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March 28, 2007

How Booze & Cigarettes Relate to Pot & PTSD

In an earlier entry, I pointed out that the never-validated gateway theory started with an accurate observation: the first researchers to study  youthful pot users in the early Seventies noted that nearly all had already tried tobacco and alcohol. What they couldn’t have realized was that they were encountering the leading edge of what would quickly become a hugely successful youth market and that a large  (and still unknown) fraction of pot’s youthful initiates would continue to self-medicate with it indefinitely.

Rather than an unbiased attempt to follow up on those original observations, NIDA has chosen to subsidize "research" which is clearly limited to seeking out pejorative associations between pot initiation and undesirable "outcomes." My own study of admitted pot smokers has come up with a very different explanation for the observed link between the three: after inhaled pot ("reefer") first became available to "kids" in the mid Sixties, the average age at which it was tried declined so rapidly that by 1975, it matched the average age at which they were also trying alcohol and tobacco.

Further, throughout all the hyped drug scares over crack, meth, and club drugs during the Eighties and Nineties, pot has remained the most popular illegal drug tried by young people while its overall market, as measured by arrests, seizures, and estimated dollar value, has continued to  grow steadily–– despite an expensive Madison Avenue advertising campaign designed to suppress it.

Predictably, Congress, rather than wondering why its policy was failing, has redoubled spending aimed at making it make it ‘work’ and a grateful police bureaucracy, ably assisted by tax-supported lobbies at ONDCP and NIDA, has accepted the increased funding. The result has been a drug war which behaves much like the war in Iraq, but without any oversight. The most obvious reasons are that those battling ‘drugs’ are not being killed or maimed by IEDs in a foreign land and the great majority of ‘enemy’ casualties are being either hidden in state prisons or sleeping in the parks and doorways of our large cities.

The connection between alcohol, tobacco and pot is real; the tragedy is that it is being misconstrued. All three are being tried as entry level drugs by troubled adolescents. Rather than serving as a gateway into harder drugs, pot has been functioning for at least three decades as a way out of problematic use of booze and cigarettes by serving as the healthier alternative.  

The implications of that reality should become even more clear as increasing numbers of returnees from combat in Iraq, hand picked and repeatedly tested for non-use of pot, apply for treatment of their PTSD to a VA prevented by policy from allowing them to use the best palliative agent available.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at March 28, 2007 06:19 PM