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April 30, 2008

What is “Human Nature?” And how did we get into this mess? (Personal)

The burning questions with which we humans have been grappling since different clusters of our ancestors hit independently on writing are: what does it mean to be human and why are we here? Recent studies of various “higher” mammals, most notably primates, elephants, and certain marine mammals may have cast doubt on whether humans are the only species with a language function, but that we are the only ones to record our abstract thoughts in writing now seems well established. Certainly we are the only species to use literacy to effectively manipulate the global environment.

Yet for all that cognitive prowess, we have recently been kept as busy with problems that seem to have resulted from our scientific triumphs as we are adding more triumphs. We are also shockingly far from consensus about how to manage the problems. In fact, a case can be made that despite our unprecedented ability to communicate, we are furthest from agreement at the very time global cooperation is most urgently needed.

What, you may ask, does this line of thinking have to do with pot use? The connection is really quite basic, although it requires a willingness to think further outside the box than most are willing to venture. For all our cognitive abilities, we humans are also highly evolved mammals with similar survival and emotional needs. We may now have reached a point in our cultural evolution (itself enabled only by our cognitive abilities) where it’s possible to analyze how we got here. But, ironically, because analytic ability for its own sake is rarely welcomed within established human hierarchies, correct analyses are usually  dismissed as nonsense or heresy long before they are taken seriously.

Even then, the ones that are finally acknowledged and responded to are usually watered down at first. A convenient example, one very much in the news, is how America has dealt with slavery, a national  tragedy produced by the implicit repudiation of its stirring revolutionary manifesto by those who wrote its Constitution a mere eleven years later.

In fact, it may be precisely because acceptance by whatever group we aspire to be part of is such a dominant human need that individual inductive (bottom up) reasoning is usually discouraged by human societies. In other words, a highly unlikely, but reassuringly omniscient, anthropoid “god” is still our preferred source of truth. Until we are able to shed the millstone of religion from our cognition, our ability to think ourselves into trouble may continue to overwhelm our ability to think ourselves out of it.

Do I really need add that the drug war is a nearly perfect example of top-down deductive (religious) logic? That it has survived so long as policy is a disgrace to all who have had a hand in protecting it.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 07:46 PM | Comments (0)

April 29, 2008

How Much Longer Will this Embarrassing Lttle Twerp be Taken Seriously?

As this is written, I'm watching CNN’s usual melange of ads for advertisers mixed in with their own self promoting ads for coming programs mixed with a dollop of “news.” One of the events being awaited is a brief press conference with the nation’s prez who will allegedly report to a beleaguered nation on urgent plans to alleviate our unprecedented housing debacle. Since it’s all interspersed with even more urgent weather news from all over, but in a setting of the unprecedented tornados that struck Virginia overnight, I’m forced to wonder when the polity will finally notice the  disastrous record of his administration.

Oh, I see; it’s all been the fault of Congress and will be solved by finding more oil and building more refrineries... unfortunately, I don’t have time to stick around for the usual softball questions and the inevitably fatuous answers.

More later...

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 03:43 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2008

Neuroscience and Drug Policy 1 (Personal)

A measure of the success of humans as a species is that we now number somewhere around six an a half billion individuals and have, collectively, accumulated more knowledge of our universe than ever.  Ironically, the dangers now confronting us: economic catastrophe, rapid climate change, epidemic disease, and famine are also quite real to a majority that has yet to include the current US President and many in his political party.

That the list of his potential replacements has now been whittled down to three is of some concern; who they are should be of even more, and the (familiar) direction of political rhetoric as we approach important deadlines does little to inspire confidence.

That we humans are qualitatively different than other species must have been apparent to our shadowy first ancestors, but we will never know for sure because they had yet to discover writing and it would be thousands of years before decipherable messages were left for posterity. They would also have probably been too preoccupied with mere survival to do much abstract thinking. Most of what we know about early humans and their immediate ancestors has come from systematic explorations undertaken in the past three hundred years with the aid of scientific technology. So new is our ability to explore both our own recent past as a species and the more distant past of our planet and galaxy, we are still uncertain of their physical and chronological limits.

