New York High Times

July 19, 2009 § Leave a comment

The New York Times has a pretty weak article on marijuana use & related treatment admissions in Sunday’s edition. The authors note that admissions for treatment of marijuana use has increased percentage-wise in the years spanning 1997 to 2007. In 1997, the numbers of people admitted for marijuana use was 12-percent compared to 16-percent in 2007. The article goes on to let members from both pro-weed and anti-weed camps deliver anecdotes from where they sit.

The problem with the article, as with most that attempt to convert a few line graphs into a griping culture & social war, is the lack of clinical/cultural context and overall depth of reflection of what the numbers may actually hint at. To wit: admissions can be affected by a great number of things: states getting tougher on social welfare participants, an increase in federal dollars allocated to treat “persons dependent on X” (pun partially intended), a moral/cultural climate that sees marijuana as a gateway—and therefore report-worthy–drug, an increase in the raw numbers of adolescents & young adults, increased utilization of drug courts as opposed to traditional sanctions, etc.

Simple explanations leave most complex issues unmolested by truth, but here the problem is greater than usual as the article misses a real gem under its own nose:

“The percentages of those seeking treatment for cocaine (13 percent of admissions in 2007) and alcohol addiction (22 percent in 2007) declined slightly.”

It makes no additional comment that the more troublesome addictions are those that
1. Are legal.
2. Are actually declining as primary reasons for admission.

No wonder, as what on earth can you do with those numbers to heat up a culture war?

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