Category: Drug-Regulation Policy

“Recreational” Drug Use: A New Discussion Category on the ASNet Forum

04/08/09 | by the professor [mail] | Categories: Drug-Regulation Policy, Recreational Drug Use

A new category for commentary on the ASNet Discussion Forum is being introduced to address drug use other than addictive drug use. Specifically, this category includes the use of psychoactive substances to which the individual hasn’t developed an addiction. In some cases this will involve the use of substances to which addiction is unlikely; in other cases this will involve early-stage use of an addictive substance before an addiction has actually developed.

It is not the intent of the ASNet to encourage illicit substance use by openly discussing this topic. However, it is rather obvious that people do use illicit substances, often in a “recreational” fashion, and that such substance use will continue despite relentless government efforts for social control. It is also possible that the regulations regarding some substances that are now illicit should be relaxed and individuals should be permitted to use these substances freely or under somewhat restricted circumstances.

Before posting or commenting in this category please read the materials recommended below to learn how addiction is defined on this discussion forum, the important difference between drug abuse and addiction, and the relationship of drug dependence to addiction and to drug abuse. Misunderstanding fundamental concepts and breakdown in simple semantics contribute much to the confusion regarding the discussion of these issues.

Addiction science should withhold moral judgments regarding the use of licit or illicit psychoactive substances. Science should provide the unbiased data from which others can make rational decisions regarding their own personal use and regarding the development of formal drug-regulation policies. Within this context, the forum ‘owner’ will occasionally offer comments relevant to the science of addiction or to psychopharmacology in general, but the moral issues regarding psychoactive substance use is left for debate elsewhere (or at least confined to a single, specific ‘thread’ and not interwoven through the pages of the other topics). The topics of interest here include:

  • what substances are being used “recreationally” and how they’re being used,
  • the desired and undesired psychotropic effects of these substances,
  • the perception of relative risk for various substances and for their methods of use, and
  • the identification of safer practices for using unsafe substances.

(This latter topic is related to the ASNet harm-reduction initiative and comments may be incorporated into the ASNet webpage listing “safer practices for using unsafe substances.”)

Recommended Readings on the ASNet
A Primer on Drug Addiction
The Nature of Addiction
Distinguishing Drug Abuse from Drug Addiction
Distinguishing Drug Dependence from Drug Addiction
Biological Basis of Addiction
Hard and Soft Drugs
Drug Classification


Proposed Regulation of Salvia Divinorum

04/03/09 | by the professor [mail] | Categories: Drug-Regulation Policy

Salvia Divinorum and its concentrated extracts are enjoying unrestricted trade on the Internet and in most states throughout the United States. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is currently considering whether this substance (including its concentrated extracts and synthetic analogues) should be “scheduled” and placed on the controlled substance list. Because there are no medicinal uses of Salvia Divinorum recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Salvia Divinorum and related compounds would most likely become Schedule I substances with access restricted to investigational use by DEA licensed researchers. (Click here for more information on the CSA/DEA Drug Classification System.)

The question open for comment is: Should Salvia Divinorum and its extracts become controlled substances? Secondary questions involve: How strong are the effects of this substance and its related analogues?

(Thanks to John Panos for suggesting a posting on this topic now open for commentary. Also thanks to my Advanced Topics in Addiction class for encouraging an interest in this substance.)

Related Topics on the ASNet
Distinguishing Drug Abuse from Drug Addiction
Drug Classification
Hard and Soft Drugs


The Power of the Blog: We did It—Medical Marijuana is Almost Here!

03/18/09 | by the professor [mail] | Categories: Drug-Regulation Policy

Wow, just a few days after we clarified our position supporting the medicinal use of marijuana, President Obama has ordered a shift in the Federal marijuana policy consistent with recognizing medical marijuana. The power of the blog is indeed amazing. Who would have thought ASNet would wield such power? Had we any notion that we could provoke such a radical shift in policy, we would have moved our medical marijuana advocacy out of the back pages and into the forefront much sooner. Or did we really have the implied impact?

