Could Smoking Pot be the Silver Bullet against Hard Drug Abuse and Alcoholism?

Burning joint with smoke, Czech Republic

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It’s a good thing our criminal justice system is blindly obsessed with sending pot smokers to prison. Otherwise, we might have to spend time evaluating the utility of the ancient herb.  A group of pothead academics recently did exactly that and came across an ironic finding: when substituted for other, more harmful drugs, pot becomes a helpful proxy in the struggle against substance abuse.

Research published in the open access Harm Reduction Journal features a poll of 350 cannabis users, finding that 40% used cannabis to control their alcohol cravings, 66% as a replacement for prescription drugs and 26% for other, more potent, illegal drugs.

Amanda Reiman, from the University of California, Berkeley, carried out the study at Berkeley Patient’s Group, a medical cannabis dispensary. She found that 65% of people reported using cannabis as a substitute because it has less adverse side effects than alcohol, illicit or prescription drugs, 34% because it has less withdrawal potential and 57.4% because cannabis provides better symptom management.

Imagine that. If legalized, pot could be used to wedge hard drug abusers off their dope. And not just illegal drug abusers, but those addicted to the privileged legal drug of choice might benefit as well–swap your booze for a bong and dry out. 

That’s an intriguing idea, but to attempt it, another far more resistant addiction would have to be overcome: our justice system is a strung-out junkie for jailing pot smokers. According to a 2007 U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Statistics report, American taxpayers are now spending more than a billion dollars per year to incarcerate its citizens for pot. 

According to FBI statistics, almost 47% of all drug arrests in the U.S. are for pot. We had a spell in the 80s when cocaine and heroine topped drug arrests, but since 1996 pot is the far and away front runner, as the chart below from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows.



Of the estimated 800,000 or so people arrested on marijuana charges in a given year, about 90 percent are charged with possession only. The rest are charged with “sale/manufacture,” a category that includes all cultivation offenses, even those where the marijuana was being grown for personal or medical use.  Nearly 1 out of 8 U.S. drug prisoners are locked up for pot.

I think it’s a mistake to portray pot as a harmless alternative to other drugs, because it’s clearly not. The question, however, isn’t whether it’s harmless, but whether it’s more harmful than legally sanctioned and widely available drugs that you can buy with your newspaper and a tank of gas. 

And if it’s true that pot can help hard drug abusers liberate themselves from their chemical chains, then we have yet another reason to reexamine the insanely contradictory policy of putting pot users in prison.

HT: EurekAlert


6 thoughts on “Could Smoking Pot be the Silver Bullet against Hard Drug Abuse and Alcoholism?

    • I disagree, this isn’t a tough one. Cannabis is already prevalent. They already sell Hightimes magazines, rolling papers, and paraphernalia at every other convenience store. Instead of propping up an illegal industry, drug cartels, and a ballooning prison burden, the govt could legalize, regulate, and tax the industry. The biggest problem is the devaluation of marijuana following legalization, which would hurt some current legal medical farmers and bust up a lot of the enforcement boondoggles.

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention David Disalvo - Brainspin – Could Smoking Pot be the Silver Bullet against Hard Drug Abuse and Alcoholism? - True/Slant --

  2. I know that when I used to smoke pot, I wouldn’t drink…the spins you know…hey if pot can help others ween themselves off of more harmful drugs then I say they should. And it’s absurd the amount of money we are spending to incarcerate pot users….waste of money.

  3. Too true. I had a buddy whose life was nearly destroyed by his addictions. He once landed himself in the hospital after botching a cocaine injection and shooting straight into the muscle. Doctors ended up taking a scoop out of his arm after he nearly died from the infection that developed.

    About a month after he was out of the hospital, he was beaten within an inch of his life by some guys who he tried to sell a bunch of legal prescription pills to. They took a set of freeweights to his face after he fought back and tried to pull a shotgun on them after he was jumped.

    If it weren’t for a few good friends who stuck by the guy, offering him pot when he’d start to ache for opiates or meth, I don’t know … He’d probably have offed himself or gotten killed in a deal or by an overdose.

    Every time he would start chewing on stuff and doubling-over at the waist, rocking back and forth and saying how sorry he was, his friends knew to roll up a spliff. Aside from pot, the guy’s been clean for months now and his life has improved dramatically.

    That’s just one of the many reasons why, when I hear politicos say there’s no such thing as medical marijuana, I can only laugh. Doctors prescribe methodone for heroin addicts, but that’s much worse for you than pot. An “insanely contradictory” policy indeed.

  4. Since all of our recent presidents have smoked grass and didn’t go to jail, you’d think they would see the unfairness in arresting and jailing others who smoke the same thing.

    Our consciences have been sucked dry in this country, everything we are doing is so blatantly wrong. Its sickening, infuriating and criminal in fact.
    We can’t all leave, so we’d better get busy and change things!

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