Conference Announcement: “Addictions Old and New”

Editor’s Note: This week we’re posting a special mid-week conference announcement. We hope that those who can make it will be in Richmond next month for what’s sure to be a really excellent series of talks. Thanks to David Courtwright for bringing this to our attention!

And remember, this conference requires advance registration. You can sign up for that here

Addictions Old and New

Douglas Southall Freeman Conference
October 22-23, 2015
University of Richmond

The variety of addictive behaviors has apparently increased in the last half-century. With varying degrees of sophistication, researchers have applied the concept of addiction to activities like eating and Internet gaming and viewing pornography, as well as to traditional practices like smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol and taking psychoactive drugs.

This conference brings together experts from different disciplines to describe the development of “new” addictions as well as new developments with respect to “old” addictions, e.g., nicotine vaping, liberalized prescription laws, and digitized gambling machines. To what extent have technological and policy innovations increased the variety, amount, and severity of addictive behaviors? Do these addictive behaviors (old and new) share common social and biological features? Is there an essential unity to the nature and study of addiction, or are we confronted with disparate behaviors that happen to have some common elements, such as craving and relapse?

This two-day conference is free and open to the public. However, the keynote address on October 22 requires advance registration.

Keynote Address: What is Addiction and What do Addictions have in Common?

Thurs., Oct 22
7:30 p.m.
Tyler Haynes Commons, Alice Haynes Room

Welcome: Jacquelyn Fetrow, Ph.D., provost, professor of chemistry, University of Richmond

Speaker: Charles O’Brien, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

This event is free but you must register in advance.

Sessions and Presentations: Fri., Oct. 23

All sessions will take place in Jepson Hall, Room 118. The Friday presentations do not require advance registration; however, we recommend that you arrive early to assure optimal seating.

Food, Drink, and Addiction

9–10:40 a.m.

David Courtwright, Ph.D., Presidential Professor, University of North Florida; Douglas Southall Freeman Professor, University of Richmond
Food as a Drug: How Good is the Analogy?

Virginia Berridge, Ph.D., director, Centre for History in Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Whatever Happened to Alcoholism?

Session Chair: Sydney Watts, Ph.D.,  associate professor of history, University of Richmond

Coffee Break
10:40–11 a.m.
Jepson Faculty Lounge

Prescription Medication, Opioids, and the Heroin Revival

11 a.m.–12:40 p.m.

David Herzberg, Ph.D., associate professor of history, University of Buffalo
Uppers and Downers: Past and Present Abuse of Stimulants and Sedatives

Andrew Kolodny, M.D., chief medical officer, Phoenix House
The Prescription Opioid Epidemic and the Heroin Revival

Session Chair: Sara Black, Mellon Dissertation Fellow, Rutgers University

12:40–1:40 p.m.

Lunch can be purchased at several locations around campus. Two options near Jepson Hall are the Passport Café in the Carole Weinstein International Center, and Lou’s in the Robins School of Business.

Digital Technologies and Behavioral Addictions

1:45–3:25 p.m.

Natasha Dow Schüll, Ph.D., associate professor of science, technology, and society, MIT
Addiction by Design: From Slot Machines to Candy Crush

Robert Weiss, M.S.W., founding director, The Sexual Recovery Institute
Hyperstimulation and Digital Media: Sex and Tech Addictions

Session Chair: Manuella Meyer, Ph.D., assistant professor of history, University of Richmond

3:25–3:35 p.m.

New Nicotine Products and New Marijuana Laws

3:35 –5:15 p.m.

Robert Balster, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and toxicology, VCU Medical Center
Old Drug in a New Container? Nicotine Addiction, Harm Reduction, and E-Cigarettes

Mark A.R. Kleiman, Ph.D., professor of public policy, Marron Institute of Urban Management, New York University
Cannabis Use Disorder is Not a Brain Disease, and It Does Not Matter Anyway—Science and Policy in the Legalization Debate

Session Chair: Jess Flanigan, Ph.D., assistant professor of leadership studies and politics, philosophy, economics, and law, University of Richmond

5:15–5:25 p.m.

