Facts and myths about marijuana

Lester Grinspoon, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, has studied the effects of marijuana for decades and has given an interview in which he dispels many of the myths about the drug, especially in comparison to alcohol.

I don’t believe it is addictive, and there’s no evidence of it being so. You get addicted to things like alcohol, cigarettes or heroin and many opiate derivatives, but people do not become addicted to marijuana. There are people who use it all day long and that seems to me silly—you get the high in the morning but the rest of the day, there isn’t much. Nevertheless, it’s not an addiction because those people can give it up if they want to and will not suffer any withdrawal effects. Some may get a little irritable or depressed. That has nothing to do with withdrawal symptoms.

The interview is well worth reading, especially since the decision by the state of Colorado to legalize the personal possession of marijuana seems to have caused some members of the media to become somewhat unhinged. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News for example, goes on a weird rant about how young people in the US are headed for drug-induced doom, aided by their other addictions to video games and texting, those other alleged vices of the young that people like O’Reilly obsess about.

But he made the mistake of bringing on some one who actually knew something about the subject, Columbia neuroscientist Carl Hart, a council member of the National Institutes of Health, who repeatedly told him that O’Reilly’s numbers about the rising use of marijuana among the young were flat-out wrong, while O’Reilly weakly tried to defend the people who give him his talking points.

It was beautiful to watch, not that it will do any good. People like O’Reilly simply repeat the same bogus arguments whatever the facts are.


  1. Félix Desrochers-Guérin says

    My overall impression is that David Brooks, who seems like a very smart man, is very much mistaken about what he thinks he knows about marijuana and out of date. I think he has just touched the tip of the iceberg in his experience with marijuana. His ignorance about this subject is vast. I hope he’s on more solid ground with the other things he writes about in the New York Times.

    Dr. Grinspoon is either being very diplomatic or not reading Brooks very much.

  2. Tenebras says

    “…caused some members of the media to become somewhat unhinged. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News for example…” O’Reilly was ever hinged to begin with?

  3. moarscienceplz says

    Bill O’Reilly of Fox News for example, goes on a weird rant …

    That is SO weird because Bill NEVER does stuff like that!

    I’ve read Carl Hart’s book High Price. I highly recommend it. It has some brutal honesty about his own life as a young man, and it gave me a lot of facts about drug use vis-a-vis low income communities that was eye-opening.

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