All of which makes our brain, the highly evolved organ with which we think, and one once called the most complicated machine in the Universe,  the most important determinant of our future as a species. Literally, how we are able to think collectively over the next several years is likely to play a huge role in our future and that of our planet.

The new scientific buzz word for studies of the brain is “neuroscience.” Like many such neologisms, it lumps together some very strange bedfellows. That many neuroscientists are playing an active role in drug policy both accounts for the drift of this entry and marks another subject I hope to return to.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 04:19 PM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2008

Can Amazon’s Kindle influence Drug Policy?

It now seems likely the Kindle or some close relative will soon be pushing Book Publishing in the same direction that file sharing software and less expensive recording technology have already pushed the Music Industry. By breaking up lucrative monopolies at the top of established industries the revolution now known familiarly as IT and first anticipated by Claude Shannon’s Communication Theory is forcing a rapid restructuring of established markets.

With respect to books, the new format, one that should allow rapid and inexpensive (even free) dissemination of copyrighted intellectual content,  could revolutionize both how authors are paid and ideas are exchanged. If we look to recent history, we can anticipate that established publishers will fight the diminution of their influence for a while, but will eventually end up competing to to buy up (and control) the new platform to the extent possible. Meanwhile, the challenge to Jeff Bezos and his staff at Amazon will be to develop their new idea as responsibly as possible; hopefully, they will do so in an evolutionary (as opposed to gimmicky) direction.

What my study of pot smokers does is document the existence of a large population of self-identified pot smokers; it’s unique because it provides information that couldn’t have become available until Proposition 215 had passed in California. It’s important because, when followed to a logical conclusion, it is further evidence that our species is at a  cross roads: to an uncanny degree, today's headlines confirm that our modern Age of Anxiety coincides with the most important existential challenge humanity has faced since narrowly (and unwittingly) avoiding Nuclear Winter in the October 1962 missile crisis.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to point out that the dense relationship between corporate greed and political irresponsibility that Douglas Cay Johnston has so brilliantly documented in Free Lunch becomes even more understandable when one realizes the degree to which our still-evolving Behavioral Sciences have been co-opted by the imposition of a morality-based, pseudo-scientific policy like Nixon’s Drug War.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2008

Are Election Politics (finally) Catching Up with the Drug War? (Personal)

Enough of what’s been happening both at home and abroad since 2001 has paralleled what pot smokers have been (unwittingly) teaching me over the same interval to be downright uncanny. I believe that a major conclusion to be drawn from my study is that human emotions have always played a greater role in our decision making than most of us care to admit. A recent example, one with a particularly interesting twist, was just aired on PBS.   

 The Weekly Political Wrap is a moderated Friday program in which David Brooks and Mark Shields discuss the week’s politics; yesterday’s program elicited seemingly different opinions from the pundits in which each recalled the outcomes of American Presidential elections since 1968.

 I wasn’t surprised by Shields’ annoyance at what he considers the unfair treatment of Obama by Pennsylvania debate moderators. Brooks, whose personality I’ve always found somewhat smarmy and unattractive, justified that impression by opining that the questions directed at Obama were “fair” and that he had "not come off well.” His main conclusion seemed to have been that Obama is being revealed as a (typical) losing Democrat in the mold of Carter, Dukakis, and Kerry.

i was caught a bit off guard by the fury audible in Shields’ response; although ostensibly not directed at Brooks, he clearly saw his double standard. What also gave me some hope for the future of this benighted republic is that Shields was also specific about a couple of sacred cows: super patriot Dick Cheney’s five (count them five) requests for draft deferment in the Sixties, and his citation of an issue fairly close to the drug war: the high incidence of PTSD among Iraq returnees for which the VA has no plan.

What Shields’ anger suggested to me is that our brighter pundits have not missed as much as I feared; they have simply not spoken out because of the usual concerns about being politically incorrect. Thus Shields’ incomplete melt-down may really be a sign of hope that when things get bad enough, the hypocrisy required to sustain our drug war might finally be discarded by enough people to make a difference.

Although not often credited, it's quite obvious that the Great Depression played a role in the Repeal the 18th Amendment.