For those who just can’t dump epidemiological research as a means of inferring causation, take a lesson here. The correlation with our policy announcement is high; others have been publically promoting the medicinal use of marijuana for years without much apparent impact on the Federal government. Within a week and a half of our announcement through the ASNet Discussion Forum, BINGO, marijuana is one giant step closer to being recognized as a legitimate medical treatment at the Federal level—wow! 88| Of course we have advocated that the laws be ‘relaxed’ to recognize medical marijuana use since 2004, but we didn’t promote this position until recently and shortly thereafter the major shift in Federal policy occurred. We must have caused it, right? :roll: Well, maybe not. Think about this example the next time you try to infer causation from an epidemiological study. And learn from it. ;D

Lead story: “Attorney general signals shift in marijuana policy” from Associated Press.

Related topics on the ASNet
Drug-Regulation Policy Advisory
Policy Statement on Medicinal Marijuana
ASNet Medical Marijuana Web Page


Oops, we already endorsed medical marijuana years ago!

03/18/09 | by the professor [mail] | Categories: Announcements, Drug-Regulation Policy

After only 5 postings (and two of them hardly count because they are administrative announcements), we have our first ‘oops.’ The “Position Statement on Medical Marijuana” was posted as if it were a significant change in policy when in fact it actually wasn’t anything new. Yes, it should have been obvious to many that the ASNet tacitly supported the medicinal use of marijuana from the mere absence of any mention on the ASNet website of the alleged high addiction liability of marijuana. And yes, those privy to an advanced copy of “Fundamentals of Drug Addiction” are abundantly aware that marijuana is not considered a prototypic addictive drug and in fact not even discussed until over half way through the book. But surely the public announcement endorsing the medicinal use of marijuana was new, wasn’t it? Well, not exactly. :oops:

Hidden among the pages of the ASNet website is a page describing the advocacy of rational drug-regulation policy as being an objective of the ASNet. Surprise, surprise—prominently displayed on the corresponding page is a recommendation to “Relax the current Federal laws regarding medicinal marijuana, permitting its use for a limited number of conditions where its psychoactive as well as its clinical effects are beneficial. Follow the progressive lead of several states (e.g., California) and Canada where medicinal marijuana is currently permitted.” The copyright date on that page is 2004.

And now you have the secret as to why the Google AdSense material appears on so many of the ASNet web pages. Google provides real-time counts of visitors to the pages where these advertisements appear. Relax, no tracking information is collected (we wouldn’t know what to do with it if we had it); only the number of page visits to each corresponding page is updated in near real-time and logged for later reference. This helps direct the work on this website to the pages where the most interest is being shown as evidenced by the number of page visits. And of course, we make a few cents when you click on the links provided by the Google Ads (at least I think we do; I’m not really sure because the ‘cash register’ isn’t ringing much). But most importantly, we get feedback and encouragement to resume work on this website which is all the ‘pay’ really needed and perhaps more than sometimes deserved. The previous policy statement was re-discovered when exploring the pages that needed to be ported from the old Addiction Research Unit website hosted by the University at Buffalo. That website has been defunct for some time; it was developed to support the neuroscience research facility which was closed shortly after the start of the “New Millennium.” A number of Addiction Research Unit web pages remain in limbo or as URL markers directing viewers to the phoenix version found on the ASNet.

The nice thing about being a scientist is that one can acknowledge and correct their ‘mistakes.’ Science is said to be ‘self correcting’ in the sense that new evidence or even re-interpretation of existing data often prompts a revision in theory, policy, or simply the assertions promoted by the scientific entity be it an organization or an individual. The ASNet will undoubted have to correct or even recant some statements found on these pages from time-to-time. Hopefully, it won’t happen often, but if the worst ‘oops’ is in the past we certainly would be very, very lucky.

One last note in case you look for this post in the somewhat distant future (tomorrow?). The nice thing about being the blog ‘owner’ is that one gets to rewrite history, to correct the glaring mistakes, to fix to awful omissions and the embarrassing blunders as well, of course, to correct ones position when found to be incorrect. A few snips with the text editor and the reference to “coming out of the closet” (it was a very bad pun anyway :-/) will be lost forever, and the ASNet will proudly display its position endorsing the use of medicinal marijuana while subtlety mentioning that this position has been publically advocated since 2004.


