The Difference Between Types of Addiction (And Why It’s Important to Know Them)

That’s only true if you don’t know anything about the SCIENCE of addiction.
Source: nyacyouth.org

So, here in my home state of New Hampshire, we’ve been working through cannabis legalization for some time. And last month, we saw a huge step towards decriminalization.

Of course, one issue I keep seeing come up is people questioning or challenging the idea of whether marijuana is addictive or not. Well, as someone who studied the science and psychology behind addiction as part of his college life, I wanted to explain something about addiction that most people overlook; there’s a very real chance that you’re using the word ‘addiction’ wrong and that’s because people use (or misuse, as the case may be) the word to describe three very different problems that I’d like to explore with you.

Physical Addiction

This is what most people in the scientific community mean when they talk about whether or not something is addictive.

The way things we do or consume that make us “feel good” work is by triggering the release of stored dopamine that binds to dopamine receptors in the brain and creates a feeling of mild euphoria as a reward to encourage that behavior.Drugs like cocaine, nicotine, and alcohol (yes, cigarettes and booze are drugs) work by increasing dopamine production and, essentially, flooding your brain in dopamine.

There’s a problem though; having too much dopamine in you all at once can cause the aforementioned receptors to become desensitized while natural dopamine production drops off. This means that you need more of your fix to get less than stellar results over time.

Cannabis, however, doesn’t work like that. While it does trigger dopamine release, it doesn’t directly increase its production. As such, it doesn’t desensitize receptors or reduce natural production with extended use. Therefore, It’s NOT physically addictive.

That said, you can’t exactly sleep on cannabis. While physical addiction isn’t a problem, you still have to contend with…

Physical Dependency

Have you ever skipped your morning coffee and felt like complete ass the rest of the day until you finally get your caffeinated bean buzz? Well, congratulations; you are the victim of a physical dependency.

Physical dependency occurs when the long-term use of a particular drug results in negative, often painful, withdrawal symptoms after being taken off the drug in question. It’s basically your body’s version of the time you were running late and couldn’t find your car keys causing you to freak out because, “GODDAMN IT, IT WAS JUST HERE!”

This is a serious issue with cannabis and withdrawal symptoms DO exist. However, it’s worth noting that the withdrawal symptoms of Cannabis are arguably no worse than caffeine withdrawal. And unlike dependencies with other drugs like heroin (which have the potential to be lethal), the symptoms are often manageable enough to be handled without a doctor using nothing more than drinking water and exercise.

Now you’d think that would close the issue, right? It’s possible to be dependent without being addicted. Ergo, Cannabis is non-addictive but can result in dependency if used too often or starting use too young. However, there’s another form of “addiction” we need to discuss…

Psychological Addiction

Typically speaking, medicine doesn’t delve into psychological addiction. That’s because, in psychological addiction, the problem isn’t physical; it’s mental.

That’s not to say psychological addiction is psychosomatic or “not a real problem;” it’s just harder to pin down the cause. The causes for psychological addiction include genetic disposition, environment, mental health, and much more.

But, the point in cases of psychological addiction is this; the object of obsession is NOT the primary cause. The problem is that the person has formed a mental/emotional link to an object to the point that they can’t function normally without it.

So, there is a potential for cannabis to be psychologically addictive. However, 1) cases are extremely rare, 2) Weed is not the problem, and 3) by the definition of the term, ANYTHING can be psychologically addictive. That’s why people are constantly claiming addiction for things like social media, video games, and sex. The objects themselves aren’t addictive; the “addict” is just using them the same way Linus from Peanuts used his security blanket and similarly freak out without them (though not always to the same degree).

Why Know The Difference (Beyond Just Cannabis)?

So, beyond making a credible defense against the anti-weed crowd, why should YOU care so much about knowing the difference between these three categories?

Well, for starters, addiction is a very serious problem that damages the physical and mental health of those that suffer as well as puts a strain on friends and family. By constantly misusing the term “addiction,” we diminish the problem for sufferers and those close to them.

What’s more, knowing the different types of addictions/dependencies helps provide insight on how to better treat suffers. By finding solutions to the physiological end of the problem (i.e. finding ways to repair damage and weaning the body off a chemical safely) while providing for the victim’s psychological needs (addicts have been found to respond to treatment better when kept mentally amused and allowed to socialize), we can give these people the help they ACTUALLY need when they need it.

Three Things We Were Told Are Bad But Are Good If Used Properly (and How To Do Them Wrong)

“Sola dosis facit venenum.” The dose makes the poison.

This is the most basic principle of the study of Toxicology. It’s the simple fact that anything can be made lethal or even just detrimental by misusing or abusing it.

So why do so many people still insist that some things are just plainly bad for you?

I hate the idea of being told that something has no practical benefit and I often check out as soon as someone that thinks that way speaks. To me, it’s an indicator of narrow-minded and unquestioning thinking that I have no respect for.

So today, let’s discuss the things that we are told will put us in an early grave that, in reality, can be beneficial as long as you aren’t stupid about using them.

Marijuana

Eh, I would have put the snakes and the staff head around and on top of the center leaf, but the point is clearly made. Source: Weedist

Eh, I would have put the snakes and the staff head around and on top of the center leaf, but the point is clearly made.
Source: Weedist

As always let’s get the big one out of the way from the get-go.

