Letters: Is Marijuana Addictive?

Readers debate questions of cannabis use and abuse.

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

America’s Invisible Pot Addicts

In August, Annie Lowrey described how more and more Americans are reporting near-constant cannabis use, as legalization forges ahead.

It’s really quite simple: Not everyone who drinks is a drunk, not everyone who smokes cigarettes is addicted to them, and the many who benefit from using marijuana should not be penalized because of centuries-old hysteria. It’s about the freedom to choose based on an informed option. People who hurt themselves have to help themselves. No laws, rules, or regulations are going to prevent addicts from abusing themselves, regardless of their drug of choice.

John Self
Milwaukee, Wis.

Human beings misuse everything they touch. Cannabis will be no different. But the harm of misuse is what we need to reduce. Any harm cannabis causes—and it does occasionally cause harm—is much less than opioids, alcohol, tobacco, and, yes, cheeseburgers, too.

If anyone needs to smoke a joint, maybe it’s The Atlantic. Get your priorities straight.

Andrew DeAngelo
Oakland, Calif.

The piece on marijuana perpetuates a false narrative that cannabis, because it is stronger today, presents an unprecedented danger. In truth, people are now able to measure exactly what dosage they want to take under a regulated state system.

John Scotti
Lincoln, Mass.

First, the title is very unfortunate, as language such as “addict” is known to be stigmatizing and prevents people from seeking the treatment they need. Aside from that, the article was very misleading about the implications of changing use patterns of marijuana.

According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health, directed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 13.9 percent of people 12 and older used marijuana last year. Of these, about 18.6 percent used it daily or near daily. Though there is an increasing trend in daily use, there has not been a correlated increase in use disorders. According to this same survey, marijuana-use disorder has been largely stable at 1.5 percent of the entire population, without increase. Currently, only about one in six daily users reports dependence. The truth is, the majority of marijuana users, both recreational and medical, does not exhibit significant negative effects, and even the majority of daily users does not exhibit criteria of misuse.

Though marijuana use is not without risks, it is important that we have accurate and complete information to have the robust policy discussion needed to come up with the best cannabis policies that we can. Stories like this only muddle the debate.

Angela Janis, M.D.
Madison, Wis.

Thank you! Thank you! I have been a licensed alcohol and drug counselor in Minnesota for 18 years. During this time I have worked with many clients who have had a cannabis-abuse disorder and have been unable to quit using. I have seen mothers lose custody of children because they couldn’t quit, men and women returning to jail and prison because they couldn’t quit. They knew it was a problem, but experienced a lot of internal conflict because it is so socially acceptable and so prevalent.

Kim McKnite
Minneapolis, Minn.

Consider this: If someone has a heart condition and takes their heart medication every day, sometimes more than once a day, are they addicted to their medication? When someone has diabetes and has to inject insulin as often as they need it, are they addicted to it?

There is no difference between that and medical-marijuana patients. Medical-marijuana patients take their medication every day, sometimes multiple times a day, because they need it as medicine for their chronic ailments. Until someone can come out with time-released doses, and they become mainstream, medical-marijuana patients have to take their medication often and at regular intervals. It’s no addiction, just regular dosage of needed medication.

Sue Nolff
Traverse City, Mich.