OTOH, if this nation is frightened enough of the idea of a black president to elect John McCain, we could be in even more trouble than I suspected...

Doctor Tom


Posted by tjeffo at 09:17 PM | Comments (0)

April 17, 2008

Intelligent Opposition Requires Accurate Knowledge (Personal)

 It's axiomatic in Medicine that if one’s diagnosis is wrong, one’s treatment is unlikely to be successful. Proposition 215 provided the first-ever chance for unbiased clinical studies of the impact of the drug war on admitted drug users; however “reform” (in company with most other elements of society) has been so slow to grasp the implications of that statement as to suggest denial may be so basic and prevalent a human behavioral characteristic as to have its own serious implications.

In any event, in the twelfth year since  215 passed,  reform is still without a coherent strategy for obtaining the rights won by the initiative for the policy victims reform claims to represent.  On a larger scale, we humans are also still in massive denial about climate change, and "overpopulation" is a word not used very often.

Closer to home: the opportunistic guerrilla war being waged against patients by California law enforcement; there’s still no mechanism  for tabulating,  tracking, and assisting at the trials being generated by (usually outrageous) patient arrests.

 I’ve now been a witness in such trials at both state and federal levels and the difference was profound.  In federal court, a judge backing the policy easily prevented the jury from hearing relevant medical testimony. In state court, the rules would permit knowledgeable defense lawyers and physician experts to educate both judge and jury. The catch is that the relevant information has to be effectively presented. Before that can happen, it has to be known, understood, and  believed.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 07:17 PM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2008

Lessons from State Court (Personal)

Although originally intended to better define “medical” use of cannabis, both the ad-hoc study of applicants I began in 2001 and the blog I started in 2005 to describe it have continued evolving as new information has been acquired. The first requirement of the study was deciding what questions to ask of those requesting medical status; the second was how best to record the data. The blog was motivated by the unexpected response to my attempt to share preliminary findings and solicit suggestions on two e-mail discussion lists (one state and one national) I’d become involved shortly after joining the drug policy “reform” movement in 1995. It was a shock to discover that many presumed colleagues held very different opinions. Some were militantly opposed to any discussion and let me know it either
publicly or in private; the majority just refused all attempts at discussion, a pattern of denial entirely consistent with the way pressing world problems like war in the Middle East and rapid climate change are (not) being dealt with at the moment.

 Meanwhile, my unique access to applicants (essentially granted patient status by the new law) was providing me with direct evidence that the opinions being aired on the lists were, to be charitable, simplistic and seriously mistaken. In a nutshell, patient histories were providing powerful evidence that American drug policy is not only as deeply rooted in error as most had suspected, but actually worse than realized. To a degree few had imagined, cannabis has remained popular because it’s been safe and effective self-medication for many of the conditions government sponsored research blames it for aggravating.

Such apparent heresy becomes understandable with the realization that  Psychiatry and Psychology have embraced a system of classification in which symptoms and behavioral tendencies are considered diseases and assumed to require specific treatment by one (or more) of the of the new psychotropic agents produced by an increasingly profitable Pharmaceutical Industry. One obvious result has been recent spectacular increases in the frequency with which various mood and behavioral “disorders” are being diagnosed.

Demographic information supplied by applicants also clearly shows that today’s huge illegal marijuana market began when the first Baby Boomers began trying pot in the early Sixties and has grown steadily ever since; primarily because each new cohort of  adolescents has been trying (initiating) marijuana in defiance of advice to the contrary from both the drug war bureaucracy and their ideological opponents in NORML.

That both the federal government and “reform” have continued to ignore data supplied by a population of illegal drug users is now abundantly clear. I certainly understand why the federal government is unlikely to call attention to a study that directly challenges key policy assumptions, but it strikes me as absurd is that NORML and other reform organizations still cling to notions of “recreational” use.

My courtroom experience last last week demonstrated the impact of that denial so vividly that over the next few days, I hope to illustrate its cost and suggest some practical steps to reverse the deteriorating legal situation that’s been developed in California since the Raich decision was handed down in June of 2005.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 02:57 PM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2008

Questions Never Asked and Dots Still Requiring Connection (Historical)

An original intention of this blog was to connect historical dots between today’s huge pot market and the little-known Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. In that context, one might reasonably assume that if the illegal product a national policy intended to dissuade “kids” from even trying, had already been the country's most valuable crop for several years, any discussion of that embarrassing development would be difficult to avoid, especially in the nation claiming to lead the world in "free speech."

