Doctor Warns America About ‘Marijuana Addiction,’ Compares It To Heroin Epidemic

There’s a peculiar hysteria around marijuana in this country and for the life of me, I can’t understand it. There’s so much misinformation out there that it makes my head hurt. As soon as I saw the headline for this article, “Medical marijuana: How to prevent an addiction to weed,” I knew I was in for a frustrating experience.

The author of the piece, Dr. David Casarett, spends half of the article on a mea culpa over his part in creating the current epidemic of opioid addiction. Fifteen years ago, he and his fellow doctors shoved pain killers down our throats that were derived from the same stuff we make heroin from and couldn’t see why that would be a problem:

Fifteen years ago, a crowd of experts—including many physicians—proclaimed that opioids such as morphine were safe for use in chronic pain. We also downplayed the risk of opioid addiction.

For example, one expert statement on chronic pain management in older adults (on which I was an author) said that “Concerns over drug dependency and addiction do not justify the failure to relieve pain.”

So far, so good. Doctors have been over-prescribing pain killers for years and then abandoning their patients when they’re addicted. Casarett is very sorry about his role in this and just doesn’t want us to make the same mistake with marijuana:

Proponents of medical marijuana advertise its safety. It’s natural, they say. In fact, one dispensary owner told me guilelessly, “It’s perfectly safe—it’s from a flower. Not like heroin.” That dispensary owner ignored the fact that heroin is derived from poppies. And that poppies are also flowers.

Besides, he told me, theoretical risks of addiction don’t justify withholding a potentially beneficial treatment. But that’s exactly what many experts were saying about opioids 15 years ago. And we should worry about marijuana addiction.

And that’s when he goes off the rails. There’s one critical difference between marijuana and opioids: You can easily become physically addicted to one and it’s almost impossible to become physically addicted to the other.

You can become physically addicted to opioids, sugars, alcohol, tobacco and a slew of other chemicals and substances. It is nigh impossible to become physically addicted the same way to pot. It just doesn’t happen and Casarett, as a doctor, knows this. This is why he does a bait and switch from “addiction” to “dependence”:

The good news is that the risk of marijuana dependence is lower than it is for heroin (approximately 9 percent vs. 23 percent). (The term “dependence” is used to describe someone who uses marijuana regularly, even though it impairs their ability to function normally, and despite drug-related physical and psychological problems.) Nevertheless, even if marijuana addiction doesn’t turn out to be as devastating as opioid addiction is, it can still result in lost jobs, damaged relationships and lost opportunities.

Dependence is VERY different from addiction. Even the government website on marijuana points out, correctly, that you can be dependent on marijuana but not be addicted.

I know you might be thinking that I’m just another stoner defending his precious weed but, honestly, I don’t smoke marijuana and I never have. I have zero interest in it, personally. That being said, I grew up around a great many people who  smoke pot and not one of them ever became addicted to it. And they smoked a lot of the stuff. None of them even became dependent so addiction was right out the window. This is why I know, from first hand experience, that marijuana simply is not addictive. You have a better chance of becoming addicted to the sugar, salt and fat in McDonald’s food than you are to pot.

It’s easy to read Casarett’s article and become concerned that we’re facing the next drug epidemic but it’s just not true.


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