I wanted to get this somewhat more serious discussion off the prior post for reasons that should be obvious. SouthernFriedSkeptic was apparently responding to my linkage of a post on some papers which attempted to compare symptoms of drug abstinence in cannabis and tobacco smokers. S/he noted:
Being someone who has in the past used both nicotine and marijuana (although at separate times in the past) I have to disagree with your comparison. I know it is a data point of one, anecdotal, and all that, but when I was young I went through a phase where I smoked marijuana several times a week, in the evenings, and mainly because I didn't like hangovers. As I got older, and took on more responsibilities, I quit. Not consciously, but just sort of got busy with life, started a family, career, etc... and didn't even really notice that several years had passed since I smoked it. Haven't had an urge to do so again, and besides, wouldn't compromise the aforesaid family and career.
I also quit smoking. It turned be into a liar, almost cost me my job and one was by far one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I become depressed and irritable, and though chemically I should be free, I still get occasional urges for a cigarette that are barely resistable. I don't even think of marijuana unless the conversation is brough up. I quit without even realizing it.
Hard to imagine they are similar.
The arrogance of the personal anecdote is worth discussing in this context.
Of course, this commenter is far from unique. If you look through the comments on that prior discussion you will see many similar observations. You will also notice the odd comment which identifies people who find cannabis discontinuation to be unpleasant. I responded to SFS:
And do you realize that it is hard for those who are not addicted to such obviously harmful drugs as nicotine to imagine why on earth any sensible person wouldn't just quit taking drugs? And hard for those who have had transient depression to understand why those with major depression can't just sack up and snap out of it?
It is this generic inability to get past the arrogance of our personal experiences that causes such demonstrable harm in getting parity for the so-called mental and behavioral health disorders.
Yup. This is really an issue that transcends drug abuse. It bleeds over into depression, ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders. What is disordered and in need of treatment? What is just feeling kinda sad for a while, an exuberant child or a smart, geeky eccentric?
The point is that there are ways to deal with this scientifically by identifying patterns and symptoms that are common and tend to cluster with each other. This is the basic idea of clinical diagnostic structures like the DSM. To make informed judgments that an essentially artificial threshold drawn across a distribution of personal traits can be useful. All the while maintaining the understanding that we need to know more about these thresholds. Also while recognizing that additional studies of representative samples (drawn from much larger populations, of course) can help us to understand more about potential biological markers of what are frequently subjective or behavioral symptoms.
All of this scientific structure is relatively available to the general public. There are many websites dealing with each behavioral condition and it takes only a cursory set of searches to come into contact with the relevant scientific ways to grapple with the disorders.
And yet for some reason whenever I post on dependence issues related to cannabis, the science denialist cannabis fans come out of the woodwork screaming about how their anecdote of one contradicts all the representative-sample science conducted in many different populations across the US and indeed worldwide. They completely fail to grapple with my points about the likely minority of drug users who will go on to develop serious problems with the substance- if 9 out of 10 cannabis smokers don't develop dependence issues, somehow this is supposed to prove that the 1 out of 10 can't possibly have a dependence issue.
Would these people argue that the majority of those who have ever felt sad and don't go on to suffer from Major Depression falsify this diagnosis? Do the people who do not get cancer prove that cancer is a sham? Of course not.
So what is it with you people? Seriously, I want to know. Are you just so enraged by the fact that your chosen recreational pursuit is a criminal act in the US that this blinds you to any rational discussion of the science?