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September 08, 2005

A Reader asks about adolescents and marijuana use

A Reader asks:

Dr. Tom:
Even though I agree with just about everything you write, I believe it
is counter-productive to be seen as in any way advocating that
adolescents use marijuana.  I believe the drug war cheerleaders
will get hold of this and claim that you and other reformers advocate
that children use all kinds illegal drugs.  In politics, perception
is reality.

I believe that you wrote several years ago that the drug war is
essentially a propaganda war.  Therefore, we should not give
the opposition any ammunition...

My answer:

Although I have never recommended that "kids use pot," the fact is
that they have been doing so in large numbers since 1967, the
comparative benefits documented in this population make approval of
(some) juvenile a use logical inference. Nearly all the California
pot users studied had tried it in high school (or before). Actually,
I might have once agreed with you; before I began to screen patients
I was  just as ignorant as the federal government still is.
The feds are also upset because the
(much trumpeted) decline in pot initiation rates recorded
between 1979 and 1992 has been replaced by a sustained upward trend.
Now, at least half (probably more) of the nation's adolescents now
probably try pot before turning 19.

Moreover, my demographic profile of chronic users (which they clearly
don't have)  demonstrates that the age at which "kids" first try
pot declined rapidly after 1975 and  now almost exactly matches
the age at which (nearly all) also try alcohol and tobacco (14.9 years).

Use of alcohol and tobacco by this population also declined
significantly once their use of cannabis became chronic, thus strongly
implying a protective effect against use of the other two-- both 
acknowledged to be more physically harmful.

Not only is this information based on the systematic study of a real
population, it directly challenges  countervailing government dogma
based entirely on false assumptions and supported by inferential studies
of the only kind allowed under the 'rules' NIDA sets for drug research.

For all those reasons, I suspect the government would have little interest
in advertising my data by attacking it.  Now; if only drug policy
"reformers" could grasp the same concept...

Any reader with a specific question about either drug use  or drug
policy is encouraged to ask; I'll probably have an opinion and should be
able to point towards sources of reliable information. In any event, it's
a chance to both learn and share knowledge.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at September 8, 2005 05:58 AM