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November 15, 2007

Drug War “Science” (Logical, Historical)

My last entry ended on a  somewhat stuffy note:  a promise to “deal with how drug war precepts have distorted the important lessons we might have been learning from less biased studies of  drug use.”

A good example of the kind of “research” I was talking about was recently published; not only does it exemplify the thinking that has inspired most such studies since 1975, it also contained just enough of an unexpected twist to provoke favorable notice from several nominal proponents of medical marijuana. An additional advantage, at least in terms of what I hope to demonstrate, is that it deals directly with material similar to that examined by my own study: the relationship between the various psychotropic agents commonly tried (initiated) by contemporary adolescents.

The marked differences between the two study populations are also obvious: mine was of admitted chronic pot users of all ages willing and able to supply longitudinal data about their initiation and use of several agents; the Swiss study is a typical cross-sectional school survey with the usual restrictions: it could only look at a few arbitrarily selected behavioral features in those students who admitted to having tried cannabis

It also helps to remember that there had been very little adolescent interest in cannabis until relatively recently and that its market really didn’t begin growing until after its discovery by thousands of “kids” provoked America’s (Nixon’s) “war” on drugs toward the end of the Sixties.

One of the earliest consequences of that war was a spate of pot busts which, in turn, led to the formation of NORML (1972) as the drug war’s first full time opposition. Typical of federal bureaucracies, formation of the two agencies charged with fighting that war, the DEA (1973) and NIDA (1974),  was more leisurely.

One early drug war shock was the MTF report that by 1976 almost half of American high school kids were  sampling pot; yet the same limitations imposed by its illegality have continued to preclude the kind of in-depth clinical studies that might have allowed an understanding of its sudden popularity within the same age group that had been ignoring it for three decades.

Once my study had established enough historical and clinical context from details supplied by several cohorts of applicants (all chronic users), the answer became obvious: the unique and rapid onset of the anxiolytic effects of inhaled cannabis (reefer) were almost certainly what accounted for its popularity with the troubled baby boomers who had been the first large group of teens ever to try it at about the same time they were also trying tobacco and alcohol.

Not unexpectedly, the same propensities of most pot initiates to also try tobacco,  and a minority of all tobacco initiates to resist regular tobacco use, had both been observed in my population; along with the reduced cigarette consumption by those who have been trying, so far without success, to quit cigarettes completely.

As with most other studies, the information gathered depends a lot on what could have been sought...

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at November 15, 2007 09:25 PM