Roundtable Discussion

5:30 – 6 p.m.

Moderator: David Leary, Ph.D., University Professor, University of Richmond

For further information about the event, contact Deborah Govoruhk, administrative coordinator, Department of History.


Points Roundtable, “Becoming a Marihuana User”: Carl Hart

Editor’s Note: This week, we welcome Dr. Carl Hart to the roundtable on Howard Becker’s Becoming a Marihuana UserHart is an associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University and a visiting research scientist at the Brocher Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland. His most recent book, High Price, won the 2014 PEN E.O. Award for literary science writing. You can follow him on twitter or read his work on his personal website, which provides access to facts about illicit drug use to the general public. 

Hart is our last guest contributor in this series. Next week, we look forward to welcoming Howard Becker himself, who will offer his response to the rerelease of his book. 

Carl HartAn Argument for Drug Literacy

Nearly 30 years after Howard Becker published his seminal paper Becoming a Marihuana User, I smoked my first joint and my experience was similar to those of the research participants described in Becker’s study. It was a balmy Miami night in early fall 1983, when I was just fifteen. Two of my friends—Derrick and Ed —decided that they were going to get me high.

Ed drove us to the spot in Opa-Locka where he bought his weed. Then we parked at the end of some deserted street and smoked a couple of joints, listening to the mellow sounds of the Quiet Storm on 99.1 WEDR.

“Shit, I don’t feel nothin’,” I declared. “This ain’t shit.”

Derrick and Ed looked at me and then at each other. Laughing, someone said, “Yeah, he fucked-up.” I continued to insist I was fine and that I really didn’t feel any different than usual, but both of them just laughed and repeated, “That nigga fuuuucked-up.” Everything I said, every time I laughed or simply looked at one of them only confirmed – in their minds – that I was actually high. Of course, I didn’t think so.

In fact, I didn’t notice anything unusual at all until I got home. My sister Joyce took one look at me and said, “Damn, you must be fucked-up.” I brushed her off, as I had heard that earlier from my friends. In retrospect, I must’ve been acting a bit cautious and tentative, not like my usual bold self. My eyes were probably red or maybe I reeked of weed. I didn’t yet understand how marijuana affects consciousness and behavior.

Things started getting strange when I got to my room. I put on some music and tried to fall asleep but couldn’t. Suddenly, I felt like I was inside the beat. Feeling slightly panicked, I wondered what was happening. The song was surrounding me, throbbing, inescapable. It was a familiar track but I heard unfamiliar instruments. Every sound in the song was acute and intense. That wasn’t the way music was supposed to sound, or so I thought. My heart, too, seemed to have speeded up. I felt as though it was keeping time with the R&B rhythm. Was it unhealthy if it did that? Could it kill me?

This experience was thoroughly disconcerting. I knew I wasn’t usually so conscious of my heartbeat; I knew I didn’t usually find music so intense. I didn’t understand at all that this experience was supposed to be enjoyable. My friends hadn’t briefed me on how to detect marijuana-related pleasurable effects or any other effects. All I knew was that I didn’t like having my senses or consciousness altered; it felt uncomfortably beyond my control. I found it disorienting and even slightly frightening. As a result, I didn’t smoke marijuana again for at least two years. But many more years would pass before I was taught how to detect and experience marijuana-related pleasurable effects. If only I were introduced to Becker’s work much earlier.

Becker’s major proposals are that people become regular marijuana users only when they learn to: (1) smoke the drug in a way which will produce real effects; (2) recognize the effects and connect them with drug use; and (3) enjoy the sensations s/he perceives. Perhaps these ideas were controversial in 1953. They aren’t today, as they not only apply to marijuana, but to all recreational drugs. Otherwise, it makes little sense to take a drug if it has no pharmacological effects. And when it does have an effect – whether it is heroin or LSD or cocaine – the user needs to be made aware of the desired effects as well as the negative effects because they often accompany each other. But, with sufficient knowledge, one may be able to minimize less desired effects while enhancing the pleasurable ones.

