The Heart of Addiction

How psychology drives addictive behavior.

Legalization of Marijuana Is Okay

Readers of this blog know that addiction is a psychological symptom, a compulsive behavior driven exactly like other compulsions, and readily understandable and treatable. This perspective can be helpful in thinking about the recent election, in which two states legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Read More

Education not misinformation

Thank-you Dr. Dodes for presenting an article that is based on research as well as common sense. I have been researching marijuana addiction as I feel new strategies will need to be devised in order to deal with marijuana addiction/dependency as decriminalization/legalization legislation becomes more common in North America. As you point out the “one size fits all” approach to dangers of drugs are myopic. I am currently researching treatment options for marijuana addiction as I feel that drug addiction treatment needs to be specialized to the unique addictive qualities of the particular drug.

It takes courage to stand up against the ignorant juggernaut that is “the war on drugs”. Thank-you for writing an article that helps to cut through years of what has been at best misinformation and at worst complete propaganda. Lies--even if they are in the name of protecting ‘the children’-- are still lies. I feel the public is best served when they are educated as objectively as possible and left to make up their own minds.

Finally, I would like to share an article that I came across today about the effects of legalization of marijuana in the Netherlands.
Kathleen Maclay comments on recently published research from Robert J. MacCoun, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and the UC Berkeley School of Law.

Maclay writes of MacCoun’s findings stating:

-Dutch citizens use cannabis at more modest rates than many of their European neighbors.

-Dutch youth report high rates of availability of cannabis, but not as elevated as reported rates in the United States and several other countries.

-The Dutch “continuation” rate for using marijuana from a causal experimentation in youth to regular usage in adulthood (ages 15-34) is fairly modest by international standards

Past-year cannabis use among Dutch 15-to-24-year-olds dropped from 14.3 to 11.4 percent between 1997 and 2005.

-Dutch cannabis users are more likely to be admitted for substance abuse treatment than their counterparts in most European countries, while the United States reports four marijuana treatment admissions for every one admission in the Netherlands. It is not clear whether this reflects a greater investment in treatment by Dutch officials, or the higher potency of Dutch marijuana.

-In the United States, about half of those admitted for treatment for marijuana addiction happen through criminal justice referrals. In the Netherlands, such referrals account for closer to 10 percent.

Once again thank-you for starting a reasonable discussion
James Kerr, M.A., Clinical Counsellor

Tangible social effects of cannabis in recreational use

Thank you for your sincere intentions of taking off some heavy inherited prejudices about this or any other topic.

English is not my native language but i'll do my best to make myself clear, having present that i am not a psychologist, but just a sincere and intuitive interested in human behavior.

I think there is a mayor factor that i haven't seen being considered in discussions like this. It's about the tangible social effects of cannabis in a consumers behavior. That is, while cannabis psychoactive and every other effect of cannabis is active, and how this stands aside of other drugs like alcohol, to which it tends to be compared to.

I tend to stand in defense of responsible cannabis usage, because i experience it myself. But i'm trying to be as objective as i can, also knowing that this comes only from my experience.

From the years i've been near cannabis experience, i've never seen any person act violently or "out of his mind", as for what the cannabis exclusive usage respects. This means, using marihuana alone, and no other substance out of the "normal", such as alcohol or any other drug.
All i've seen is a tendency to calmness and relaxation, as higher the dose is.

This is, leaving aside psychotic symptoms, which i hope we all know, comes from another previous set of symptoms that uninformed people call diseases. Those which ultimately come from a much deeper and unique disease (which is not the topic of discussion but it's worth the research).

Knowing this, it's important to consider the diference when comparing cannabis to alcohol or other drugs, which by the way, are curiously considered similar in these debates, and which are not. Simply because social harmfulness is at another scale.

(It's also important to consider the tangible benefits of cannabis in many ways, which are recently coming to light through science, but also, not a matter of discusion now).

Addictions are a noticeable symptom of a strong necessity of satisfaction of unconscious desires, which are momentarily calmed at the moment in which the mind is free of noise or requirements (coinciding with alpha brainwaves).
I think this is the way this society expresses most clearly a history of wrong stimulus. If we think a little, we can realize what is the greatest source of unnatural stimulus in this now global world. I'll give you a hint.