But one would be very wrong; the relevant questions are not asked, either by, or of, the very professionals who should be wrestling with them. Instead, the policy is fiercely defended by a scientifically ignorant drug czar as absolutely essential to the national welfare. Nor is his claim that without the drug war our drug problems would be worse even questioned; especially by wonks at the handful of prestigious institutions offering advanced degrees in
“Public Policy.”

In fact, drug policy academics have shown so little interest in Harry Anslinger that not a single scholarly biography has ever appeared. For those with short memories, Harry was the bureaucrat for whom the FBN was created in 1930 and which he ruled with an iron fist until departing abruptly in 1962. During that interval he played a dominant role in protecting and shaping the policy that would quickly become Nixon’s drug war without any meaningful review of its (racist and stupid) basic assumptions. Anslinger was also the driving force behind the 1937 MTA, and authored of the 1961 Single Convention Treaty (now the UN's basis for global drug prohibition).

Given those dubious accomplishments, the absence of a definitive biography can only be understood as an avoidance of embarrassment: just enough of his unsavory history is known to make it impossible to construct a bio that wouldn't cast enormous doubt on  drug war legitimacy. Clearly, no one wants to risk that; what academics would risk bringing down federal displeasure on either himself or his institution? That’s why a recent study of the FBN; one providing a detailed, but necessarily oblique, look at Anslinger through the unguarded recollections of ex-FBN agents is worth reading by anyone with a serious interest in drug policy (a predictably small market).

While The Strength of the Wolf  (Douglas Valentine, Verso, 2004) can't deliver on its subtitle’s claim to be “The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs,” it is, nevertheless, a rare, solidly researched, and historically helpful study of an era that remains shrouded in imposed ignorance. Ironically, it was Valentine's own (understandable) ignorance of American drug policy history that induced him to shift his intended focus from the early CIA to the FBN during an era of great historical importance: the immediate aftermath of World War Two. In his Introduction, Valentine explains the switch: early in his research, he learned that a number of mid-level FBN agents had sought lateral transfers to other federal agencies to preserve their pensions. Several had gone to the CIA, a hated former rival in its early days, but the one favored to prosper during the early Cold War. Generally loyal to Anslinger, neither the ex-agents nor Valentine  ever question the wisdom of prohibiting drugs, but their accounts, as collected and assembled by a  competent investigative reporter, provide a riveting picture of what was essentially a rogue agency that repeatedly broke the law by conducting grotesque experiments in a search for the (non-existent) drug that would allow "mind control" to become a key Cold War
weapon. In that connection, Valentine's descriptions of  the antics  of George H. White are particularly telling.

Time doesn't permit a detailed account of Valentine's main contribution: clarifying key interactions between FBN, FBI, and CIA in the aftermath of World War Two. The bottom line is that our whole government became so obsessed with opposing Communism that it engaged in tactics that were little different than their opponents. The game was then as now: all about "winning," with little concern for long term consequences to either planet or species.

The picture of Anslinger that emerges is one of an insecure mediocrity whose greatest skill was bureaucratic infighting and greatest concern was the protection of his bureau. The main emphasis within the FBN was on “making cases” (gaining key convictions) despite the limited budgets and scarce manpower necessitated by the Great Depression. After World War Two, as it gradually became clear that "narcotics" enforcement would play second fiddle to the CIA's mission, it seems that FBN agents eventually accepted that need, even as they chafed at having to honor it. Ironically, Nixon's drug war, declared after Anslinger's departure and shortly before his death in 1975, would lead to creation of the DEA, the FBN's most obvious successor agency,

Once one realizes the degree to which protection of its mindless policy, always a driving force behind America's drug prohibition bureaucracy,  has contaminated the entire federal government, the political sanctity of the drug war becomes readily understandable. The same is true of "reform," which has allowed itself to be cast in the role of (unwitting) defender of the "drug menace," in the government's prohibition myth.
Ironically, it’s quite likely that when a very sick old Anslinger died in 1975, he had no more idea of where the drug war he'd helped create was headed than Nixon. The same goes for an already-senile Gipper who had dusted it off after Nixon's disgrace at the urging of his spouse  to “just say no.” Then came Poppa Bush who invaded Panama to arrest its president for drug trafficking on behalf of his CIA, and  Bill Clinton may have never inhaled, but he did appoint Barry McCaffrey drug czar and accepted a bribe for pardoning a notorious drug criminal on his way out the door. 