The key, however, is knowledge. Becker’s emphasis on users gaining a deeper understanding of drug effects, as well as novices using in the presence of more experienced users, increases the likelihood that drug users will remain safe. It’s not difficult to see how these ideas extend beyond marijuana use. Consider, for example, the country’s current focus on opioid overdoses. The likelihood of fatal drug overdoses decreases substantially if there are others present, so that timely medical attention can be received. In my view this is the real contribution of Becker’s work, especially in light of the fact that people will always continue to get high. In fact, each year in the U.S., more than 20 million Americans report regular illegal drug use. The most important concern for me is keeping users safe. The findings from Becker’s research more than 60 years ago go a long way in achieving this goal.

The Forgotten Drug War: One Million Drug Addicts (Washington, D.C., 1919)

In 1918, the Treasury Department established a Special Narcotic Committee, tasked with reviewing the scope of the drug problem in the United States. The Committee issued its final report, Traffic in Narcotic Drugs, in June of 1919. The product of a year’s worth of work by a committee which included reputable figures in the drug field, the report covered many aspects of the drug problem—but no part of the report drew more attention than the conclusion that the nation’s addict population numbered one million. To understand how that figure was obtained, we need to briefly review some very poor statistical analysis. And that’s part of the story. But the bigger story is that “one million addicts” took on a life of its own, a mythical number that long outlived the federal government’s own interest in its promulgation.

Read More »

Points Roundtable, “Becoming a Marihuana User”: Cookie Woolner

Editor’s Note: This week, we welcome Cookie Woolner to the roundtable on Howard Becker’s Becoming a Marihuana UserWoolner recently completed her Ph.D. in history and women’s studies at the University of Michigan and is currently serving as a postdoctoral fellow in African American Studies at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. You can follow her work on her personal website and twitter

Cookie-WoolnerMarijuana, Race, and Music Cultures from Jazz to Hip Hop

Howie Becker’s pioneering study, Becoming a Marihuana User, emerged from the mid-century Chicago jazz scene. The relationship it chronicled between drug use and music subculture is a long one, which has been more dangerous for some than for others. In our current moment, many of the young black men whose lives have been taken too soon by the police are often demonized as weed-smoking, hip hop-loving thugs – that is to say, they brought their deaths upon themselves. The association of marijuana use with African American music and culture may be a stereotype, but it has real effects.

Ironically, when one digs into the history of marijuana and its connection to the jazz world in the early 20th century, it appears white men were primarily responsible for introducing black musicians and Harlemites to weed (or in the parlance of their day, gage, tea, muggles or reefer, among many other names). Italian-American Leon Roppolo, the clarinetist for the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, was said to have introduced marijuana to the Chicago jazz scene, in particular to Jewish saxophonist Mezz Mezzrow, who later became weed dealer to Louis Armstrong and much of Harlem. “Mezz” became another nickname for pot, according to the saxophonist, who also considered himself an “honorary Negro.”

Read More »

Intoxicated Identities: Tim Mitchell’s Framework for Analyzing Drug Users

As any historian of drugs or alcohol knows, drug use has typically been mapped onto a binary spectrum between abstinence and addiction. The implication of the binary is that the more drugs one does, the closer one gets to a problematic fall. By contrast, the fewer drugs one does makes the user safer from the drug’s negative side effects. While plenty of drug historians have challenged this binary representation, especially as it pertains to addiction and addiction treatment, scholars still have a much harder time thinking of heavy drug use as anything but problematic.

Historians, especially those intent on breaking down historiographical binaries, should read Tim Mitchell’s 2004 book, Intoxicated Identities: Alcohol’s Power in Mexican History and Culture. This book, though ultimately disappointing itself, is a helpful starting point the abstinence/addiction binary right from the source. In it, Mitchell questions the limiting tendency, even for the more critical observers, to view excessive drinking (binge drinking) only as a form of abuse. Mitchell’s bold suggestion – that in the right context heavy alcohol use can represent a mode of solution-seeking – serves to turn the logic of intoxication on its head.