It begins with: mark
And finishes with: eting

And it's paying off.

I've never seen a mainstream study of how marketing influences our psyche in social behavior, focusing of course in these symtoms.

My conclusion is that marihuana is, after all, a healthy way to deal with this anxiety derived from addiction. And that the less talked about addiction that you mentioned "SHOPPING" is, as i am concerned, the most harmful way of dealing with adicción. Because IT PROVOQUES THE GENERATION OF MORE STIMULUS.

Smoking is not Eating or Drinking

One of the statements I have read is that smoking crack cocaine is more addictive than chewing coca leaves. The cocaine supposedly reaches the brain more quickly when it is smoked than when it is chewed. So I wonder why some people are in a hurry to legalize the consumption of smokable drugs.

And I understand the arguments for legalizing the supply of drugs, but I have a question that I have never seen addressed: Why should the use or overconsumption of potentially harmful drugs be legalized just because their production has been legalized?

The route of consumption of

The route of consumption of any drug does not affect its ability to be addictive, either physically or, more important, psychologically. However, there is one way that this matters for marijuana: smoking pot carries all the same dangers of cancer and emphysema as smoking cigarettes. If marijuana is to be legal and more widely used, it is far safer to take it in another form (brownies,etc.) rather than smoked.

Test This

Here are a couple of hypotheses that could be tested. They might be true. I am not being facetious:

Bicycles are gateway vehicle for motorbikes. If you prevent kids from riding bicycles they will be less likely to ride motorbikes or motorcycles.

Tobacco is a gateway drug for marijuana. If you get kids to smoke tobacco cigarettes they will be more likely to smoke marijuana joints.

You mentioned a study that found no evidence of marijuana being a gateway drug, but you provided no details. Unfortunately, absence of evidence does not qualify as evidence of absence.

Good points made here

I am a fellow PT blogger and very much agree that the benefits of legalizing marijuana far out weigh the costs. Here is my blog on the topic...


You can be pro legal cannabis

You can be pro legal cannabis use or pro illegal cannabis use. That's it. It will happen whether you want it to or not. People will still take drugs, whether illegal or legal, just as they always have. The only thing making drug use illegal actually achieves is to criminalise a large part of the population and ensure that if something goes wrong people are too afraid legal ramifications to call for help.

Too true...well put:(

Too true...well put:(

Money should go to treatment not drug wars

I have known people who desperately wanted treatment but could not afford it, or could only get a week of in-depth treatment. There is not one person who wanted to use drugs who has been prevented from using by our system, but lots of users have struggled to get help to get off drugs with no support. Our national focus has been foolish, and I for one hope that this trend of making drugs safer, and hopefully taxed to generate funds for treatment, will lead us to a saner model of how to deal with all substance abuse regradless of legality. If making dangerous things illegal worked we would have solved tha alcohol problem back in the 1920s. All that did was give us strong gangs.

Question about legalizing marijuana Vs opiates

In general, I agree with Dr. Dodes on the sorry state of addiction treatment and the lack of understanding of the true nature of addiction. With respect to legalizing marijuana it is not logical to criminalize marijuana when alcohol is legal. However, I'm wondering what the doctor thinks with respect to heroin or other opiates. Herion addiction seems to be a huge problem as people transition to heroin after becoming addicted to pain killers. Im not sure this fits your model of people becoming addicted as a result of their need to feel less powerless/ helpless. i'd really appreciate Dr. Dodes thoughts on the rapid rise of heroin addiction.


Heroin is a far more dangerous drug than marijuana and has no current medical use, so I am not in favor of legalizing it. I do not agree, though, that people transition from pain killers to heroin. If that were true to any significant degree, the country would be inundated with heroin users -- far more so than is the case. The current increased heroin problem seems to be due to other factors, especially increased purity of the street drug which leads to accidental overdoses and makes an intense drug effect possible through oral or nasal routes, without requiring an injection.

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Lance Dodes, M.D., is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.


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