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April 03, 2008

Annals of Addiction, Alcohol and Tobacco Initiation Patterns (Personal)

The recent entry on addiction ended on the notion that initiation is generally understood as one’s first trial (‘first lifetime use”) of a drug. However, as with everything rise, the devil is in the details. What do do we mean by use? I was eight or nine when a classmate and I sneaked up to the roof of his apartment building on a gloriously sunny Spring day to puff on cigarettes we’d filched from home. Although we didn’t know how to inhale (or even that it was a part of smoking) the memories of that afternoon remain among the more vivid of my childhood. I also realize the considerable  pleasure they (still) evoke had nothing to do with pharmacology; it was our clandestine imitation of adult behavior in an exciting venue.

Thus my initiation of (into?) tobacco was biphasic, with the pharmacologic part completed considerably later; when another kid taught me to inhale one Saturday morning in September 1945, an event that quickly  led to addiction, as signaled by another vivid recollection: the anticipation and reassurance felt about six weeks later in knowing that after the next subway stop, I’d be able light one of the Chesterfields in my shirt pocket. There was also a vague foreboding that something important had happened. What it turned out to be was a long-term addiction to nicotine that would last until  July,1993, and only be interrupted by a few periods of abstinence, one lasting as long as two years.

A few weeks after cigarettes, I finished initiating the other agent kids of my generation coud try easily by getting drunk with three fellow Ninth graders, one of whom I had to sleep over with because I was too drunk to go home.  In retrospect, I probably also blacked out (more on that later), but do recall that earlier, we’d been collared by a couple of Irish cops for minor vandalism, something that in the present day might easily generate a police record and preclude a professional career but which then produced only a stern warning. Of course, I also vomited all over my friends’ bedsheets (still a frequent accompaniment of pot smokers’ first alcohol experience).

In searching my own memory for this entry, I also recalled that like tobacco, my alcohol trial had been in two phases. Sometime before age ten, I’d sampled beer left over from a party by  pouring some into a glass and sipping it as I’d seen adults do. Within a few minutes, I was tipsy; a feeling that frightened me into stopping, but one I recognized and welcomed five years later.  In seeking data about first trials of alcohol and tobacco from modern pot applicants, I’ve documented that all but one (a Muslim) had tried alcohol with peers just like I did; usually below “legal” age, and that vomiting had been very common.

Ninety-six percent had also tried inhaling cigarette smoke at least once in their lives, also near the same age. The very few applicants born before 1946, had tried both legal agents well before  trying to get “high” on marijuana, but from the second phase of the Baby Boom generation onward, the three agents had been tried at close to the same average age. In other words, the modern “marijuana market began with the widespread initiation of reefer by boomers in the Sixties, shortly before Nixon’s 1968 election. It has been expanding steadily ever since, in company with the (much) more static persistence of other illegal drug markets (unwittingly) protected by the CSA from 1970 on.

The main difference between pot and the others has been its consistent initiation at an earlier age, and the frequent trials, by applicants, of several other illegal drugs, especially (non-addictive) “psychedelics,” that, like pot, didn't become unavailable to "kids"until the Sixties.  

Also of importance: applicants only make those admissions in response to specific questions...

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at April 3, 2008 08:53 PM