Solution Drinkers?
            Solution Drinkers?

Though disappointing in terms of its methodology and conclusions, Mitchell’s forays into representations of legitimate drinking open intellectual doors for historians of drinking and drug use. He argues that intoxication has an important functional role to play in Mexican culture and history. His is a subtle but significant corrective to previous studies of Mexico that relegated intoxication to the margins of that story. He uses much of this existing scholarship in his analysis, but by bringing alcohol use (and not just alcohol) to the fore, he complicates existing scholarship by reconceptualizing alcohol’s role to one of prominence and not mere incidence. For Mitchell, alcohol has been and remains an important element in social debates about gender and family relationships, as a phenomenological tool for altering time perception, and most importantly as a form of resistance and rebellion. This post will focus on the implications of Mitchell’s framework for my own research on cannabis users in 1920s New York. I’ve spoken about gender in a previous post, so I’d like to focus on the second two of Mitchell’s thematic threads: alcohol’s role in altering consciousness and as an identity-creating tool of resistance.

Read More »

Points Roundtable, “Becoming a Marihuana User”: Amanda Reiman

Editor’s Note: This week, we welcome Amanda Reiman to the roundtable on Howard Becker’s Becoming a Marihuana User. Reiman is the Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance, where she works to develop DPA’s marijuana reform work as it relates to litigation, legislative and initiative drafting, campaign strategy, policy advocacy, media relations, fundraising, and public education in the local, state, federal, and international jurisdictions in which DPA is active. You can follow her work on twitter.

ReimanMarijuana prohibition is fruitless, because we have already learned to enjoy it.

Howard Becker’s seminal work, Becoming a Marihuana User, lays out the pathway to marijuana use based on the experiences of those who have used the substance. The gist of the piece is that there are three steps to becoming a marijuana user: 1) learning how to correctly ingest it; 2) recognizing the effects; and 3) interpreting the effects as enjoyable. According to Becker, if a person completes the three steps they will continue to use marijuana until they can no longer feel the effects and/or it is no longer enjoyable, at which time they will stop their use.

This theory is supported by the fact that most people who stop using marijuana do so without formal treatment. The term “aging out” is often used to refer to folks who discontinue their marijuana use once they take on the responsibilities of job and family. This makes sense in the context of Becker’s work, because he purports that changes in how marijuana use is viewed in one’s peer group and community can change the ability to derive pleasure from smoking. Indeed, today we see many people age out of marijuana use, and then return to the practice once they no longer have as many daily responsibilities and/or are beginning to feel the aches and pains of aging.

Becker is a sociologist and his work on social learning focuses on interviews with marijuana users, but there is a vital policy implication that can be derived from this work as well. According to Becker, the single driving force behind continued marijuana use is the ability to derive pleasure from it. If this is indeed the case, how could prohibiting marijuana ever be successful at reducing use? Prohibition relies on the theory that punishment influences drug using behavior. When it comes to drugs with a more serious level of dependence potential, we know this is not the case. Those experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms are not necessarily dissuaded from use because of the threat of criminal justice intervention. The data support this, as harder drug use in the United States has remained fairly stable even in light of rising financial support for the war on drugs. But what about marijuana?

Marijuana use among adults has been increasing. As Becker points out, no severe withdrawal syndrome drives use, but rather the presence of pleasure. It seems, then, that prohibitionist policies for marijuana are futile because continued use is about pleasure and shared experience, something that prohibition has been unable to influence. As laws change and marijuana use is no longer dampened by the threat of incarceration, and the market provides a wide variety of products and potencies, the experiences of pleasure will become even more common.

