Drug Law
Drug Law

Rehab or Jail? Why Marijuana Admissions to Rehab are Increasing

| by NORML
Paul Armentano has once again done a fantastic job debunking the latest report from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS).

TEDS is an instrument used by the government to measure the frequency, volume, and reason for admissions into rehab services for drug addiction. The bullet points on marijuana rehab are alarming… but not for the reasons the government would like you to believe.

For primary marijuana admissions, the average age at admission was 24 years.

US Adult Use Prevalence by Age

28% of young people will use marijuana this year; 11% will use twice a week or more.

This would be interesting if you didn’t know that the age group of 18-25 has the greatest frequency of marijuana use, with 28% of that cohort using marijuana at least once a year and 11% using at least twice a week. Young people dominate marijuana rehabs because young people primarily use marijuana.

Marijuana admissions increased from 13 percent in 1998 to 17 percent in 2008.

This would be stunning if you didn’t know where all those marijuana admissions were coming from.  Since 1998, we’ve seen an explosive growth in the “drug court” system, where a cannabis user is given the choice of jail or rehab.  Since arrests have also risen from 682,000 for marijuana to 847,000 today, it’s it really no surprise we’ve seen over 321,000 admissions for marijuana “rehab”.

The figures for criminal justice referral – a court sentencing you to rehab – are as follows:

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFERRALS TO REHAB

  • Marijuana = 57%
  • Alcohol = 42% (includes DUI sentencing)
  • Crack Cocaine = 30%
  • Heroin = 15%

Primary marijuana admissions were less likely than all admissions combined to be self-referred to treatment…

Meaning that young people don’t discover they have a terrible marijuana addiction and check themselves into rehab like users of alcohol, cocaine, and heroin.  Those figures, called “self-referrals”, are:

SELF REFERRALS TO REHAB

  • Marijuana = 15%
  • Alcohol = 29%
  • Crack cocaine = 35%
  • Heroin = 55%

Now maybe someone may consider that getting into enough trouble with weed that you get caught is a sign you might have a problem.  But even that makes no sense when you realize that, according to TEDS, well over a third of the cannabis users sentenced to rehab haven’t even used cannabis in the past month.  Here are the figures:

NO USE OF SUBSTANCE IN MONTH PRIOR TO REHAB

  • Marijuana = 37%
  • Alcohol = 26%
  • Crack Cocaine = 30%
  • Heroin = 16%

Contrast these with the figures for daily use prior to rehab, where less than a quarter of those marijuana users sparked up every day:

DAILY USE OF SUBSTANCE IN MONTH PRIOR TO REHAB

  • Marijuana = 24%
  • Alcohol = 32%
  • Crack Cocaine = 34%
  • Heroin = 71%

I’m supportive of anything that gets more bona fide drug rehab for users addicted to hard drugs like cocaine, heroin, meth, and alcohol.  I’m even happy to see rehab services for those who have become dysfunctional dependent on the herb.  But using prohibition to justify arresting responsible cannabis users and forcing them to attend a rehab they don’t need is wasteful and offensive.  Every bed taken by a cannabis user whose only problem was police scrutiny is a bed we’re not giving to a hard drug addict.