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precipitating powerful, though temporary, psychotic episodes—or, more generally,
disturbing psychic adverse reactions. There are, of course, problems with this view; to
mention only three: (1) What constitutes such a reaction and how do we define an
"adverse effect" of marijuana? (2) How extensively does it occur? (3) Under what
conditions does it occur?
The smoker, under the influence of the drug, is held to be subject at times to confusion,
panic, disorientation, fear, and hallucinations —a schizophrenic break with reality. This
point of view holds that this state—ranging from a simple amused befuddlement all the
way to a full-blown outbreak of transient psychosis—"can" happen and "does" happen.
The fact that it has occurred with at least some modest degree of frequency is, in the eyes
of many health figures, powerful damaging evidence that the drug is, or can be, dangerous
While physicians are adamant about the existence of these episodes and their attendant
dangers, smokers are equally as vociferous in denying to the drug such diabolical powers.
Donald Louria writes: "The evidence on panic seems so clear that to deny its existence
indicates either abysmal ignorance of the facts or intentional intellectual dishonesty."25
Yet, writers supporting use of the weed minimize and often dismiss outright its madnessinducing
potential. Their claim is that if marijuana can induce psychosis, then the causal
sequence posited has nothing intrinsically to do with the effects of the drug itself.
Rosevear, for instance, writes: "... a broken shoelace may also be used as a parallel for
Those who seek psychiatric and medical help as a result of an untoward reaction to
marijuana are far from typical of potheads, or the mental state of the characteristic
marijuana intoxication. The average smoker has probably never seen any evidence of an
untoward reaction of any seriousness—so that he denies its existence completely It is
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The Marijuana Smokers - Chapter 5
difficult to deny that marijuana can potentiate panic or a psychotomimetic experience,
given the "right" person and setting. To assert, however, that such reactions are typical,
widespread, common, or even more than merely occasional is, I think, entirely incorrect,
since, by all accounts, extreme psychosis-like reactions to the drug are extremely rare.
Even the staunchest opponents of the drug are careful to point out that they are of
relatively infrequent occurrence. The Medical Society of the County of New York informs
us that cannabis "is an unpredictable drug and is potentially harmful even in its mildest
form. Even occasional use can produce (although rarely) acute panic, severe intoxication,
or an acute toxic psychosis."27 A pair of physicians, reporting on panic reactions in
Vietnam, inform us that at the extreme of the continuum, cannabis is capable of touching
off in some individual
6l reported a synthesis (Chart 2
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