That brings us to the present incumbent, whose administration has set new records for incompetence and dishonesty in its zeal to prove he is more forceful than daddy. The really sad part is that this admittedly inflammatory
rant is far more accurate than the alternative, and more widely believed, scenarios because it's based on actual data from drug users. Even worse, that data has been readily available in California to anyone willing to ask the right questions for the past seven years.

Thus several big dots are still there to be connected.

Doctor Tom


Posted by tjeffo at 05:47 PM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2008

A Day in Court 2 (Personal)

During the (typically prolonged) lunch break between sessions, my wife prevailed on me to stop trying to argue with the prosecutor (nicknamed “Lumpy” by other lawyers present) and just answer his questions. A child of the Fifties,  she also explained the nickname. It had gone completely over my head because I’d been a little too old when the cast of “Leave it to Beaver” were Baby Boom icons.

When the questioning resumed, I soon adjusted my pace to Lumpy’s and was able to exploit his ignorance of cannabinoid pharmacology and clinical medicine, a tactic the judge warmed up to because I was now following his instructions. With the focus shifted, I soon scored a series of small victories with the net effect of demonstrating the inadequacy of his DEA scenario;  also how systematically questioning pot smokers had both educated me and uncovered findings hidden by treating them as criminals.

The day still ended on a note of uncertainty. Because the matter of the new (and newly injured) prosecution expert still has to be resolved, I may have to return before a verdict is rendered, but I would at least have a further opportunity to educate the judge— my original goal after I had been forced to accept the power of his subpoena.

All of which leads me to a new insight: the brain trust of reform, by (blindly) limiting their concept of “valid” medical use to the “sick and dying,” has been doing even more damage to its cause than I’d realized. Instead of focusing on areas where they have little chance of winning, they should have been spending more of their limited resources educating juries and the public in California

Unfortunately, before one can educate, one must know the truth; more on that later...

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 04:19 PM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2008

A Day in Court: Part 1 (Personal)

A while back, I described how an unwisely rejected
December 2007 subpoena ordering my appearance as witness in a pot trial in a nearby county had eventually turned into a waste of my time in February when the judge called in sick on a Monday morning. The trial was then rescheduled at a conference held a month later and yesterday’s procedure appeared on the docket  a full month after that. An additional detail, gleaned yesterday, was that a third (rebuttal) expert, had been added by the prosecution and was promptly injured in an auto accident; thus threatening further delay. Although I had experienced the frustration of an (incredibly unjust) federal pot trial first hand, it had been over quickly. This would be my first experience with the State of California’s far more leisurely routine for dealing with medical cannabis defendants charged with violations of its own medical use law. 

What I participated in yesterday was a shocking exercise that I suspect is being replicated at considerable expense and in relative obscurity in courtrooms all over California.

The defendants are two young men now in their late twenties. They have been out on bail, but can’t work at the skilled jobs they once had because of the charges against them. They have also been prevented from taking jobs outside the state for the same reason. Both have lost houses they once owned.  I’d provided both with pot recommendations on the same day in January 2004 and they’d been arrested together in June of that year with a trivial number of plants, resulting in the usual “intent to sell” additional (felony) charge. I have never been provided with the details of the case by their public defender, who seems to be functioning more as an agent of the judge than as their defense attorney, but apparently their trial has been in progress since 2006. (as I revisit this  item at odd intervals, I plan to supply additional details as they become known).

