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Marijuana Withdrawal? What Marijuana Withdrawal?

Posted Aug 24 2008 7:08pm 3 Comments

AlterNet article calls pot addiction "laughable."

Wondering why you're feeling anxious, sleepless, irritable, sweaty, and scared when you stop daily pot smoking? Don't worry, Paul Armentano has the answer: You're full of bullshit.

Armentano, in an article for AlterNet entitled "B.S. on the idea of 'marijuana addiction' ," asserts that "there's little consensus that such a syndrome is clinically relevant -- if it even exists at all."

The proof? "According to state and national statistics, up to 70 percent of all individuals in drug treatment for marijuana are placed there by the criminal justice system. Of those in treatment, some 36 percent had not even used marijuana in the 30 days prior to their admission. These are the 'addicts'?"

No, these are not necessarily the addicts. These are people undergoing mandatory treatment dictated by the criminal justice system. As Armentano points out, they may or may not have been using drugs before their court-mandated treatment sessions.

In contrast, marijuana addicts are people with a propensity for addiction who suffer a clearly delineated, verifiable, and vivid set of withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit . Armentano doesn't seem to have much interest in this cohort.

Armentano cites a study by the nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine--and then completely misses the point. According to the report, "[A]lthough [some] marijuana users develop dependence, they appear to be less likely to do so than users of other drugs (including alcohol and nicotine), and marijuana dependence appears to be less severe than dependence on other drugs."

What part of "some marijuana users develop dependence" does Armentano not understand?

The author appears to be making the common mistake of assuming that if pot causes withdrawal in some people, then it must cause withdrawal in everybody . And if it doesn't, it's not very addictive. This kind of thinking has been overtaken by the growing understanding that a minority of people suffer a chemical propensity for addiction that puts them at high risk, compared to casual, recreational drug users. The fact that most people don't get addicted to pot and don't suffer from withdrawal is no more revealing than the fact that a majority of drinkers do not become alcoholics.

The author further suggests that, since the Institute of Medicine report characterizes symptoms of weed withdrawal as "mild and subtle," there is nothing to this subject but hot air. Another way to think of "mild and subtle" is: not potentially life threatening, as in the case of abrupt withdrawal from alcohol. Pot doesn't kill. But we knew that already.

In addition, the author highlights the Institute of Medicine's estimate that "fewer than 10 percent of those who try cannabis ever meet the clinical criteria for a diagnosis of "drug dependence" (based on DSM-III-R criteria)." But this common estimate falls right in line with overall estimates placing the total addictive population for all drugs at between 10 and 15 per cent of the population.

Perhaps the most egregious error in the piece is the assertion that "pot's mild after-effects do not appear to be either severe or long-lasting enough to perpetuate marijuana use in individuals who have decided to quit." This statement is simply not true, as an overwhelming number of heavy pot smokers can attest. (For dozens of case histories that refute this contention, see the comments section of my post, Marijuana Withdrawal .)

The author also asserts that "the concept of pot addiction is big business," but it is unclear what he means by this, beyond his dismissive vote-of-no-confidence on anti-craving medications as an adjunct to addiction treatment.

I do, however, agree completely with Armentano on one point: None of this justifies "the continued arrest of more than 800,000 Americans annually" for pot violations.

Photo Credit: Javno

Comments (3)
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I dont know if this is the appropriate forum.  But as I sit here drinking a Bud Lite in hope that I can finally fall asleep, I feel I should say something.  I have been smoking pot for over 12 years, and the last 8 have been on a daily basis.  I should clarify my position; although I have been smoking morning, noon and night, I am a highly functional addict.  I work 12 hours a day, attend college courses, and still make some time for the family. I quit smoking weed 29 days ago, and counting.  I write because I cannot sleep.  If by chance I do fall asleep, I do so knowing full well that I'll be on a ride for at least the next 4-5 hours, if I'm lucky.  I have been searching the web in vain, to find some support, some advice.  With the exception of this site and a few others, I find no help.  There are however, endless sites about the benefits of legal pot and why people like me should just go away. POT is not all good.  POT can hurt you.  While I agree that there are many benefits to pot , as opposed to opiate pain killers, it is not okay  to give everybody who pays in Cali a cannabis card.  I  am out of words for tonight.  I hope this can and will be an on-going blog.  I fear I have had one beer too many in hope for a good nights sleep, and any further typing would just be rambling.  For anyone else out there who is struggling to quit and sleep, know I am with you.
if ever there was a place where the "ad hominem" is used to justify why marijuana is good for us, it is in the so-called "drug culture" or "pot culture"...and yes, there is such a thing, i should know, i am 61 years old and first used marijuana when i was 21.  my failure to find it interesting or enjoyable was probably a result of my advanced (relatively) age when i first tried it...that is, at 21 i had already had enough life experience not to feel the overwhelming need to agree with everything my "peers" said... ya, i was not afraid to stand alone, at least to the extent that, when others  tried to cajole me into continuing, attributing my inability to "get off" on a noxious weed to some percieved inherent flaw (in me), I did reject the notion that "pot is good for you", at least passively (i was, after all, only 21).  Now i am just as convinced that my brief pot smoking months were the biggest waste of my precious time on this planet that i have ever experienced.  and yes, the "culture" that goes with the drug is condescending and patronizing to the rest of (non-pot smoking) humanity.  Marijuana is a demotivator and it's "culture" is shallow and insulting.  (yes, cannabis undoubtedly has some good medicinal uses, and intelligent people do not use "medicine" unless they are sick, so if you have to use it all the time, and are not chronically ill, then perhaps you might make your self ill).  i speak from experience, a dear friend of mine is a "chronic" (was) and has recently quit "cold turkey", and DOES experience all those symptoms of restlessness, sleeplessness, etc. in withdrawal...and he's NOT in jail, ok?  The "culture" of drug use is idiotic and an insult to human intelligence.
Hey there.  I hear what you are saying.  I tried giving up and had the same problems.  i was scared of sleeping as my heavy use had resulted in me not dreaming.  Anxiety and depression also arrived.  On meds for this.  Like you I was also able to function while smoking  morning noon and night.  While my partner doesn't mind me smoking once a day she saw I was not in control of my use.  My kids are my main reason for my attempts to stop or at least be in control of it.  I've been smoking for 19 years with daily use for the last 17.  I'm 37.Normal Emotional ebb and flow is an issue as pot impedes it.  Like a springboard withdrawal releases this which result in more intense emotional reactions.  Passionflower and chamomile tea with lemon balm may help.  Take care.
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