What are the impacts of changing views of marijuana on expectation effects? It is commonly said that in order for drug use to occur, two things must be present: predisposition and availability. Becker is critical of predisposition and likens it to an underlying desire or need to use a substance before initiation even occurs. However, if we have gotten to a place in society where the use of marijuana is perceived as a positive, healthful practice, even prior to initiation, then predisposition might be replaced with expectation. Interestingly, recent research shows that this new expectation of a positive marijuana experience seems to be limited to adults. Approval of marijuana use and use itself among young people is down. This could be attributed to the rejection by young people of what is considered desirable among adults. If this is in fact the case, and youth expectations for pleasure from marijuana are inversely related to those of adults, increased acceptance and positive expectations around marijuana use in the adult population might be the best deterrent for youth use that we have come across.

As Becker rightfully points out, in some ways marijuana itself has changed since this study was first conducted. Advanced cultivation techniques and the threat of arrest have resulted in higher potency strains (think Moonshine during alcohol prohibition). However, in states that now have legal marijuana systems, we are starting to see lower potency strains and products come back into fashion, especially among those who are re-initiating use after aging out. It would be fascinating to replicate Becker’s study today to assess the evolution of becoming a marijuana user.


We’re Looking for a Few Good Writers

It’s getting to the point where only a rare day goes by when something about Americans’ use of drugs and alcohol isn’t featured in the news. Whether it’s discussions about the dangers of new synthetic drugs or the New York Times continually challenging the drug war, there has never been a better time to offer your insights about drug and alcohol history. Especially with the 2016 elections rapidly approaching and marijuana legalization poised to be a topic of debate, there is a growing, and increasingly interested, audience for reliable, historically-accurate news about America’s (and the world’s) use of intoxicants. And Points is going to be there, leading the way.

We’re open to any and all ideas – national, transnational, international; modern or ancient; drugs and/or alcohol; treatment, addiction, recreational use. We’d love to hear voices from abroad, and from people who are pushing the boundaries in drug and alcohol scholarship. A post here at Points can reach over 8,000 readers a month, and we’re working to bridge the gap between academic and public scholarship. It’s an exciting time, with exciting possibilities, and we want you to be a part of it.

If you’re interested in becoming a guest blogger or a contributing editor here at Points, please contact me at We can’t wait to hear what you have to say.

Points Roundtable, “Becoming a Marihuana User”: Mary Jane Gibson

Editor’s Note: Today’s addition to our ongoing roundtable on Howard Becker’s 1953 book “Becoming a Marihuana User” comes from Mary Jane Gibson, the entertainment editor at High Times magazine. Welcome, Mary Jane!

MJG HTThose who follow our publication may be noticing a growing trend in the evolution of HIGH TIMES. It has gone from a countercultural, back-alley, both literally and figuratively “seedy” magazine to a fully budded and blossoming mainstream lifestyle magazine for the mercifully medicalized, sometime decriminalized—and in some places totally legalized—partakers of the holy smoke, deep dab, and altering edible. I cannot, and will not, endeavor to compete with the other illustrious and accomplished panelists commenting here. Instead, I’d like to offer a few words on cannabis culture and HIGH TIMES.

As Howard S. Becker writes in Becoming a Marihuana User, smoking weed in the 1950s was not a Social Evil. Nobody cared much about people who smoked it, nobody studied it, and nobody apart from Becker was writing about it. The hippie culture’s embrace of weed in the 1960s came to symbolize anti-establishment rebellion, freeing the mind from a mainstream way of life that developed into the now all-too-familiar dominant corporate culture. Smoking weed was paired with psychedelics, and the counterculture tuned in, turned on and dropped out. Along came the 1970s—and at that time of civil rights and anti-war movements, when many Americans believed that marijuana should (and would) be legalized, taxed and regulated like alcohol and tobacco, President Lyndon B. Johnson created the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs in an effort to quash social unrest (i.e., drug use) across the country. The federal government’s War on Drugs began in earnest.

