With Brian Lehrer on the addictive risks of cannabis

How much does somewhat mystical idea of “addiction” add to the commonsense concept “bad habit”?

In the second of five weekly segments on WNYC, I make the pitch for the “bad habit” theory of drug abuse as a way of demystifying “addiction.”

Footnote Lehrer is a fine interviewer, but WNYC callers don’t average much smarter than callers on AM shock-talk in Podunk, and WNYC commenters make me proud of the RBC clan.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

10 thoughts on “With Brian Lehrer on the addictive risks of cannabis”

    1. That word was “smaller,” but I seem to have swallowed it. I also substituted “systems” for “symptoms.” The interview was at 10:40 Eastern, which is 7:40 in Los Angeles; I’m a little bit less articulate at that hour than I am later.

      1. I certainly hope your difficulties articulating weren’t the manifestation of a horrifying and debilitating caffeine dependency! 😉

  1. Why on earth would you assume NPR listeners are any more intelligent than other media consumers? Better informed, maybe, but can they make use of it? Not on the evidence.

    1. Why on earth would you assume NPR listeners are any more intelligent than other media consumers?

      A large accumulation of anecdotal evidence. Not enough to “prove” the hypothesis, but certainly enough (in my case) to “assume” it.

      1. “Why on earth would you assume NPR listeners are any more intelligent than other media consumers?”

        It depends on whether the question is exactly as stated, comparing against “other media consumers?” or whether what was actually meant was “other talk radio listeners”…

        I have no comments on the second version of the question, but I think the first version of the question can easily be answered (in the negative).
        One can answer simply by paraphrasing Martin Mayer, who made the point all those years ago, in 1972, in _About Television_.

        Moreover, the audiences drawn by both news and documentaries tend to be slightly below average in both education and income, a fact that always shocks people who have not thought much about television.
        It is hard to see how matters could be otherwise. Leland Johnson of the RAND Corporation, who did studies for the Ford and Markle Foundations on the prospects for cable television, was apologetic about his failure to watch the medium at all. “My problem is,” he said, “that television is a very low-rate data transmission system, and I just don’t have time for that.” Despite much assertion to the contrary, television for most reasonably well-educated people is an extremely inefficient way to learn about anything. People really do learn at their own rate, and television is the most hopeless of lockstep classrooms, insisting that everyone in the audience work on the same time scale. As Wilbur Schramm and his associates put it in their book Television in the Lives of Our Children, “Watching television, the viewer cannot set his own pace. . . . This quality, of course, makes for good storytelling, good fantasy, because in those forms the storyteller should be in charge, and the viewer should surrender himself. But it makes learning harder. That is why the child, after he learns to read well . . . tends to seek information more often from print. With print be is in greater control.”
        None of this is to deny that documentaries have been artistically among the most satisfying and socially among the most important contributions of television, or to accept the idea that the poor ratings and minimal audience quality of documentaries give networks an excuse not to make and air them. But it does suggest that among those who insist Middle America is very stupid there are some who may not be so bright themselves.

        We have a different world from 1972, but I think the point is therefore even starker. People who value their time, and are interested in learning new things, do not listen to talk radio. They make the trivial investments necessary to install a CD player or iPod connection in their car and, while driving, listening to lectures from The Teaching Company, or from iTunes U, or to podcasts.
        (Rail all you like against my snobbery, but be careful before you get started. Hubert Dreyfus pointed out, when discussing his experiences in making his lectures on _Literature as Philosophy_ available through iTunes U, that he was extremely gratified at the wide range of people who listened to the course and write to thank him, including a wide variety of blue collar workers like truckers and commercial fishermen.)

  2. I doubt it is fair to judge the general quality of a radio show’s audience by the subset of people who call in during a show about marijuana legalization

  3. I listened for any push back on the implied gateway effect for Jake. It’s really unclear what leads to trying other substances – exposure to illicit markets? Changes in brain chemistry? The drug war folklore didn’t get examined in this segment.

    1. Jews talk of a “fence” around the law; the idea being that if you stay away from the fence, from things that aren’t technically against the law (of god) you’re that much less likely to be tempted to break actual laws.
      In my personal experience this is a pretty good model for living one’s life generally; for example if you don’t rationalize to yourself that it’s OK to just go down to the bar to meet floozies while your wife is away, you’re less likely to find yourself in bed the next day with one of those floozies.

      (Of course Jews also rather let the team down and work against the whole point of this scheme when they engage in ludicrously legalistic interpretation of the law like eruv…)

  4. WNYC callers don’t average much smarter than callers on AM shock-talk in Podunk, and WNYC commenters make me proud of the RBC clan.

    I’d expect a boatload of that famous New York City hospitality on your next call-in segment.

    Brian Lehrer is the best interviewer in broadcast since Brian Lamb (who I miss with all my heart).

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