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“The number of children receiving treatment for addiction to cannabis has hit a record high, with one expert warning the age they try the drug for the first time has fallen which places them at great risk.” So begins the latest marijuana scare story in the U.K. edition of The Huffington PostSuch a bastion of liberal reportage wouldn’t lead us astray when it comes to accurate cannabis information, would it? Well, yes — it turns out that yes, they would.

In fact, according to the HuffPo UK story by Jack Sommers, 68 percent of all those under 18 who received medical treatment for “substance misuse” in England in 2012 and 2013 were children who cited cannabis as their “main problem drug.”

While apparently these 13,581 kids represent a cannabis crisis in Sommers’ mind, what they really signify is the good sense of British youth in choosing a non-lethal recreational drug — because marijuana won’t kill you as, for instance, alcohol or heroin could.

Think I’m bullshitting? The almost 50 percent increase in numbers being “treated” for cannabis (basically the poor kids who got caught and were required to face some sort of consequences, i.e., bogus “marijuana rehab”) was accompanied by a 29 percent drop in the number being treated for alcoholism. For heaven’s sakes, don’t send them to marijuana rehab — give these young people some accolades for making the healthier choice!

Instead, British drug warriors infected with their peculiar strain of Reefer Madness choose to interpret this positive development as a consequence of the availability of “the skunk variation of the drug,” as they darkly call the Skunk family of strains, as if somehow cannabis has become a whole new thing.

“It’s a scandal that the public isn’t being told the truth about the strength of skunk, which has an alarming 80 percent of the market,” we are given to understand by a clueless — or dishonest — spokesman for something called the “Cannabis Skunk Sense” charity, reports The Sun.

“One in six teens who try cannabis become addicted and skunk users are seven times more likely to suffer a psychotic episode,” this charlatan confidently tells us.

It doesn’t take much digging to learn that more than a third of the 13,581 children who named cannabis as their biggest problem were referred to treatment by the courts — in other words, they had the choice of going to marijuana rehab or going to jail. Many, perhaps most, of the rest were likely forced into treatment by concerned parents who’d been reading the “skunk” scare headlines prevalent in the U.K. tabloids.

As pointed out by Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst with the U.K. charity Transform, “we need to be wary of saying that all referrals involve addiction or dependence.”

What it does mean, according to Rolles, is that “the data is subject to variation according to changes in youth justice system or schools policy.” So a lot of these poor kids never had a real “problem with cannabis” at all; they were just caught up in a big, dumbly uncomprehending bureaucracy which defines their use of marijuana as a problem.

So what the hell is up with these nonsense “statistics” about cannabis “addiction” and “psychotic episodes”? And why on earth would anyone repeat such hogwash? Let’s explore that briefly.

Why, Oh Why?

​Why do the U.S. and British governments keep pushing outdated lies about marijuana’s health consequences and potential for addiction? Because it’s a lucrative business.

Government bureaucrats are wasting their time — and your tax money — researching what must be the Loch Ness Monster of the drug policy world (as in nobody can prove it exists), “marijuana addiction.” Yes, you read that right. “Marijuana addiction.”

According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), “Cannabis related disorders (CRDs), including cannabis abuse or dependence and cannabis induced disorders (e.g., intoxication, delirium, psychotic disorder, and anxiety disorder) are a major public health issue.”

OK, first things first. You gotta love that these acronym-loving policy wonks have come up with an actual abbreviation for the bad things pot’s supposed to do to you. Just making something up because you wish it so is one thing, but give it a catchy acronym like CRDs and suddenly it’s real, right? Right?

And how, exactly, did those luminaries at NIH come to that remarkable conclusion? Because, first of all, um, “Nearly one million people are seeking treatment for marijuana dependencies every year” and besides, “sufficient research has been carried out to confirm that the use of cannabis can produce serious physical and psychological consequences.”

Which brings us to…

The Great Marijuana Rehab Scam

Now, there aren’t “one million people seeking treatment for marijuana dependence”; it isn’t even close. The real number, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the actual number of persons seeking drug treatment for marijuana “as a primary substance for admission in 2007 was 287,933. That’s a lot less than “a million.”

But there’s more. If there really are 288,000 folks are year who need help quitting marijuana, then maybe there’s reason for concern, right? Wrong answer, Believer Of Bureaucrats.

Almost all of these “people seeking treatment” are FORCED to do so by court orders, under threat of jail, after having been busted for possessing small amounts of pot. Great use of public resources, eh? Just think about all those spaces in addiction recovery support groups that could have available for real addicts having problems with meth, crack, and heroin.

Never mind those guys! We’ve got the potheads going to marijuana rehab!

According to the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than a third of the 288,000 people entering “drug treatment for marijuana” hadn’t even smoked any pot in the 30 days prior to the admission. Doesn’t sound much like they were addicted, now does it?

Another 16 percent admitted they’d only used marijuana three times or less in the month prior to their admission. That just doesn’t sound much like the sort of out-of-control behavior we associate with drug addicts.

Do these people meet the clinical standard of being in “the state of being psychologically and physiologically dependent on a drug”? Of course not.

These people don’t belong in “marijuana rehab.” They don’t belong with real addicts. The only reason they are there is that they were given the choice between pretending to be drug addicts and attending marijuana rehab meetings, or going to jail.

That’s a no-brainer, right? Having been both places, I’d certainly rather spend a few evenings with recovering addicts (even if they sometimes tend to be whiners) than a few months with pissed-off inmates just looking for an excuse to “touch you up.”

A report published by SAMHSA indicates nearly six of 10 individuals in the U.S. who are “enrolled in drug treatment for marijuana” were forced there by the criminal justice system (I’d suspect the actual number is even higher).