In 1974, 21 years after Howard S. Becker wrote Becoming a Marihuana User, Thomas King Forçade founded HIGH TIMES magazine. Forçade was a leader in the underground press, and a dedicated marijuana smuggler. His vision for HIGH TIMES was simple: to give voice to the freedom to pursue alternative consciousness. Forçade believed that marijuana prohibition had within it the seeds of its own destruction. He brought together a community of marijuana smokers and growers by providing the counterculture with a national forum in the form of a print magazine. HIGH TIMES was an immediate hit—the first issue was reprinted four times to meet the high demand. That community of marijuana smokers and growers, without whom, Becker argues, marijuana use and knowledge would not be disseminated, has stayed strong for 41 years. And HIGH TIMES has, for 41 years, been providing authentic, reliable marijuana-related information, activism, entertainment, and news.

Setting aside marijuana use as religious sacrament, or as medication for war veterans, epilepsy sufferers, cancer patients and thousands—nay, hundreds of thousands—of others, the widespread use of marijuana for pleasure, whether learned or discovered on one’s own, is undeniable. As of this writing, recreational marijuana has been made legal in four states: Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon. High-potency strains of weed (“flowers”), cannabis concentrates (“dabs”) and marijuana edibles are widely available and highly effective. On page xiv of the preface to Becoming a Marihuana User, one man addresses Becker’s assertion that one needs to “learn to be high” from smoking weed: “The effects were just… WHAM!!!… like a hammer at the back of the head… that guy Becker should change his dealer.” First-time users needn’t worry nowadays—if you want to get high, you’ll have no trouble finding strong weed to do the trick.

It can be true, as observed by Becker, that for a first-time user who smokes, dabs or ingests a powerful edible, identifying the resulting high as pleasurable can be… difficult. Columnist Maureen Dowd of the New York Times wrote of her experience after ingesting a medicated candy bar, “I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.” HIGH TIMES staffers now refer to overindulging in edibles to the point of discomfort as “doing a Dowd.” To be clear: Edibles, dabs, and high-potency strains of weed will seriously affect even the first-time user. Just as an inexperienced drinker pounding several shots of whiskey will undoubtedly get uncomfortably smashed and a seasoned imbiber might enjoy knocking back a few martinis without batting an eye, so it is with marijuana. Know your limits. If you’ve never smoked pot, don’t start with a dab or a chocolate bar infused with 1000 milligrams of THC.

Becker writes that smoking weed is a socially acquired taste akin to the acquired taste for “oysters or dry martinis.” That is true for some consumers; however, there are also people who immediately have an affinity for the herb. And when evaluating the effects of smoking pot as opposed to using harder drugs or drinking alcohol, studies show that marijuana is a safer alternative to recreate with. Instead of getting hammered on a bottle of Jack Daniels, take a toke and go to bed. You’ll sleep like a baby, and you’ll wake up without a hangover.

HIGH TIMES provides the ever-growing cannabis industry with a forum for a continuing conversation about marijuana, and offers a vision for all aspects of the cannabis lifestyle. HIGH TIMES is dedicated to continuing the fight for marijuana legalization and campaigning for the release of all those serving prison sentences for non-violent drug offenses.


Mary Jane Gibson

NB: Mary Jane is my real name. I was named for my great aunt. It’s worked out well for me.

Jonathon Erlen’s Latest Dissertation Abstracts

Editor’s Note: Readers of Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, the Alcohol and Drugs History Society’s journal, are aware of Jonathon Erlen’s ongoing bibliography of recent dissertations related to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Until recently, Dr. Erlen, the History of Medicine Librarian at the University of Pittsburgh, curated and published his dissertation lists in the print edition of the journal. In August of 2014, the Alcohol and Drugs History Society moved the publication of Erlen’s bibliography to the blog. Below, we highlight a few of the most intriguing entries from Erlen’s selections from the ProQuest index. 

The War on Drugs in the American states: Variations in sentencing policies over time

Author: Neill, Katharine Anna

Department: Criminology/Public Policy

Institution: Old Dominion University

Advisor: Morris, John C.

