Like almost all ballot measures and new laws, Proposition 19, California’s marijuana legalization initiative, includes many one-sided arguments and conjecture to support proponents’ way of thinking. But the proposed language for a new law, should Prop. 19 pass, also contains these words: “Cannabis is not physically addictive.”
That’s not a one-sided argument or conjecture. It’s just plain untrue. Anybody familiar with the basic criteria for substance dependence knows it, and anybody with access to the basic text for mental health diagnosis can find it out for sure. When Californians or anybody else considers the arguments about marijuana legalization, they should learn the medical science about the drug’s addictiveness.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition of the American Psychiatric Association, also known as the DSM-IV, is the standard criteria for doctors making clinical diagnoses. The DSM-IV says that the criteria for cannabis dependence, or marijuana addiction, can be with physiological dependence or without physiological dependence. So right from the outset, we know that there is a condition of cannabis dependence with physiological dependence.
Elsewhere, the DSM-IV describes physiological dependence, which is the same as with any drug. It includes tolerance, which is the need for increased amounts of a drug over time to achieve the same high, and/or withdrawal, which is physical and mental changes that occur when blood concentrations of a drug decline after prolonged heavy use. People who get addicted to marijuana can have physiological dependence.
How many marijuana smokers become addicted? According to “Marijuana Dependence and Its Treatment,” published in Addiction Science & Clinical Practice:
“… Marijuana produces dependence less readily than other illegal drugs. Some 9 percent of people who try marijuana develop dependence compared to, for example, 15 percent of people who try cocaine and 24 percent of those who try heroin. However, because so many people use marijuana, cannabis dependence is twice as prevalent as dependence on any other illicit psychoactive substance.”
Another factor is that the younger you are when you begin using marijuana, the more likely you are to become addicted. According to the California Society of Addiction Medicine’s (CSAM) statement on marijuana legalization:
“Because the brains of adolescents are still undergoing significant structural development, onset of marijuana smoking earlier than 18 results in increasingly higher rates of addiction (up to 17% within 2 years) and disruption to an individual’s life. The younger the use, the greater the risk.”
But perhaps the most persuasive proof about marijuana’s
addictiveness is that there are so many people in treatment for it. Check out these charts from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) that show the increase in marijuana treatment and the age of
people receiving treatment. Marijuana accounts for most admissions for treatment among people under 20 years old, which is the group that we’re really worried about regarding marijuana use.
The MJ lobby argues that if we legalize marijuana and then restrict it, people under 21 won’t be able to use it so readily. Yes, look how well that’s worked with alcohol…