“The (sometimes absent-minded) Professor”

Related Topics on the ASNet
ASNet Profile
Drug-Regulation Policy Advisory
Position Statement on Medicinal Marijuana
ASNet Medical Marijuana Web Page


Position Statement on Medical Marijuana

03/08/09 | by the professor [mail] | Categories: General, Drug-Regulation Policy


The scientific evidence overwhelmingly favors the medical use of marijuana. After ‘sitting on the fence’ for over a decade (i.e., since the beginning of the ASNet), it’s past time to ‘come out of the closet’ (there’s a pun in there somewhere :-/) and endorse the medical use of marijuana. The evidence has been compelling for a long time; in fact, several Presidential Committees spanning several decades have uniformly concluded that there is substantial evidence for medicinal effects from marijuana, and heightened interest in the past decade has prompted considerable study both empirical and theoretical. The overwhelming conclusion remains the same as purported over three decades ago with added emphasis on decriminalizing small quantities of marijuana for personal use.

Click here to listen to a podcast discussing why it's unlikely that medical marijuana will ever be approved in the United States. (length: 24 minutes)

ASNet drug-regulation policy recommendations and interpretations of extant scientific evidence are generally concordant with the major themes adopted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and by the mainstream medical community except for two prominent issues: the “nicotine addiction” hypothesis” and “medical marijuana.” ASNet strongly disagrees with the assertion that nicotine is a highly addictive substance comparable to cocaine and heroin and that marijuana is similarly addictive. It further advocates the use of marijuana medicinally for appropriate cases and objects to the continued stigmatization and repressive regulation of tobacco products for use by adults. These two discordant positions are not intended to undermine the staunch support ASNet expresses for most NIDA research and policy recommendations: ASNet remains concordant with NIDA on most other issues and continues to respect the many friends and colleagues working for NIDA’s intramural program and those supported by NIDA’s extramural grant program.

The primary reason for remaining silent on these two issues of discordance with the prevailing government opinion is that both positions seem to discredit each other. That is, the pejorative assertions that “not surprisingly ASNet advocates marijuana use because they encourage tobacco smoking too” or “naturally ASNet disagrees with the idea of nicotine addiction because they also recommend marijuana use.” Of course, both statements are false distortions of our actual position. ASNet simply disagrees with the opinion that nicotine is highly addictive like cocaine and heroin and further disagrees with the opinion that marijuana is similarly highly addictive while advocating medicinal use of marijuana. Nonetheless, adopting both of these positions seems mutually discrediting; therefore ASNet has retained a low profile on the “nicotine addiction” issue and has not previously advocated the use of medical marijuana. With this current policy statement, ASNet now ‘steps forward’ and explicitly supports the medical use of marijuana.

We respect the decision displayed by many of our fellow scientists either working for various government agencies or supported by government grants who find it politically inconvenient to similarly ‘come out of the closet.’ Yes, there are many scientists who concur with the ASNet on both of these topics but fear repercussions should they express their opinions publically. And while we refuse to redefine “integrity” to meet the currently popular usage of this term, we do respect their decision to protect and further their careers. (“Integrity” is traditionally defined as “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values, incorruptibility [Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary].”) After all, it’s only tantamount to the Nazi book burning and not really persecuting any specific group of people; or is it?

The ASNet specifically:

(1.) endorses the medicinal use of marijuana for compassionate use including non-terminal but chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and other conditions involving neuropathic pain unresponsiveness to conventional medications,

(2.) firmly disagrees with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and other government agencies that purport marijuana to be a highly addictive substance similar to cocaine and heroin (in fact, we consider this assertion to be particularly irresponsible and call upon these government agencies to soften their rhetoric regarding marijuana and to recognize its actual status as a ‘soft drug’),

(3.) supports the decriminalization of marijuana and applauds progressive state legislative bodies such as that seen in our home state of New York who have already de facto decriminalized marijuana, and

(4.) while not advocating the recreational use of marijuana presently withholds opinion on this popular activity.

However, ASNet does not endorse the legalization of marijuana for the reasons outlined in Bozarth (2009).

For more information, check our webpage on medical marijuana.

[Note: The comments regarding the “nicotine addiction” hypothesis were included in the current policy statement only because this view is a matter of public record (e.g., 1994 FDA testimony transcribed in the Federal Record) that could be used to undermine the current advocacy of medical marijuana through ad hominid attack (e.g., “of course they don’t think marijuana is addictive, they don’t think nicotine is addictive either”). That’s right! But ASNet is not currently prepared to debate this second topic further than the public comments already posted on the subject. We feel that opening one ‘can of worms’ at a time is sufficient controversy and distraction from our overall mission. :>]


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