Abstract: Since the 1970s US drug policy has focused on harsh punishments for drug offenders. A wealth of research indicates that the social and political context of the drug policy discourse is a greater factor in determining drug policy than rising rates of drug use or drug-related crime. While considerable research has examined the factors driving federal drug policy, fewer studies have examined drug policy at the state level. This dissertation studies state drug sentencing policy to determine what factors may explain variation across states. By focusing on the period from 1975 to 2002, this study concentrates on policies passed during the War on Drugs era, which began in 1971 and has only recently shown signs of abating. A policy design framework is used to argue that the social constructions of drug offenders–the way in which they are perceived in society–determines the policies directed towards them, and that negative perceptions are likely to result in more punitive policy. This research also hypothesizes that several other factors are likely to influence punitive drug policy, including the desire to control threatening populations, a conservative political environment, and bureaucratic incentives to pursue drug crimes. Using panel data analysis, this study finds partial support for the premises that negative social constructions of drug offenders and bureaucratic incentives affect state drug sentencing policy.

The efficacy of substance abuse treatment, as regards patient gender, life stage, primary diagnosis, and level of care: A retrospective analysis

Author: Herman, Paul

Department: Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Institution: Capella University

Advisor: Kramer, Thomas

Abstract: Substance abuse treatment became formalized in the 1950’s, and the prevalent treatment approach became known as the “Minnesota Model”; it was designed to treat the adult, alcoholic male in an inpatient setting. In time, rehabilitation programs began to treat women, adolescents, those addicted to substances other than alcohol, and those treated in outpatient settings. However, the same treatment model has prevailed, and has been applied to other treatment settings than originally intended. The current research project studied the efficacy of substance abuse treatment when considering the variables of client gender – male or female, life stage – adult or adolescent, primary drug classification – alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, or opiates, and treatment setting – Inpatient or Intensive Outpatient. Efficacy was operationally defined as the client completing recommended treatment, and the research questions included examining which of the variables mentioned was associated with treatment completion rates. The chi-square test of independence was used to determine if there was a relationship between the independent variables mentioned and treatment completion. Analysis showed a significant relationship in every instance tested, though not always what was expected: adults completed treatment significantly more than adolescents – expected; the model was designed for adults; males completed treatment significantly more than females – expected; the model was designed for males; opiate addicts completed treatment significantly more than other drug classifications – unexpected; the model was designed for alcoholics; those treated in inpatient settings completed treatment significantly more than those treated in Intensive Outpatient – expected; the model was designed for Inpatient treatment. The significance of the study was underscored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2008)-based statement that substance abuse treatment spending would reach $35 billion this year, thus suggesting that studying the efficacy of substance abuse treatment is a worthwhile endeavor (Levit et al, 2008).

The relationship between university student Facebook usage and alcohol consumption

Author: Crow, Brent M.

Department: Health Education

Institution: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

Advisor: Brown, Stephen

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to investigate whether college students’ use of the social networking site Facebook influenced their alcohol consumption. In particular, the relationship between students’ alcohol use and exposure to alcohol-related content through various features or activities on Facebook was examined. An additional focus was to identify whether certain variables increased the chances of predicting students’ alcohol and Facebook use. The study employed a non-experimental, quantitative, descriptive and correlational research design to examine the relationship between students’ alcohol consumption, Facebook use, and exposure to alcohol-related content through various applications or features on Facebook. The sample consisted of 502 undergraduate students enrolled in the university at the time of data collection. Data were obtained through the use of a survey instrument designed by the researcher, for the primary purpose of soliciting self reported rates of alcohol consumption, Facebook use, and exposure to alcohol-related content on Facebook. The results of this study indicate that student alcohol consumption and Facebook usage are on par with current research. No statistically significant correlations were found between Facebook usage, various features or activities on Facebook, and students’ consumption of alcohol.

The role of rapid dopamine signaling within the nucleus accumbens in natural and drug reward-seeking behaviors

Author: Cameron, Courtney Marie

Department: Psychology

Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Advisor: Carelli, Regina M.

