The well-adjusted occasionally smoke pot

Over at Reason Magazine's Hit & Run blog, Jacob Sullum thus quotes from his book about drug use where it speaks of a 1990 study by Jonathan Shedler and Jack Block:
Tracking a group of children from preschool until age 18, the two University of California at Berkeley researchers found that "adolescents who had engaged in some drug experimentation (primarily marijuana) were the best-adjusted in the sample. Adolescents who used drugs frequently were maladjusted, showing a distinct personality syndrome marked by interpersonal alienation, poor impulse control, and manifest emotional distress. Adolescents who, by age 18, had never experimented with any drug were relatively anxious, emotionally constricted, and lacking in social skills."

Shedler and Block did not conclude that a little pot is just the thing to help children grow up right. Rather, they found that "psychological differences between frequent users, experimenters, and abstainers could be traced to the earliest years of childhood and related to the quality of parenting received." They observed that "problem drug use is a symptom, not a cause, of personal and social maladjustment" and that "the meaning of drug use can be understood only in the context of an individual's personality structure and developmental history."
By age 18, I had never tried any illegal drugs (still haven't), and I can confirm that "anxious, emotionally constricted and lacking in social skills" describes me quite well at the time. Meanwhile, most of the gregarious, well-adjusted types that I know of did occasionally smoke pot then.

As Jacob writes, it's not the pot that makes you well-adjusted - but it does appear that well-adjusted people do tend to occasionally smoke pot. And it doesn't appear to obviously harm them.

Does that make the politicians who are against legalizing pot either hypocrites, or maladjusted?

The former more so than the latter, I'd think.

It does appear as though hypocrite politicians are catering to prejudiced voters, of whom three groups, the old, the religious and the Republican, are particularly adverse to legalization. Is it that the old geezers, themselves well used to getting drunk on booze, have a prejudice against pot? If so, perhaps old people dying off is part of the reason why U.S. support for legalizing marijuana has steadily increased over decades?

Comments

Jason said…
Personally, I think studies like these are nearly worthless, considering all the social factors involved that do not lend themselves to generalized statistical analysis.

There's a huge amount of other factors that cannot possibly be accurately represented in these studies. People use drugs for a huge variety of reasons. I know lazy, un-inspired stoners who would be content playing XBox all day long for the rest of their lives, who have enviable relationships with their parents.

I know high-functioning doctorate students who smoke weed before every class, and have terrible relationships with their parents.

I simply fail to see any facts of tangible value coming from studies like these.

As someone who lives in one of the 'marijuana capitals' of the world, I tend to mentally classify pot users into three groups:

a) people who smoke cigarettes & pot, abuse alcohol, and almost anything else, simply because they enjoy abusing psychoactive substances (for a variety of personal/social reasons)
b) people who smoke pot casually and socially, more or less because it is an accepted part of their social circles, and they do it for fun/relaxation/to fit in/whatever
c) people who are successful and who function on a very high level who smoke pot for artistic, scientific, or otherwise intellectual insight and/or focus

I know people from each of these groups, pretty much on a bell curve over b.

Last week I was walking to the market, and I saw one of our more prominent city councillors smoking a big, fat, presumably stinky joint. Next to city hall. I also said 'no' to 3 dirty, drugged-out people trying to sell me 'great weeed man'. This was all within the same 2 city blocks.

The fact that alcohol and tobacco are legal even though they kill thousands every year, but marijuana is not, will blow your mind more than any joint of the finest organic hippie pot ever will.

Anyways, your post reminds me of a funny Carl Sagan quote:

"I can remember one occasion, taking a shower with my wife while high, in which I had an idea on the origins and invalidities of racism in terms of Gaussian distribution curves. It was a point obvious [sic] in a way, but rarely talked about.

I drew curves in soap on the shower wall, and went to write the idea down. One idea led to another, and at the end of about an hour of extremely hard work I had found I had written eleven short essays on a wide range of social, political, philosophical, and human biological topics... . I have used them in university commencement addresses, public lectures, and in my books."
denis bider said…
"I know people from each of these groups, pretty much on a bell curve over b."

It is peculiar how you say that such research is worthless, and then you go on to describe your personal experience which fits in very well with the research. :)


"The fact that alcohol and tobacco are legal even though they kill thousands every year, but marijuana is not, will blow your mind more than any joint of the finest organic hippie pot ever will."

Precisely, and that's my point about old geezers (used to booze, used to cigarettes, but pot - that's the work of the devil!).


"One idea led to another, and at the end of about an hour of extremely hard work I had found I had written eleven short essays on a wide range of social, political, philosophical, and human biological topics... . I have used them in university commencement addresses, public lectures, and in my books."

That's fascinating. I'm more familiar with an anecdote (no idea who from) ending the other way - "And then the next day, having sobered up, I looked at what I had written the previous night while stoned, and I realized that it's complete rubbish."

But perhaps my only source for that the episode of Family Guy where Peter and Lois get high... :)
jason said…

It is peculiar how you say that such research is worthless, and then you go on to describe your personal experience which fits in very well with the research. :)


Ah, perhaps I dismissed the facts too early. I did not read them as fitting a bell curve, in fact the article made them seem more disjoint, and almost random in a sense.

Precisely, and that's my point about old geezers (used to booze, used to cigarettes, but pot - that's the work of the devil!).

I still cannot get over this fact. I've seen so many lives ruined by alcohol - in fact I see it every day with the homeless in my area. Drunk driving is an absolute scourge, not to mention the other forms of alcoholic violence.

I believe people should be able to do what they want with their bodies as long is it does not hurt other people, and alcohol statistically seems to go against this completely.

I'm not saying alcohol should be illegal, I'm just saying that the geezers we speak of are completely ass-backwards and illogical in their thinking.

Or are they? Perhaps it really is their interests to keep the public placated with smokes and dumbed and numbed down by booze. I'm sure if you asked just about any old veteran hippie, that's what they'd suggest is the justification :p
denis bider said…
I think it's the same reason why the United States still hasn't abolished IRS in favor of FairTax, and why policies like flat tax get introduced only in countries that are really in dire straits.

Risky decisions pay off in politics only if the going is very bad to begin with. Then, you can afford to take risks, as virtually any measure is likely to be for the better.

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