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Is Marijuana Addictive?

The Medical Marijuana Magazine wishes to thank Steven C. Markoff for permission to publish the following compilation of data from several different sources. It is obvious that "addiction" has many meanings. People even speak of "addiction" to the Internet; however, as the data presented below make clear, marijuana is far less "addictive" than other widely used substances.


Compiled & Published

by

Steven C. Markoff

I. Introduction

Given the differing views concerning drugs and their addictiveness, I found these three doctor's specificity and close consensus about the relative addictiveness of marijuana and five commonly used drugs interesting. This booklet's purpose is to excerpt on a straight forward basis, the minimum information from the works cited below to support the highlights.

II A. Two Doctors Compare Addictiveness of

Six Well Known Drugs

Dr. Jack E. Henningfield Ph.D. (in Psychopharmacology) and formerly of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Dr. Neal L. Benowitz MD of the University of San Francisco rank six common substances in five problem areas.

 
Rating System: 1=Most Addictive; 6=Least Addictive
1. Henningfield Ratings

Substance

Withdrawal*

Reinforcement*

Tolerance*

Dependence*

Intoxication*

Total

Avg.

Heroin

2

2

1

2

2

9

1.8

Alcohol

1

3

3

4

1

12

2.4

Cocaine

4

1

4

3

3

15

3.0

Nicotine

3

4

2

1

5

15

3.0

Marijuana

6

5

6

6

4

27

5.4

Caffeine

5

6

5

5

6

27

5.4

In April 1997, after reviewing the literature, Dr. Henningfield changed his ratings of marijuana and caffeine's tolerance and dependence to 5's and 6's respectively.

2. Benowitz Ratings

Heroin

2

2

2

2

2

10

2.0

Cocaine

3

1

1

3

3

11

2.2

Alcohol

1

3

4

4

1

13

2.6

Nicotine

3

4

4

1

6

18

3.6

Caffeine

4

5

3

5

5

22

4.4

Marijuana

5

6

5

6

4

26

5.2

Source: Reformatted from the August 2, 1994 N.Y. Times Article "Is Nicotine Addictive? It Depends on Whose Criteria You Use"

*Withdrawal: Presence and severity of characteristic withdrawal symptoms.

*Reinforcement: A measure of the substance's ability in human and animal tests, to get users to take it again and again, and in preference to other substances.

* Tolerance: How much of the substance is needed to satisfy increasing cravings for it, and the level of stable, high need that is eventually reached.

*Dependence: How difficult it is for the user to quit, the relapse rate, the percentage of people who eventually become dependent, the rating users give their own need for the substance and the degree to which the substance will be used in the face of evidence that it causes harm.

*Intoxication: Though not usually counted as a measure of addiction in itself, the level of intoxication is associated with addiction and increases the personal and social damage a substance may do.


II B. One Doctors Survey of Health Officials on the Inherent Addictiveness of Six Commonly Used Drugs

Health officials were asked to put aside social as well as economic pressures such as drug availability or acceptability and to evaluate the inherent addictive potential of the following six drugs.

Relative Addictiveness of Common Drugs

(100=Most Addictive; 0=Least)

Drug

Rating

Nicotine

99

Alcohol

81

Heroin

80

Cocaine (Nasal)

71

Caffeine

70

Marijuana

22

Conclusion:

(1) The most addictive drug, nicotine, is not only not scheduled, it can be purchased without a prescription by anyone over the age of 18.

(2) Cocaine is about as addictive as coffee or tea's caffeine.

(3) Alcohol is about as addictive as heroin.

Source Data:

Reformatted from the book The Chemistry of Mind-Altering Drugs by Daniel M. Perrine, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemistry at Loyola College, Baltimore, Maryland. Published by the American Chemical Society, Washington D.C., 1997.*

"Hooked: Why Isn't Everyone an Addict?" by Deborah Franklin, In Health magazine, volume 4, number 6, pp. 38-52, November/December 1990.

__________________

* On May 14, 1997, Dr. Perrine stated that "Addictivity" in this chart is most comparable to the "Dependence" from the previous chart.


Addictiveness of Marijuana

vs. Five

Commonly Used Drugs

HIGHLIGHTS:

Three Doctors Rate the Addictivity of Six Substances

(1.=Most Addictive)

J. Henningfield Ph.D.

N. Benowitz MD

D. Perrine Ph.D.

1. Heroin 1. Heroin 1. Nicotine
2. Alcohol 2. Cocaine 2. Alcohol
3. Cocaine 3. Alcohol 3. Heroin
4. Nicotine 4. Nicotine 4. Cocaine (Nasal)
5. Marijuana & Caffeine 5. Caffeine 5. Caffeine
  6. Marijuana 6. Marijuana

Source Data:

August 2, 1994 edition of N.Y. Times, article "Is Nicotine Addictive? It Depends on Whose Criteria you Use" by Philip J.Hilts, section C, page 3.

The Chemistry of Mind-Altering Drugs: History, Pharmacology, and Cultural Context, by Daniel M. Perrine, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemistry, Loyola College of Baltimore.

5/15/97

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