Does Legal Status of Recreational Drugs Influence Your Use?

Apr 03 2009 Published by under Drug Abuse Science, Poll

I was recently contemplating the influence of legal status on individual choice to use the drug. Of course there are data here and there, but how much fun is that for a Friday.
Let's poll the DM readers!


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Does the illicit status of any recreational drug affect your use of that drug?
( polls)

In case the embed is borked for you, the direct link to the poll is here.


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*I take IACUC and IRB approval of research studies quite seriously and they are essential to the protection of animal and human research subjects, respectively. The issue of dumb little unscientific (read, not validated against various biases, screened for untoward harm to participants) internet polls is very much a gray area. From what I can tell, there is a great deal of variance in the way local IRBs deal with these sorts of things and there is always a question as to whether such polls should fall under "research" or not. I have actually gone so far as to get an initial read from my IRB in real life and have received the opinion that IRB consideration is not necessary for this sort of polling activity (and for that matter blogging activity). So this disclaimer is not a requirement as I currently understand my professional responsibilities on this subject. I just thought you might like to know where I stand.

25 responses so far

  • PalMD says:

    At some point, i'd love to see data in regular users vs non-regular users...

  • This question is ignoring something very important, which is the interaction effect between legalizing some drugs and the use of other drugs. My understanding is that during prohibition, there was much more hard alcohol drank than beer or wine, as compared to when alcohol is legal.
    I wonder what the effect would be of legalizing marijuana on the use of much more dangerous drugs, such as unprescribed narcotics/stimulants or shit like poppy-seed tea, which apparently has resulted in deaths.

  • Donna B. says:

    It would be nifty to know which drug(s) people had in mind when voting.
    Marijuana, for example. If it were legal, I might consider using it occasionally. I don't need the munchies (cheetos make such a mess), and I never liked smoking it that much anyway.
    As for cocaine, heroin, etc., the legality issue has no influence on my non-use.
    My husband and I argue often over whether legalization/decriminalization is a good idea. He says it definitely is not, because we'd be overwhelmed with drug abusers. I disagree, but so far this poll is not going my way.

  • Dave X says:

    It would also be nifty to get a read on already legal recreational drugs like alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.
    Would prohibition of these move some of the "No, I wouldn't use drugs even if they were legal" people into the "Yes, it makes my use less likely" category?

  • Curt Fischer says:

    This question is ignoring something very important, which is the interaction effect between legalizing some drugs and the use of other drugs. My understanding is that during prohibition, there was much more hard alcohol drank than beer or wine, as compared to when alcohol is legal.
    During Prohibition, marijuana was legal, at least according to Wikipedia, so you might be on to something. I wonder if there is good data on how marijuana use changed after 1920? We're probably talking about a fraction of the use that THC has today, because I don't think marijuana was very popular/nefarious back then.
    But the point about hard alcohol in Prohibition is an interesting one. Making something illegal is an incentive to concentrate and purify it, because then it is easier to smuggle. But how far does the incentive go? THC concentrations in canabis have become way higher in the past decades, but on the other hand I haven't heard of a thriving trade in purified THC or THC-enriched extracts either.

  • I haven't heard of a thriving trade in purified THC or THC-enriched extracts either
    Dude, you've never heard of hashish?

  • Mike says:

    I've never used illegal drugs, but if/when marijuana (or cannabis as you all call it) is legalized and sold by RJ Reynolds and available at the corner convenience store... sure, I'll try it. Just to see what it's all about. I doubt I would continue to use it. But I'd guess some non-users would become regular users.

  • PSR says:

    I think yes, because it is illegal (or at least enforced in this country), it deters me from smoking as much. For example, whenever I go to Amsterdam, I do smoke. On the other hand, I have something to smoke at home, but it's just been lying around for months. It's not something I need to do all the time. Perhaps legal status does not matter. It would give me peace of mind, however (i.e., less paranoia).

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    I wonder what the effect would be of legalizing marijuana on the use of much more dangerous drugs, such as unprescribed narcotics/stimulants or shit like poppy-seed tea, which apparently has resulted in deaths.
    Not to mention (considering the time of year) other poppy-seed preparations such as these.

  • DuWayne says:

    CPP -
    Dude, you've never heard of hashish?
    I think you ignored the "thriving" in that. Although perversely, hash is far easier to come by in places with medical marijuana laws.

  • There was one summer in college where there was no fucking weed around, and only hash. By the end of the summer, we were all like, "Just give me some motherfucking decent bud! I can't smoke any more of this fucking hash!"

  • Anonymous says:

    I smoked weed in college, mainly because my roommates did. I didn't like it much though -- gave me a sore throat (even with a bong) and the high wasn't as good for me as just getting drunk.
    So I wouldn't smoke marijuana even if legal, and I wouldn't do harder drugs either. I do fine with a nice bottle (or two) of wine.

