420, smoking weed, and drug problems : Marijuana facts

Co-authored by: Jamie Felzer

It’s April 20th, or 4-20, and anyone who smokes marijuana knows what that means – It’s time to smoke weed- a lot of weed!

In honor of this “stoner” holiday, or perhaps in reverence of its implications, I wanted to put together a post that explored some recent findings having to do with the most commonly used illegal substance in the U.S.
These two studies deal specifically with smoking weed, teenagers, and drug problems.

Study 1 – Misconceptions of marijuana use prevalence

An article in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs has revealed that most young adults greatly overestimate how many of their peers smoke weed. Teens surveyed believed that 98% of their peers smoked marijuana at least once a year – In reality, only 51.5% off the teens reported actually ever smoking marijuana.

To make matters worse, even though only 15% of the teens reported using once a month or more, the estimate among peers was closer to 65%!!! Since we know that perception of peer behavior affects adolescents greatly, such misconceptions can easily lead to false peer-pressure towards marijuana use.

So next time instead of assuming everyone smokes weed, think again.It’s one of the most commonly used drugs but the notion that everyone smokes weed is simply wrong.

Reference: Kilmer, Walker, Lee, Palmer, Mallett, Fabiano, & Larrimer (2006). Misperceptions of College Students Marijuana use: Implications for Prevention. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 67, pp. 277-281.

Study 2 – Teens reducing use can reduce marijuana dependence risk

This next study dealt with early patterns of weed smoking as possible predictors of later problems use. They followed more than 1500 respondents from adolescence (ages 15-17) into young adulthood (ages 21-24).

The article revealed some interesting overall patterns, but I’ll keep the results short and simple, it is 4-20 after all…

The good news? Teens who reduced their use during the first phase of the study (the teens years) were at a significantly lower risk for marijuana dependence and regular use in early adulthood. This suggests that successful interventions may be effective at reducing later problem use.

The bad news? All marijuana smokers who used at least weekly showed the highest risk for later problems even if they reduced their use… This is not that surprising of a finding though since dependence usually involves regular use.

The bottom line? Reducing marijuana use at any stage will lower your risk for later problem use, but those who find themselves smoking often are most likely to end up in some trouble even if they try to cut down. Knowledge is power, so if you think you might be at risk and are concerned, talking to someone can’t hurt. Knowing marijuana facts can’t hurt either.

Reference: Swift, Coffey, Carlin, Degenhardt, Calabria & Patton (2009). Are adolescents who moderate their cannabis use at lower risk of later regular and dependent cannabis use? Addiction, 104, pp 806-814.

For a different view on 420, see this video:


About addiction: Exercise, stigma, marijuana, and friendhip.

Here we are again. I’ve been slacking on this, but check out the new crop of great articles about addiction. As usual, if you press the title of this post, you’ll be rewarded with our relevant posts!!!

MSNBC: Exercise may help prevent substance abuse – Here’s an article that reports on some of the findings I’d recently talked about here.

Addiction Inbox: Treating addicts like human beings – About the stigma and shame associated with addiction.

Addiction tomorrow: Marijuana – a gateway drug?

Addiction recovery basic: Friendship in recovery – Having social support and friends is important, especially when trying to make huge changes in lifestyle like quitting an addiction.

More CPDD Addiction research: Addiction, exercise, recovery!

Okay, this is probably the last addiction research update I will give focusing on the Reno conference. The rest of the stuff I learned will be incorporated into future posts.

I’ve written before about the relationship between exercise and recovery (see here) and I will surely write more since for me, it was a big part of the equation.

two separate studies at CPDD reaffirmed my belief that exercise can be a very useful tool in addiction recovery.

The first study, conducted in humans, examined the effect of incorporating an extensive exercise routine into a residential, as well as intensive outpatient, addiction treatment program. Their findings showed improved outcomes for participants in the short, as well as long run. These included length of sobriety, subjective assessment of well being, and more. In talking to the researcher, she seemed to believe that at least part of the effect was due to the relief of cravings achieved by allowing patients to focus on something that took effort, rather than simply sitting around.