 I didn’t hear that many new facts yesterday either; when I arrived at the negotiated time of 10:00 AM, the en banc (no jury) trial was already underway and the other medical witness, a well known “pot doc” with a very large practice (he had “renewed” my recommendation for one of the defendants in 2006), was being questioned by an earnest, but woefully ignorant assistant DA, who seemed to think reading a modicum of DEA propaganda had turned him into an expert on cannabinoid therapeutics. The doctor, someone I know from personal experience to be nearly as ignorant of cannabis as the DA, proved competent enough at warding off bumbling questions, but his testimony could be summarized as defensive, and  not very enlightening about pot’s medical benefits, most of which seemed to have been supplied by satisfied users via questionnaire.  In other words, his standard evaluation, designed to comply with Medical Board of California guidelines, is more analogous to a tape recording than to a searching medical history.

When I took the stand sometime after 11AM, I was a more than a bit angry and flustered by both the ordeal of getting there on time, and the testimony I’d just heard; thus my first impatient answers quickly drew admonitions from the judge and persuaded the prosecutor that he would be spending the afternoon making mince meat of (yet another) fraudulent pot doc.

I can’t say it was planned; but a decent lunch and listening to the advice of cooler “heads” allowed me to turn the tables on the overconfident DA, a minor, but potentially important victory I hope soon to report

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 04:29 PM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2008

Annals of Addiction: how cannabis initiation became an adolescent rite of passage.

Of the several unexpected (and to many, unwelcome) discoveries uncovered by questioning pot smokers over the past several years, two stand out. The first is that in the early Sixties, well before its existence had been clearly recognized by society at large, the generation we now know as the Baby Boom was just starting to discover the unique anxiolytic properties of cannabis (but only when it's inhaled).

Ironically, the term “anxiolytic” was coined at about the same time to describe the then-unique effect of benzodiazipines, of which Valium (1963) became the best known. The second discovery referred to above is more subtle because it involves a negative: very few have realized that because delivery by inhalation allows even more rapid onset than the IV route and more precise user control of the effective dose, inhaled pot (the "reefer" demonized in 1937) became the preferred anxiolytic of the youthful counterculture then beginning to emerge.

Thus from the historical and sociological points of view, what has ensued since the Sixties has been a result of the  blending of unique demographic and pharmacologic phenomena on a huge scale, in other words, what happened when the largest generation in American history discovered pot's unique pharmacologic properties in a setting that was already hopelessly confused by a long-standing federal policy failure and its (still successful) cover-up. In fact, the best modern evidence that the same cover-up is still successful is another negative: the almost unanimous
refusal by the media to ask even the most obvious questions about the drug war. Whether that refusal is out of conviction or ignorance is immaterial; what’s become most important is the denial itself.

Data from admitted pot smokers of all ages also reveals that from 1968 on, the age at which kids tried pot fell so rapidly that by 1975, it was being initiated in tandem with alcohol and tobacco. Also important is that the initiations are often in the form of a ritual in which small groups of naive initiates try to experience the drug's effects under the tutelage of a more experienced peer- often a cousin or older sibling. In essence, the typical “high” of cannabis is apparently so nuanced and subtle as to be missed by at least half of its would-be initiates the first time around. An implication of that finding is that there is probably a residual pool of people who never tried it a second time. Because of pot's documented anti-alcohol effect and two other facts: that all chronic users eventually tried alcohol and many became aggressive drinkers; it's quite possible that a number of people who were prone to become problem drinkers were denied an opportunity to benefit from pot by their initial failure to get high.

Needless to say, those who apply to use pot legally eventually did get "high," and it's equally clear that the anxiolytic state created when pot is inhaled is what jump-started its illegal market in the mid-Sixties and thus became the focus of Richard Nixon's drug war. Also clear is that pot's immediate anxiolytic effect, which is subject to precise user control, is what explains the gradual "bottom up" development of its huge illegal market, now estimated to be the most valuable of any harvested crop in the US, yet still welcoming huge imports from Canada and Mexico.

Ditto the still shadowy gray market, still thriving in California, despite staunch federal opposition for the past eleven years.

At some point, we humans may eventually recognize the enormity of the follies our species is capable of, but I wouldn’t bet on that happening anytime soon.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at 03:57 PM | Comments (0)

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 08:53 PM | Comments (0)