannabis abuse remained constant or decreased (relative to areas in which it was criminalized).
    Quote Originally Posted by HeartArt
    The best examples, she said, are alcohol and tobacco, both widely available and relatively acceptable socially and with the most widespread addiction rates.
    These are great examples. During alcohol prohibition in the United States, heavy and 'abusive' drinking increased while moderate drinking decreased.
    Quote Originally Posted by HeartArt
    The Canadian proposal is drawing frowns within the U.S. government - notably drug-policy czar John Walters - accompanied by warnings about implications at the border.
    While I don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, I'll bet the US government receives a lot more (per capita) from the Tobacco and Alcohol lobbyists than the Canadian government. The US has even gone as far as mentioning trade sanctions with regards to Canada decriminalizing cannabis. It was people who stood to gain financially from the criminalization of cannabis who published and produced all of the literature and media that resulted in both Canada and the US's decision to do so in the early 1900s. It would be a shame for the influence to be excerted again.

    Quote Originally Posted by HeartArt
    But she said the pot consumed by the Baby Boom generation had much less of the active ingredient THC - which interacts with receptor proteins in the brain that translate pleasure responses - than the types now available.
    (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/st...247650,00.html)
    This is a commonly repeated myth which sprung from studies comparing the THC content of marijuana confiscated by police today, and marijuana confiscated by police in the 60s. It failed to take into account the storage of the older marijuana at room temperature for 40 years, which would have lead to the current difference.

    I think the greatest arguments for the legalization of cannabis have nothing to do with it's physical or psychological repercussions (sorry :)). Instead, it is the current method of distribution that causes the two worst side effects of widespread cannabis use.

    First, the vast amounts of money made by criminal organizations through it's growth, import and sale. This is later spent on far more serious crimes such as the trafficing of weapons and slaves.

    Second, the fact that marijuana is currently being sold by the same people who sell most other illegal drugs leads to, ironically, one of the most repeated arguments against decriminalization: that marijuana is a gateway drug. It is a gateway drug, but only because it is criminalized. Illegal marijuana brings young people into contact with people pushing other drugs. Furthermore, by having an illegal drug that is relatively harmless (compared to other legal and illegal drugs), it fosters the belief that all illegal drugs must be equally harmless.

  4. #4

    Drug-addiction research warns against decriminalizing pot

    My issues...

    1) Pot really isn't addictive. Period. You don't physically withdraw from it. And I would know. :-/

    2) Alcohol is more addictive and dangerous for your health (especially if used in large doses) than pot, yet nothing is ever said about it. It's legal and no one cares.

  5. Drug-addiction research warns against decriminalizing pot

    I believe every drug should be completely legal. People should be entitled to decide wether or not they put any substance into their own body without being persecuted. If we're going to pretend to be free, we should do it right.

    And as other drug advocators have countlessly said before my barely there revolution speech...people are going to do drugs wether they are legal, or not. So, it would seem to make sense that if the Government wanted to protect these people, they wouldn't leave the job up to organized crime, who add various imhpurities that could harm the user, but rather do it themselves, safely and at the expense of all those thugs with dollar signs in their eyes.

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