The criminal justice system is the largest single source of referrals to the substance abuse treatment system, according to SAMHSA. The majority of these referrals come from parole and probation offices, i.e., parolees and probationers who fail urinalysis tests because the smoked a little weed.

The Myth of Marijuana’s “Serious Consequences”

​Any serious and impartial study of the adverse effects of marijuana use almost immediately runs into one striking and unavoidable fact: It’s glaringly apparent that marijuana’s potential negative effects are minor when compared to those of legal drugs such as opiates (physically habit-forming and capable of causing overdose deaths), alcohol (same on both counts) and tobacco.

A 2009 clinical trial from the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence raises serious doubts about the physical and psychological consequences of quitting pot, as well.

Researchers at four separate universities in Germany studied the self-reported “withdrawal symptoms” of 73 subjects judged to be “cannabis dependent”; all subjects resided in an inpatient facility.

It was determined than less than half of the subjects reported any withdrawal symptoms of clinical significance. Remember, these are all people who’d been diagnosed as being “cannabis dependent,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.

Even among the minority who did report such symptoms, “The intensity of most self-reported symptoms peaked on day one and decreased subsequently.”

What were these scary-sounding symptoms of quitting pot, anyway?

Well, the most frequently mentioned physical symptoms on day one were sleeping problems (21 percent), sweating (28 percent), hot flashes (21 percent), and decreased appetite (15 percent). Psychological symptoms included restlessness (20 percent), nervousness (20 percent), and sadness (19 percent).

Now, I’m not trained in psychology (oh, wait! I am), but those symptoms sound pretty much like what I’d expect to feel if you locked me in a marijuana rehab facility (for pot!), tell me I’m not free to go, and that smoking weed is no longer cool. Restlessness? Damn right. Nervousness? Check; I get arrested if I leave. Sadness? Duh.

Bottom line, marijuana’s “withdrawal symptoms” are so mild and subtle as to be laughable compared to those associated with quitting alcohol or heroin addiction (which can be fatal) or quitting tobacco (which many addicts report is harder to kick than heroin).

Follow The Money

​So why do government officials soberly claim that “therapeutic interventions” are necessary and important, “given the extent of use of cannabis in the general population”? (Adolescent pot use has actually been falling steadily since 1979.)

Why is it so crucial to manufacture this bugaboo and to pretend it’s scary? Well, there are currently no accepted medications to aid in “quitting marijuana,” and to help in combatting those fearsome CRDs (remember them?) And some companies (and, well, government officials) see a huge profit potential in fighting the marijuana monster.

You may have seen the headlines late last year, trumpeting a “cure for marijuana addiction.” Like me, you probably first wondered “Marijuana addiction?”

The infamous National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — which, by its own rules, will only study the “negative effects” of cannabis use, not any medical benefits — has decided that it’s ever-so-urgent to spend millions of your taxpayer dollars on a “cure for marijuana abuse.”

The absurdity would be amusing, if it weren’t so painfully stupid — and expensive.

All too eager to go along with the maddening charade, veritably leading a pea-brained little feel-good parade about the new discovery, tabloid rags like the U.K.’s Daily Mail, in all its hyperventilating glory, asked, Have scientists found a ‘cure’ for marijuana addiction? New treatment blocks the kick that users get from the drug.”

“A cure for marijuana abuse could be on the horizon thanks to a new finding,” the lead sentence, by hack Emma Innes, informed us.

The story goes on to detail a study involving monkeys and rats, and how something called kynurenic acid (found in bananas and turkey, and also naturally found in the human brain) can blunt (forgive me) the rewarding effects of THC, the principal psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana.

Almost all the stories covering this “marijuana addiction cure” pointed out that more people seek “marijuana rehab” treatment than for heroin or cocaine. But almost none of them contextualized that by pointing out that almost every single one of those “marijuana rehab” patients is defined as being in need of treatment by force and under threat of jail.

Yeah, you’d think that was a rather important point. But even the hallowed Smithsonian totally missed it, gravely reporting, as if it were an established fact, that “plenty of [marijuana] users” are “seeking ways to aid in kicking the habit.” (Make no mistake about it, pot is actually one of the easiest substances to quit; there may be a slight drop-off in appetite, and some mild sleep disturbances and irritability for a couple of days, then you’re done. If you’ve ever quit Coca-Cola or coffee, weed is easy peasy.)

Now, does this mean that the Authorities have found a way to block the action of marijuana in all of us? Beyond that, since dopamine is associated with any experience of pleasure, have these fucked-up killjoys found a way to eliminate pleasure-seeking behavior from errant hedonists?

“Based on the evidence in the study, which involved animals, the answer to the Mail‘s question is ‘not yet,’” reports Bazian at NHS Choicesthe website of the British government’s National Health Service.

While treatment with Ro 61-8048, the compound used by the researchers to administer kynurenic acid to the rodents, blocked the effects of THC on the brain’s reward system — resulting in a drop-off in marijuana use — “further studies are required to ensure that a similar compound is safe and effective in humans,” the NHS warns.

You see, the problem is, dicking around cluelessly with dopamine levels can be much more dangerous than little ol’ marijuana ever was. Among other regrettable effects, low dopamine can lead to clinical depression, weight gain, and loss of motor control.

It would be especially unfortunate to dangerously decrease dopamine levels for a reason as dumb as “marijuana addiction.” After all, wouldn’t you rather be high than depressed?

Now, they’re planning clinical trials — to find out if the stuff is worth anything for those nine out of every 100 marijuana users whom supposedly, according to the NIDA itself, grow “dependent” on weed.

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