Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Some interesting answers

Reddit, Why DON'T you smoke weed? : AskReddit

I don't look around Reddit often, but I was Googling for some links about rats on cannabis (being inspired by the previous post about meth rats) when I found a link to this recent Reddit thread.

Given that Reddit is not exactly a forum where you are likely to get too many overly judgemental contributors, it was interesting to see how many readers complain about how cannabis has never agreed with them (usually due to it increasing anxiety, causing paranoia, and/or panic attacks) yet their smoking friends keep on trying to convince them to smoke their way through those problems.   Yes, that would be annoying.

This is the reason why I am always leery about the too simple comparison between cannabis and alcohol.  Cannabis seems to have a very sudden and strong unpleasant psychoactive effect on some people in a way that (as far as I am aware) is simply not comparable to the effect of a moderate consumption of alcohol.   (What's a fair comparison here?  I would guess at, say, two standard drinks in one hour as being somewhat akin to one mid strength joint?  Not that I know how much cannabis users typically use in one session:  just my guesswork here.)

It just seems to me a qualitatively different thing if it can have a paranoia increasing effect even in modest quantities; that sensation is never desired and indicates something serious going on in the brain in a way that I can't imagine is the same for anyone having a modest hit of alcohol.   Sure, some people get drunk quicker than others, but even then the sensation of moderate drunkenness per se is rarely distressing.  "Two pot screamers" are said to exist; I can't remember ever knowing one.

I know what many will say - the proportion of people who are very sensitive to distressing feelings from cannabis is small, and why punish the majority by criminalisation of something that most adults can handle and desire. 

All true, but don't come back to me with the "alcohol causes more harm across society" line.   That's an apple and oranges comparison that I've never found compelling.   Sure, on a population basis, the overuse of one drug may make it a societal problem; but if you want a fair comparison as between drugs, then the true test would be more like "what is a society with cannabis use as widespread and frequent as alcohol like, compared to one where alcohol is the only abused drug."    Both drugs are capable of abuse;  having one legal allows for the human desire to have mood altered pleasantly by a drug potentially dangerous and life damaging in overuse; having more than one potentially dangerous drug available for that purpose is indulgent.  (Very un-libertarian of me, but then libertarians with any brains are presumably conflicted about how far Russia should go in dealing with a chronic alcohol problem that clearly has economic effects on the entire country.  We each draw our lines in different places.)

As for the ultimate effect of the legal cannabis experiment in the US on a society scale - I still say we will have to wait many years to be sure of that. 

Certainly, countries known for their high cannabis use don't exactly seem to be the economic powerhouses you would want to emulate.  (Here's a story about Uruguay's legalisation experiment, by the way.)

1 comment:

John said...

it was interesting to see how many readers complain about how cannabis has never agreed with them (usually due to it increasing anxiety, causing paranoia, and/or panic attacks)

I've seen that often enough. There is no getting over it, it seems some people just shouldn't smoke pot because for some reason they develop that state of mind. Not sure but I recall a couple of examples of heavy drinkers who were particularly adverse to marijuana. So no, it will not help alcoholics.

Marijuana will never be consumed in the same way alcohol is because the vast majority of people become dodos when stoned. I am not one of those people. One of my most pleasant Sunday afternoons was becoming very stoned and riding my motorcycle very fast through mountain roads. I also used to revise my week's reading while stoned. As one NSW neuroscientist noted: the effects are highly variable across individuals.

Marijuana has a very good safety profile and I have known many people who have smoked for decades yet been productive and healthy. Sure, they might have worked harder but that's irrelevant. What is relevant is that they took care of themselves and their family, demanding anything more is imposing a moral stance upon others. I am sick to death of the way modern cultures demand that people work ever harder ever longer.

Don't worry, even with marijuana legalised there won't be a huge uptake. In Colorado there has been a 25% decline in pain prescription drugs and that is a very good thing because prescription opioid abuse is a big problem and a killer. Swings and roundabouts Steve. What I want to see is that with medical marijuana, if marijuana is an independent cause of psychosis, we should see schizophrenia rates very soon rise in the legalised US states; in fact it should have already happened with medical marijuana but I don't think the studies have been done.