  • I was torn between "No, I wouldn't use drugs even if legal" and "Yes, it makes my use less likely." It's hard to deconvolve the law and my personal inclinations, since they lead to the same outcome. What's really making the difference at the margin? What helped me make up my mind was thinking of things like caffeine (potentially addictive, changes behavior and perception... I've heard some people say if it was discovered today it would be illegal, and while I'm not sure I agree, I do think it's in that blurry area). I have no problem drinking caffeinated cola, but I'm sure I wouldn't drink it if caffeine was illegal.

  • Kevin H says:

    I think it's not so much the law, but the enforcement of those laws that effect choice. If I thought there was actually a likely chance for me to get caught and suffer real concequences, I would stop. But I live in California where my only illegal drug of choice is basically legal.

  • skyotter says:

    no, and no
    being illegal* doesn't stop me from enjoying my drug of choice (pot). likewise, being legal doesn't inspire me to use society's drug of choice (alcohol)
    * the Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that personal possession and use of cannabis in one's private residence is protected by the state constitution's privacy guarantees (IANAL)

  • Kim says:

    I wouldn't smoke even if it was legal. I would sure appreciate it becoming legal and subject to the same manners as tobacco, though (vs. being furtively smoked in "non-smoking" venues).

  • Julie Stahlhut says:

    In my case it would depend on the drug. For instance, I indulge in two of the U.S.'s Big Three legal drugs (caffeine and alcohol) and don't touch the third (tobacco.) I consider the first to be an essential food group, the second reasonably safe and enjoyable in moderation, and the third both dangerously addictive and utterly gross.
    In the case of drugs that I don't consider particularly dangerous, I'd be more likely to use them if they were legal, for three reasons. One, I don't care to risk getting arrested just to obtain a slight buzz. Two, I don't want to fund organized crime. Three, I'd be more confident of the safety and efficacy of the substance itself if it were legal (although, of course, peanut butter is legal, and look how that's turned out recently ....)
    So: If marijuana were legalized, I'd probably eat cannabis products occasionally. (There aren't enough albuterol inhalers on the planet for me to smoke anything.) I might also consider LSD, psilocybin, or peyote if they were legal. But I doubt I'd be tempted to mess with hard drugs like amphetamines, cocaine, or heroin even if they weren't against the law.

  • haig says:

    The only drug I enjoyed was MDMA, and if it was legal, and more importantly, regulated for quality and side effects, I might partake on occasion.
    Also, a huge reason why I wouldn't buy any drugs, and tell everyone I know not to as well, is because I don't want to support the underground drug trade economy and the violence it creates. Oil isn't the only thing we purchase in huge quantities that supports threats to our security.

  • anonymous says:

    There's legal, there's illegal, and then there's legal with a prescription. Marijuana is essentially legal with a prescription in California.
    Other drugs of choice: morphine, codeine, OxyContin (oxycodone), Vicodin (hydrocodone), Demerol (meperidine), Nembutal (pentobarbital sodium), Valium (diazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine).
    This article is pretty relevant to the topic:
    http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2001/501_drug.html
    Funny that nearly 50% of doctors find discussions of prescription drugs difficult. Then again, 50% of doctors ARE below average (OK, below median but it sounds better..).

  • Left_Wing_Fox says:

    I voted yes, but it's heavily qualified. I might be more likely to use hashish in baked goods if it became legalized, but I've consumed pot about 5 times total in the past 10 years, and the effect has been... underwhelming. I also _might_ be more likely to try MDMA just from an availability standpoint, but even then it's not a pressing desire. =/
    My drugs of choice remain caffeine (3-4 servings/day, Addicted, attempting to reduce consumption), and alcohol (2-3 servings/week average, and once a month a night of 4-6 servings)
    I've smoked tobacco 5 times in the past 10 years, and I have absolutely no interest in any of the other drugs, legal or not.

  • anonymous says:

    Here is a study that is rich in actual data from a "decriminalization experiment" in Portugal:
    http://cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10080

  • Kim says:

    @anonymous: I would love to use Ritalin for its legal intended purpose, but I just don't have the organizational skills to keep up with a prescription on that schedule. Kind of ironic.

  • Isis the Scientist is pretty naive about these things. I'm just impressed you went to your IRB, Dr. Monkey. Very nice.

  • DuWayne says:

    anon the second -
    I think it's important to keep in mind that MDs are just that, MDs - most are not psychologists or psychiatrists as well (mine is an exception to that). And even if they are, most psychologists and psychiatrists are not all that familiar with dealing with addiction.
    It is easy to say that they should just know better, but as stupid as it sounds, this is not an issue that has been significantly noticed for very long. Traditionally, med schools haven't really focused on it all that much and even today the training isn't nearly what it should be. So doctors often end up screwing the pooch when it comes to addiction, dependence and prescription drugs.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Ah yes. Here was the poll originally...

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