EVERETT — When he was 15, Robert McCullough knew he was addicted to marijuana. (People become addicted to all sorts of pleasurable behaviors including video games, TV, eating, sex, chocolate.)
As a high school student in the 1970s, he skipped class to smoke (Many kids skip school simply because they don’t like it, as I did, and never needed pot as an excuse.), stole money from his parents to support his habit (Kids steal money to pay for gas for their car, go to the movies, buy beer or video games and any number of things), and scraped his pipe for resin when he didn’t have pot to get high. (Ever hear of people looking for old cigarette butts to smoke when they run out? I knew a guy who scavenged for them outside off the ground!)
Today, McCullough, 43, still considers himself an addict. He attends weekly meetings and recognizes if it weren’t for treatment, he would have never gotten clean. (OK, they found an admitted pot addict. For him, how many alcoholics are there?? No, two wrongs don’t make a right. I agree. However, how well did alcohol Prohibition “work” to make the USA safe? I didn’t.)
“I will always be an addict,” said McCullough, now clinical manager at Evergreen Manor, a treatment facility in Everett. “It is something I will have to acknowledge my whole life.” (For McCullough, I’m happy he’s found a healthier way to live. Many should follow a similar course of action if pot becomes their whole life. However, there are people ruining their lives daily through gambling, but this is rarely in the news. Most people, however, can go play a few games and are fine. There will always be a risk for addiction to certain behaviors, but we do not need to make laws tailored to the lowest common denominator! Especially when it can land people in prison (in the USA) for as long as murders! Even without harm to another person.)
In the aftermath (Aftermath? Sound like ground zero after 9/11. Isn’t this a bit too dramatic?) of Washington’s legalization of marijuana, critics of the law are pointing to a rarely discussed issue: addiction. (Use science, not anecdotal stories…and not the purposely biased studies in the USA. Look to other nations with good scientific studies not owned by the government or other biased parties…because science needs to reflect physical reality accurately not be bias. This will enable people to make informed decisions.)
Last year, marijuana use accounted for nearly half of youth admissions to treatment facilities in Washington state, according to data released in October from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. More than 4,200 young people were treated in the state for marijuana use, more than any other drug. (The reason is simple. Marijuana metabolites remain in the body for about 30 days, making it the easiest illegal drug to discover in a person. If they’re using cocaine, all traces are gone in a few days. The other reason is that those caught by the law are mandated to go to treatment often to receive reduced punishment. It’s a self-perpetuating monster that sucks money from people increasing the ludicrous prison population in for-profit prisons basically. We must learn to think if we wish to be free America! And I don’t mean free to smoke pot, I mean Free in the most basic way. High rates of Substance Abuse treatment does not imply all the causes for treatment. One would casually assume it’s because people have an addiction to cannabis. Not so simple! Could it be anything else? Yes, they are caught using a plant and the laws funnel them into these government programs that support the state as hidden taxes and support mental health and other health professionals jobs.)
“People are failing to notice that youth use rates are high, availability of marijuana has increased and the perception of harm associated with the drug has dropped,” (I haven’t seen the data, but this may be true. How much has it increased?) said Dr. Sharon Levy, director of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on substance abuse. “These factors have been shown to cause large increases in not only use, but daily use.” (Without the science, how can we know the true impact? In countries like Spain, legalization didn’t not lead to a ruined youth. Eventually, numbers tapered down as it was not longer the “forbidden fruit.” Also, in Germany where children can drink beer much younger they do not have the same problems with binge drinking seen in the USA. Could it be that kids seek out what they are told not to do?)
Washington’s law allows adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, but drug counselors worry that increased availability will also lead to more underage use. Individuals who start using marijuana at a young age are more likely to become dependent on the drug, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. (Are there any data outside the USA on that? Again, the data here on cannabis use has been owned by the government and their agenda driven by corporations and other interests. We need real science here.)
“It’s frightening. We’re seeing that the average age of first use has dropped and that more and more kids are using daily,” said Levy, who is also an assistant professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “I think we’re really setting ourselves up for some big problems.” (The sky is falling! The sky is falling! How about the availability of far more dangerous pharmaceutical drugs that are regularly stolen from mom’s purse? There are more deaths caused by legal drugs every year than all illegal drug use. So far, no deaths have been caused by cannabis alone… Where’s your data doctor?)
Kevin Oliver, executive director of Washington’s National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), acknowledged that marijuana dependence can occur if the drug is abused but believes the substance is not addictive enough to pose a significant threat.
“I know users that have no problem consuming cannabis responsibly,” Oliver said. “I smoke pot on a regular basis, but I don’t let the desire to get high control my life or my actions.” (Some could dismiss his statements by saying he’s obviously a drug fiend, but don’t these arguments start sounding like religious debates? Again, where’s the data!!?? We could speculate all day. Since humans have evolved with the cannabis plant, and been shown to use it’s flower thousands of years ago, it’s would be hard to believe all of humanity will collapse from the return of its use in human medicine and culture.)
In Snohomish County, more people seek treatment for marijuana addiction than they do for methamphetamine abuse, said Linda Grant, chief executive of Evergreen Manor in Everett. (This could be seen as a GOOD THING! How many compared to other counties would be useful data. If pot keeps people off meth, that is a good thing.)
