It has been my contention for the last three years that what we call drug abuse is self medication for pain/anxiety. It turns out that independent (of the government) research is beginning to confirm what I teased out of the limited information available to me three years ago on the subject.
The research Cannabis Use in Adolescence: Self-Medication for Anxiety was done by Dr. Tom O'Connell, a long time opponent of prohibition.
Dr. O'Connell is mostly interested in general social factors that predispose adolescents to drug use. The most important factor he found was a missing or ineffective father.
In attempting to determine the origin of the symptoms motivating this population’s aggressive adolescent drug sampling, the most obvious place to start was family background. A common element was the absence of their biological fathers from their early lives —either physically, through early death or divorce, or emotionally, through a variety of other mechanisms...He goes on to look at school careers as another determining factor. He sees a lot of ADD and ADHD. One thing he mentions early on is that the boys outnumber the girls in his practce (where he interviewd the kids) by a
4 to 1 ratio.
His study looked at the substitution effect. The replacement of tobacco and alcohol with cannabis. (Do you suppose this is why the alcohol companies are so heavily invested in the drug war? And the tobacco companies before they became an embarassment?)
Repeat use of both alcohol and tobacco tended to be aggressive. More than half had binged in high school or as young adults; 35% had experienced alcohol black-outs; and 12.5% had received DUI citations. Yet essentially all who have continued to use cannabis on a regular basis subsequently moderated their alcohol consumption. Few are teetotalers, but nearly all who still drink do so moderately. Most have reduced alcohol consumption to 20% of their peak levels —or less.There are three important points I think the doctor has left out of his study. Child abuse, PTSD, and genetics. I cover child abuse and PTSD in Police and PTSD. I cover genetics in Genetic Discrimination.
Cannabis also has enabled patients to reduce tobacco use. Although 68.1% of cannabis applicants became daily cigarette smokers for a while, over half (53%) of the smokers have since been able to quit and almost all the rest are trying. Even inveterate tobacco smokers (those unable to remain abstinent) uniformly relate their cigarette consumption to both stress and access to cannabis: when the former is high and the latter is low, they tend to smoke a lot more tobacco.
He has a few thing to say about the government's interest in this type of research. It explains a number of things including why big pharma is heavily invested in the drug war.
Evidence that cannabis is capable of benignly and effectively palliating the psychotropic symptom complexes so often encountered in juveniles and young adults was clearly beyond the scope of any research funded— or even permitted— by NIDA. That such symptoms tend to persist into mid-life for many who suffer from them is now endorsed in psychiatric literature and has spurred development of a host of pharmaceuticals intended to treat them. Yet most of applicants for whom these pharmaceuticals were prescribed report that cannabis provides more effective and durable relief.This is very interesting because I said someting similar three years ago in Addiction or Self Medication?:
It turns out that anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem in the United States. They are worth $46 billion a year to the pharmaceutical industry. You don't suppose this fact has any thing to do with the pharmaceutical industries being in the forefront of the Drug Free America campaign do you? Of course not. They are just trying to keep you from being addicted to natural products at the cost of 1/10th of a cent per dose when they are more than willing to sell you an FDA and doctor approved, pharmacy sold product that will do the job for a dollar a dose. They have only your best interests at heart. Just ask their accountants.Dr. OConnell summarises his work this way:
Proposition 215 encouraged many individuals who had been considered “recreational” users of cannabis to apply for “medical” status. Interviews placing their cannabis use in broader context showed that it is frequently an alternative to the use of alcohol, tobacco, and “harder” drugs.Dr. O'Connell also thinks that even anti-prohibitionists are not acknowledging the anxiety factors and that all use may in some sense be medicinal:
The federal government, by imposing a Prohibition based on biased, inadequate studies, is depriving the American people of a safe and effective medicine.
Beyond that concern, the increasing enthusiasm for drug testing and punishing those who test positive for cannabis wth either criminal or social sanctions is destructive to the large —but at this writing unknown —number of Americans treating emotional symptoms with what may be, for them, the best agent available.
Data from the author's practice show that many Californians use cannabis to treat emotional conditions. Government studies obscure this reality and some reformers seem reluctant to acknowledge it.There are a lot of interests working together to keep pot illegal. I think as the science gets better known they will not stand.