Medical Marijuana
Pros and Cons
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Report #2 5/15/97 (Last Revised 6/26/03)

 

I. Addictiveness of Marijuana
vs. Five
Commonly Used Drugs

 

I. HIGHLIGHTS:

Three Doctors Rate the Addictivity of Six Substances
(1.=Most Addictive1)

1. Heroin

2. Alcohol

3. Cocaine

4. Nicotine

5. Marijuana & Caffeine

1. Heroin

2. Cocaine

3. Alcohol

4. Nicotine

5. Caffeine

6. Marijuana

1. Nicotine

2. Alcohol

3. Heroin

4. Cocaine (Nasal)

5. Caffeine

6. Marijuana

1The ordinal rating of addictiveness presented in this table is based on the criteria in Table IIA (below). To go directly to the table, click here.

Compiled & Published

by

Steven C. Markoff

Source Data:

  • August 2, 1994 edition of New York Times, article "Is Nicotine Addictive? It Depends on Whose Criteria You Use," by Philip J. Hilts, section C, page 3.

  • The Chemistry of Mind-Altering Drugs: History, Pharmacology, and Cultural Context, by Daniel M. Perrine, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemistry, Loyola College of Baltimore.

TOP

 

II.A. Two Doctors Compare
Addictiveness
of Six Well KnownDrugs

Jack E. Henningfield, PhD (in Psychopharmacology) and formerly of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and Neal L. Benowitz, MD of the University of San Francisco rank six common substances in five problem areas.

Rating System: 1=Most Addictive; 6=Least Addictive
1. Henningfield Ratings

Substance

Withdrawal*

Reinforce.*

Tolerance*

Depend.*

Intox.*

Total

Avg.

Heroin

2

2

1

2

2

9

1.8

Alcohol

1

3

3

4

1

12

2.4

Cocaine

4

1

4

3

3

15

3.0

Nicotine

3

4

2

1

5

15

3.0

Marijuana

6

5

6ç

6ç

4

27

5.4

Caffeine

5

6

5ç

5ç

6

27

5.4

In April 1997, after reviewing the literature, Dr. Henningfield changed his ratings of marijuana and caffeine's tolerance and dependence to 5's and 6's respectively.

2. Benowitz Ratings

Heroin

2

2

2

2

2

10

2.0

Cocaine

3

1

1

3

3

11

2.2

Alcohol

1

3

4

4

1

13

2.6

Nicotine

3

4

4

1

6

18

3.6

Caffeine

4

5

3

5

5

22

4.4

Marijuana

5

6

5

6

4

26

5.2

Source: Reformatted from the August 2, 1994 N.Y. Times Article "Is Nicotine Addictive? It Depends on Whose Criteria You Use"

* Withdrawal: Presence and severity ofcharacteristic withdrawal symptoms.

* Reinforcement: A measure of thesubstance's ability in human and animal tests, to get users totake it again and again, and in preference to other substances.

* Tolerance: How much of thesubstance is needed to satisfy increasing cravings for it, andthe level of stable, high need that is eventually reached.

* Dependence: How difficult it isfor the user to quit, the relapse rate, the percentage of peoplewho eventually become dependent, the rating users give their ownneed for the substance and the degree to which the substance willbe used in the face of evidence that it causes harm.

* Intoxication: Though not usuallycounted as a measure of addiction in itself, the level ofintoxication is associated with addiction and increases thepersonal and social damage a substance may do.

TOP  

 

II.B. One Doctor's Survey
of Health Officials
on the Inherent Addictiveness
of Six Commonly Used Drugs

Health officials were asked to put aside social as well as economic pressures such as drug availability or acceptability and to evaluate the inherent addictive potential of the following six drugs.

Relative Addictiveness of Common Drugs

(100=Most Addictive; 0=Least)

Drug

Rating

Nicotine 

99

Alcohol

81

Heroin

80

Cocaine (Nasal)

71

Caffeine

70

Marijuana

22

Conclusion:

(1) The most addictive drug, nicotine, is not only not scheduled, it can be purchased without a prescription by anyone over the age of 18.

(2) Cocaine is about as addictive as coffee or tea's caffeine.

(3) Alcohol is about as addictive as heroin.

Source Data:

Reformatted from the book The Chemistry of Mind-Altering Drugs by Daniel M. Perrine, PhD, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Loyola College, Baltimore, Maryland. Published by the American Chemical Society, Washington D.C., 1997.*

"Hooked: Why Isn't Everyone an Addict?" by Deborah Franklin, In Health magazine, volume 4, number 6, pp. 38-52, November/December 1990.

 

* On May 14, 1997, Dr. Perrine stated that "Addictivity" in this chart is most comparable to the "Dependence" from the previous chart.

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