Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Myth: Marijuana Use Can Be Prevented

Drug education and prevention programs reduced marijuana use during the 1980s. Since then, our commitment has slackened, and marijuana use has been rising. By expanding and intensifying current anti-marijuana messages, we can stop youthful experimentation.

Fact: There is no evidence that anti-drug messages diminish young people's interest in drugs. Anti-drug campaigns in the schools and the media may even make drugs more attractive. Marijuana use among youth declined throughout the 1980s, and began increasing in the 1990s. This increase occurred despite young people's exposure to the most massive anti-marijuana campaign in American history. In a number of other countries, drug education programs are based on a "harm reduction" model, which seeks to reduce the drug-related harm among those young people who do experiment with drugs.

  • Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. "National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse." New York (1995):28.
  • Brown, Lee. Director of National Drug Control Policy, remarks at National Conference on Marijuana Use: Prevention, Treatment, and Research. Sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Arlington, VA (July 1995).
  • Califano, Joseph A. "Don’t Stop This War." Washington Post 26 May 1996: C7.
  • Shalala, Donna. "Marijuana: A Recurring Problem." Prevention Pipeline 8.5 (1995): 2.
  • Burke, James. [Partnership for a Drug-Free America]. Interview. MS-NBC with Tom Brokaw. MS-NBC, 3 September 1996.
  • Falco, Mathea. The Making of a Drug-Free America: Programs That Work. New York: Times Books, 1992. 202.

Myth: Marijuana Related Hospital Emergencies Are Increasing, Particularly Among Youth

This is evidence that marijuana is much more harmful than most people previously believed.

Fact: Marijuana does not cause overdose deaths. The number of people in hospital emergency rooms who say they have used marijuana has increased. On this basis, the visit may be recorded as marijuana-related even if marijuana had nothing to do with the medical condition preceding the hospital visit. Many more teenagers use marijuana than use drugs such as heroin and cocaine. As a result, when teenagers visit hospital emergency rooms, they report marijuana much more frequently than they report heroin and cocaine. In the large majority of cases when marijuana is mentioned, other drugs are mentioned as well. In 1994, fewer than 2% of drug related emergency room visits involved the use of marijuana.

  • Brown, Lee. Quoted in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Press Release, National Drug Survey Results Released with New Youth Public Education Materials. Rockville: 12 September 1995.
  • Shalala, Donna. "Say ‘No’ to Legalization of Marijuana." Wall Street Journal 18 August 1995: A10.
  • Shuster, Charles. Quoted in Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug Legalization: Myths and Misconceptions. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, 1994. 5.

Myth: Marijuana Use is a Major Cause Of Highway Accidents

Like alcohol, marijuana impairs psychomotor function and decreases driving ability. If marijuana use increases, an increase in of traffic fatalities is inevitable.

Fact: There is no compelling evidence that marijuana contributes substantially to traffic accidents and fatalities. At some doses, marijuana affects perception and psychomotor performances- changes which could impair driving ability. However, in driving studies, marijuana produces little or no car-handling impairment- consistently less than produced by low moderate doses of alcohol and many legal medications. In contrast to alcohol, which tends to increase risky driving practices, marijuana tends to make subjects more cautious. Surveys of fatally injured drivers show that when THC is detected in the blood, alcohol is almost always detected as well. For some individuals, marijuana may play a role in bad driving. The overall rate of highway accidents appears not to be significantly affected by marijuana's widespread use in society.

  • Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. “Legalization: Panacea or Pandora’s Box”. New York. (1995):36.
  • Swan, Neil. “A Look at Marijuana’s Harmful Effects.” NIDA Notes. 9.2 (1994): 14.
  • Moskowitz, Herbert and Robert Petersen. Marijuana and Driving: A Review. Rockville: American Council for Drug Education, 1982. 7.
  • Mann, Peggy. Marijuana Alert. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985. 265.