The second, and to my mind even more interesting, study examined the effect of exercise on cocaine self-administration in rats. Researchers assigned half of their rats to a cage that had a running wheel while the others were assigned to a regular cage. the rats with the running wheel used the device to run an average of 12 kilometers a day! After a week of simply resting in their cages, when transferred to another cage for 2 hours a day, the rats who had the wheel in their cage took less than half as much cocaine as the rats who didn’t have a wheel. the “wheel-rats” were also found to run less after they began the cocaine portion of the experiment, but their cocaine-taking never got near that of the non-exercising rats. It seems that having the exercise did something to reduce the reinforcing power of cocaine.

I have a feeling that future research will show that these finding hold true for other drugs (like crystal meth, heroin, marijuana, cigarettes, and alcohol) and possibly even for behavioral addictions like food addiction, gambling, and sex addiction.

All in all, research seems to be supporting the notion that exercise can play a significant role in recovery from addiction. Whether it be for boredom relief or an actual internal change in the motivating power of drugs, it looks to me as if Addiction + Exercise = Recovery !

More drug addiction research from CPDD: Teenage smoking, childhood trauma, and marijuana withdrawal

Today, I’ll give a short summary of a few interesting talks I saw at the conference:

  1. Teenage smoking – Children of mothers who used drugs during pregnancy had abnormal stress hormone levels. When assessed over time, their abnormal stress response was associated with an earlier onset (age of first use) of cigarettes smoking and an increased amount and frequency of smoking cigarettes.
  2. Childhood trauma and drug use – Children who experienced excessive childhood trauma had altered brain activity (in the Nucleus Accumbens specifically) and showed increased anxiety. This area, which is important for essentially all learning, was differentially activated in a way that correlated with the amount of childhood trauma.
  3. Marijuana withdrawal and relapse to marijuana use – Marijuana withdrawal, which might soon be added to the APA‘s DSM (in version 5) was characterized as: Increased irritability, restlessness, and misery, reduced sleep quality, sleep duration, and food intake. When tested, restlessness, sleep disturbance, and early wakening were found to be predictors of relapse among participating marijuana users.

Marijuana addiction – Literature search results on marijuana facts

My recent post on marijuana’s addictive potential received some scathing comments from readers who seem to think that the scientists have already agreed that marijuana addiction (called marijuana dependence in the field) does not exist. So, I’ve compiled this little list of research articles. I’ve made certain to only use articles that have been cited often (in other work), meaning that their content has made an impact. Each of these papers has been cited at least 50 times (except for the very recent last review with about 40). Once again, I find it odd that only marijuana users are so insistent about their drug having no negative aspects whatsoever.

1. Laura Jean Bierut, MD; Stephen H. Dinwiddie, MD; Henri Begleiter, MD; Raymond R. Crowe, MD; Victor Hesselbrock, PhD; John I. Nurnberger, Jr, MD, PhD; Bernice Porjesz, PhD; Marc A. Schuckit, MD; Theodore Reich, MD (1998). Familial Transmission of Substance Dependence: Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, and Habitual Smoking. Archives of General Psychiatry, 55, pp. 982-988.

2. Budney A. J.; Novy P. L.; Hughes J. R (1999). Marijuana withdrawal among adults seeking treatment for marijuana dependence. Addiction, 94, pp. 1311-1322.

3. AJ Budney, ST Higgins, KJ Radonovich, PL Novy (2000). Adding voucher-based incentives to coping skills and motivational enhancement improves outcomes during treatment for marijuana dependence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 1051-1061.

4. William R. True, Andrew C. Heath, Jeffrey F. Scherrer, Hong Xian, Nong Lin, Seth A. Eisen, Michael J. Lyons, Jack Goldberg, Ming T. Tsuang (1999). Interrelationship of genetic and environmental influences on conduct disorder and alcohol and marijuana dependence symptoms. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, 8, 391-397.

5. Aimee L. McRae, Pharm.D., Alan J. Budney, Ph.D., Kathleen T. Brady, M.D., Ph.D. (2003). Treatment of marijuana dependence: a review of the literature. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 24, 369-376.