EVERYBODY knows that there is a long list of medical uses for marijuana. What’s more, the LD50 (the dosage of a substance required to cause death in 50 percent of cases) of THC is so astronomically high as to be practically impossible; especially when you compare it to its effective dosages and even MORE especially when you compare it to the LD50 of alcohol and tobacco.

That said, you CAN get stupid with the stuff. People whose brains are still developing (read: under 18) are at risk for a loss of mental faculties and, needless to say, you shouldn’t be driving or operating heavy machinery while under the influence. But seeing as those problems tend to drop off after legalization, the problem seems self-correcting. Still, it’s best to bake responsibly.

Caffeine

As someone who works overnight shifts for a living, I practically live on coffee. So all that caffeine can’t be good for me, right?

Well, much like our friend weed above, the ratio of caffeine’s effective dose and its LD50 are massive. You would need to drink 80 to 100 cups of coffee in one sitting to have a 50/50 shot at getting penciled in for a visit from Azrael.

That said, it’s not impossible. Reported deaths from caffeine overdoses are usually from those abusing pep pills or mainlining pure caffeine. And that’s to say nothing of the risks of Stimulant Psychosis that comes with abuse; especially for those who already suffer Psychosis through conditions like Schizophrenia.

But, for most normal and healthy humans, even the withdrawal symptoms are more like minor hindrances than serious issues. Just make sure that you stick to the coffee and energy drinks for your buzz.

Video Games

Can we start calling IQ points 'Brain Levels?

Can we start calling IQ points ‘Brain Levels?” I feel that would make my life more fun.
Source: LifeHacker

Not a drug, I know. But it’s still an issue… Why it’s still an issue I’ll never know.

All my life I was told that Video Games were bad for me and that I was going to grow up to be a mentally warped, violent freak for playing them.

But here’s the thing, while games can increase aggressive tendencies (as most competitive activities do), evidence shows the rate of violent crime DROPS with new major releases as a result of providing a time waster for those destructive desires. Also, as I mentioned last week, gaming provides useful mental exercise for those looking to keep their minds sharp.

But on the subject of exercise, let’s not forget that gaming is a largely sedentary hobby. So, it may behoove you to drop the controller once an hour to go on a 10-minute walk. Also, maybe we should replace the chips and energy drinks we often nurse with roasted nuts and iced tea.

Weeding Out Problems: The Pros and Cons of Legalized Marijuana

Will my state see the gavel fall on marijuana possession for the last time this Wednesday?
Source: njmarijuana.com

With New York allowing the use of medical cannabis and my own home state of New Hampshire pushing harder to make recreational self-medication possible, I figure it’s about time to discuss the up and downsides of this popular drug.

Now, speaking personally, I believe in reserving any kind of recreational substance – alcohol, tobacco, etc. – for VERY special and appropriate occasions. That way they carry more meaning and are more satisfying than if you contently indulge every night. What I’m attempting to say is that, regardless of your stance on the issue, marijuana is one of those things that need to be filed under “enjoy responsibly” and that I don’t approve of or encourage people to recreate scenes from their favorite slacker comedies.

That disclaimer out of the way, let’s begin the discussion.

What Legalized Marijuana Can Do For Us

I just find the idea of this being the norm for big “tobacco” companies in the future amusing for some reason.
Source: Worth1000

Firstly, note that, unlike the case of alcohol and nicotine poisoning, it’s practically impossible to overdose on marijuana. A study by Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young shows that the LD-50 (the dosage needed to cause death in fifty percent of cases) of THC, the active chemical in marijuana is 20,000 to 40,000 milligrams for every kilogram of body weight. That means the average adult would have to consume close to 1,500 pounds of weed in under fifteen minutes in order to overdose, making it a safer alternative to alcohol and tobacco.

Secondly, there is a financial advantage to consider. According to a study by the ACLU, more than 3.6 billion dollars were spent in 2010 to enforce marijuana possession law and estimate that a total 20 billion dollars will be spent in the next six years. That’s a lot of money being spent on something that could be regulated in the same manner alcohol and tobacco.

Speaking of the regulation, money could also be recouped through taxes as alcohol and tobacco are. Research from the Cato Institute has found that 8.7 billion dollars in federal and state tax revenue could by generated annually if marijuana was legalized and taxed.

What Legalized Marijuana Can Do TO Us

If you’re going to spread bogus propaganda,1950’s, the least you can do is SPELL THE NAME RIGHT.
Source: Michigan Weed

Despite overdose being nearly impossible, there are still health risks associated with marijuana use. After all, inhaling smoke – any kind of smoke – is not good for the lungs. Also, it does impair judgment and thinking even though the effects are temporary.

If we are going to legalize it, we will have to set a system in place to properly punish those who abuse the privilege of self-medication just as we do now for public intoxication. This will mean an initial cost to train police and give them the necessary tools and resources. But, as we have established, the money saved on enforcing possession law and earned through taxes will more than enough to compensate for this.

Should We Legalize It?

Honestly, legalizing recreational marijuana could open a lot of potential possibilities. The only issue is making sure others are responsible with their use. Before any of us can go ahead and make it possible to enjoy weed casually, we first need to make sure we can discourage people from abusing it and hurting themselves and others in the progress.

I guess the message to take away from this is this; DON’T just say “no”; just say “I’ve had enough.” If this new policy comes your way, don’t be irresponsible with it. Be an adult and enjoy while moderating yourself.