“I do not think the public is aware of the extent to which marijuana impacts everyday activities,” Grant said. “Many patients who come to us arrive for driving under the influence. Other patients arrive knowing they have a problem.” (Again, it’s law enforcement dragging them in. Most don’t just show up and say, “Hey man! I need help not smoking pot!”)
Regardless of the perception of marijuana addiction, treatment statistics are showing growth in marijuana-related problems. In just one month, outpatient admissions for marijuana treatment among Washington state youth increased by 23 percent, growing by 41 new patients from August to September, according to data taken from the Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse.
(Again, this is driven by drug laws. Rudimentary thinking skills could ferret out the logical errors here. For example: If you make having blonde hair a crime, you’ll see a huge increase in people going to prison with blonde hair!! So obviously they are lawbreaking, evil people!)
Deb Schnellman, spokeswoman for Washington’s Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery, said she expects to see an increase in the use of marijuana after its legalization. (Really?? I wonder if more people started drinking when Prohibition ended? If they lifted the ban on eating marine mammals, wouldn’t one also expect an increase of eating marine mammals? Since people had to smoke weed privately for fear of the law, how will we really know?)
“Research shows that when the availability of a substance increases, use goes up as well,” Schnellman said. (Goodie! Research! Any citation for those articles?)
“The young, developing brain is especially vulnerable to substance use,” Schnellman said. “This is why youth are at an increased risk for problems related to drug use.” (Agreed. It is also more susceptible to cell phone usage, pharmaceutical drugs that are NOT tested on children but regularly prescribed! How many kids are amped up on Ritalin and Prozac?)
Levy said tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, can be addictive. (Proof please. So is nicotine in cigarettes, and it is deadly.)
THC is stored in the user’s fat tissue and can linger in the body, so withdrawal symptoms may not be immediately observable. (So…they’re there, you just can’t see them…hmmm…like the Boogieman? Surly they can find a way to prove this with science. I agree there are withdrawal symptoms. There are also horrible ones for Ritalin, Prozac, alcohol, nicotine and a failed relationship! Many elderly people die shortly after their spouse dies. Life if fraught with danger!)
“Because marijuana dependence looks different than heroin dependence or cocaine dependence (Again, comparing cannabis to drugs that are serious and hard. Why not mention the horrible headaches you’ll get for quitting your 4-cup-a-day Starbucks habit?), people may be confused into thinking there is no such thing,” Levy said.
McCullough recalls sleepless nights filled with discomfort and irritability when he was not able to use the drug. McCullough said he was in a haze while using. (Yep, this is common for the pothead. If only it were so easy to get off Prozac or Paxil… Like any substance, there’s nothing like knowing your limit and your happy medium. Having a glass of wine for dinner is easy for some, but others can’t stop until the bottle is empty and they’ve blacked out.)
“I didn’t think I had a problem because of the effect of the drug,” McCullough said. “My ability to rationalize was affected, my whole scope of life was different, I couldn’t assess if I was out of control, and I was.” (OK, we got it! McCullough abused pot. So we are supposed to assume that everyone else will too? Sounds like his ability to reason, not ‘rationalize’, was a little off before using cannabis.)
Oliver said he experienced some sleeplessness and irritability when he had to stop consuming marijuana in the past but said it was “no big deal” and didn’t “affect his ability to function.” (These are common symptoms. People quitting coffee will feel a “re-calibrating” of their receptor sites and general physiology as well. What is needed is accurate information regarding these substances and moderation. Similarly, if a person isn’t coordinated enough to handle a knife, it may be wise not to give him one. Still no reason to outlaw knives for all people. Most people know they are dangerous and use caution. MANY DON’T unfortunately…)
“There is still a social stigma attached to using marijuana that creates a negative view of cannabis being harmful and dangerous,” Oliver said. “You can be addicted to anything that causes mental euphoria, sex, gambling, even caffeine. It just depends on the person involved, and if they’re in-control or not.” (True. My non-medical advice is become as informed as you can about cannabis if you’re considering using it. Speak with experienced users that have a life outside of pot. Speak to those who’ve become true potheads. Speak to doctors. Read scientific articles from more than the USA, but from countries doing reputable studies. Finally, ask your loved ones and employer. You don’t want to be doing brain surgery high on weed, but neither do you want to have just finished off a six-pack of Budweiser! If people around you become concerned about your behavior, listen. If you’re surrounded by a drug culture, don’t give in to peer pressure. Ultimately, drugs are not the answer to your problems. If you use cannabis recreationally, medicinally or spiritually in moderation it is unlikely you’ll have any serious problems. If you’re doing it to avoid life, you already have some problems to work on! Pot may make you feel better, but will not likely solve anything. Likely, it will delay any solutions especially for kids going through brain/body development. Speak with your doctor if you are using any other drugs, herbs, medicines, prescriptions. THEY CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Most doctors will not know because they have not been trained on the topic of marijuana use. Still, seek out the most qualified medical professional you can find. If you find yourself using cannabis it daily, multiple times a day, I’d suggest speaking with a counselor and doctor–even for medicinal use. When we are addicted to a behavior, we aren’t usually the best judge of our own behavior. I draw my advice from personal experience working as a psychotherapist. So, this is not medical advice! Talk to your qualified health professional!)
The Murrow News Service provides stories written by journalism students at the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University.