How to communicate to people about drugs… and how not to.

It makes my blood boil to see another perfectly reasonable oppurtunity to talk to people about drugs (most specifically teenagers and so on because you never see ads aimed at adults anymore for some reason) being tarnished by firing up the same nonsense in a new wrapper and somehow thinking it’s an acceptable way to treat anyone, let alone impressionable teenagers. I speak of course of the website and drug campaign above the influence, an incredibly expensive and wasteful venture by the american government (wiki them if you would like to know more about how much they are spending in taxpayers money and so on). It’s not drug awareness that bothers me- in fact I believe drugs should be made incredibly aware, and that we should take all knowledge about them and use our own judgment on the issues. ATI does not let anybody accomplish this, often using bogus or misleading data to suggest some pretty bad things about drugs, most importantly marijuana. I’ll take a few at random and please, if you feel I’ve left something out or whatever I urge you to leave a comment.

“Smoking marijuana also causes some changes in the brain similar to those caused by long-term use of cocaine and heroin”

This particular quote was taken from National Institute of Drug Abuse, in a pamphlett entitled “teen facts for drugs” so you know that its coming from a unbias, unrelated source to the website. I have personally never heard anything so ludicrous as to suggest that marijuana has any relation to cocaine and heroin in any shape or form and I’ve done a lot of looking at scientific journals for various projects. The changes of marijuana smoking over a long period of time has had not a lot of results, and the most dramatic piece was a pilot study finding that long term chronic use (i.e. 5 or so joints a day for 5 years) created altered neural pathways. This was a brief sensation, and I know in my own country has been touted as an excellent reason to justify criminalisation of marijuana. However not even the Australian government would be as obnoxious to suggest similarities between marijuana and heroin. I’m sure there are similarities, like, I don’t know, you still have a hippocampus, or there is a rough connection in that they are both pleasurable activities, but I would like ATI to give me some scientific evidence. I have seen nothing about this from anywhere else, except NIDA and the ASMA who also tout marijuana as a potential gateway drug (which fills me with fury). I’ll do the gateway drug thing at another time, suffice to say it is complete bullshit and I have the scientific backing to say so.

“Researchers have found that students with an average grade of “D” were four times more likely to use marijuana”

Other similar items include correlations between marijuana and suicide thoughts (not suicide) and depression. The number of times I have been academically tapped on the nose for suggesting that correlation implies causation is uncountable, and why should ATI thing they can get off the hook just as easily? There are millions of reasons that there is a link between cannabis and negative statistics such as these, not that cannabis inherently damages the body! Consider the illegality of the drug, and then the ‘rebellious’ nature of taking illegal drugs. People who want to rebel are often disassociated with the surrounding community at large, so other things such as not caring about grades, becoming depressed and having suicidal tendencies are bound to occur. That’s just one very rough idea about how to explain a correlation like this, and hell half the time science doesn’t deal with correlation because its too damn confounding and potentially useless.

“Marijuana is addictive”

Bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit. There is NO evidence whatsoever that marijuana illicits any physical dependency. There is psychological dependency certainly, but you can become psychologically dependent on practically anything- cars, coca-cola, friends (in fact you are probably psychologically dependent on a great deal of things) and the withdrawal symptoms are remarkably minor, far less than say, alcohol or tabacco withdrawal. Suggesting that marijuana is the main reason that teenagers go into rehab-esque situations is another case of bullshit; alcohol abuse anyone (saying bullshit reminds me, go check the Penn & Teller program around this fiasco).


Is there an alternative to this partisan, proganda nonsense? There is, and it’s a remarkably solid attempt. The UK’s FRANK is an excellent resource. It is a little bias, but that’s easily forgiven given the fact that 1) they don’t like and 2) treat drug use as a responsible decision for you to make. The data on cannabis is remarkably different to that of ATI, and notice the positive effects of marijuana being included as well, as well as a nice-ish video of explaining how THC affects cannabinoid receptors. Hell, it freely admits ectasy when taken with caution and common sense has zero life affecting problems and the main reason for not doing it is law related. It’s an incredible website, and has done more to make my decisions about specific drug use far more enlightening to the point where I can safely say I will not try many illegal drugs because of the risks involved as seen from a website which gives a balanced justification.


~ by freeze43 on October 24, 2008.

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