Abstract: Learning about rewards and appropriately directing behaviors to obtain them is critical for survival. These processes are subserved by a distributed network of brain nuclei including the nucleus accumbens (NAc) and its dopaminergic input. In vivo electrophysiology studies have repeatedly provided evidence that NAc neurons encode goal-directed behaviors for both natural and drug rewards. Specifically, work from this laboratory has shown that subsets of NAc neurons exhibit largely differential, nonoverlapping firing patterns during operant responding for natural rewards (food, water, or sucrose) versus intravenous cocaine (Carelli et al., 2000; Carelli, 2002; Carelli & Wondolowski, 2003; Carelli & Wondolowski, 2006; Cameron & Carelli, 2012). Furthermore, the percentage of NAc neurons that encode goal-directed behaviors for cocaine is dramatically increased following 30 days of cocaine abstinence (Hollander & Carelli, 2005; Hollander & Carelli, 2007). While we have observed rapid dopamine (DA) signaling in the NAc during responding for natural (Roitman et al, 2004) and drug (Phillips et al., 2003) rewards on a timescale similar to NAc phasic cell firing, it is not known whether this DA signaling acts in a manner analogous to NAc phasic activity. The first set of experiments detailed in this dissertation used electrochemical recording techniques to measure rapid DA release in the NAc core during performance of two different tasks: a sucrose/cocaine or sucrose/food multiple schedule. This design allowed us to compare DA release dynamics in specific locations in the NAc during operant responding for two natural rewards, versus a natural reward and intravenous cocaine. These experiments revealed that, unlike our prior electrophysiology work, rapid DA release in the NAc was not reinforcer specific during performance of a sucrose/cocaine multiple schedule. In the second set of experiments, we used the same data set obtained from Aim 1 to compare basic shifts in pH in discrete locations in the NAc core and determine if aspects of this signaling differed during each phase of the sucrose/cocaine multiple schedule. Our findings revealed that although increases in pH were observed under both reinforcer conditions, the dynamics of this signaling were significantly different when animals responded for intravenous cocaine versus the natural reward, sucrose. The final set of experiments examined the effects of one month of cocaine abstinence on DA release and uptake dynamics in the NAc core. We found that a month of cocaine abstinence potentiated the peak concentration of electrically evoked DA in the NAc following an acute injection of cocaine. Taken together, the results of these studies indicate that DA signaling in the NAc is highly dynamic and can be influenced by many factors, including the type of reinforcer (natural or drug) being self-administered or the pattern of drug exposure (1 day versus 30 days of abstinence). Furthermore, rapid DA signaling does not interact with NAc cell firing in a simple manner, but instead differentially modulates neuronal activity depending on many factors including reward type, specific afferent-efferent projections, and ongoing behavior.

Points Roundtable, “Becoming a Marihuana User”: Nancy Campbell

howie_bwEditor’s Note: On April 25, 1953, Howard S. Becker, a graduate of the University of Chicago’s famed School of Sociology, presented a paper at the meeting of the Midwest Sociological Association to a room of about a dozen people. It was based on fifty interviews with marijuana smokers and his “irregular and unplanned observation” of their habits, all of this taking place in his “social laboratory” of Chicago. If the confused questions he received afterward were any indication, what Becker sought to explain was stunningly avant-garde: at the core of his paper was a new conception of how and why marijuana smokers got high. As he explains in the new preface to his 1953 book Becoming a Marihuana User“I liked the idea of understanding the characteristic ‘getting high’ experience not as an unmediated pharmacologically induced event, but rather as the result of users’ interpretations of those effects.” This emphasis on ideas that few, if any, sociologists were discussing at the time – personal experience with drug use and individual users’ interpretations of its effects – meant that Becker was talking about things like peer influence and “set and setting” over a decade before Timothy Leary discussed the concept in reference to LSD.

Marijuana was a quiet drug in 1953. It was smoked, and by “many people,” as Becker wrote, but it wasn’t “a Social Evil which deserved a place in the ‘Social Problems’ course every sociology department taught.” Instead, “relatively few people used marijuana and they didn’t make a lot of trouble, so despite the efforts of some authorities, no public was crying out to get rid of the practice.”

So how did the young graduate, who landed a research position on the staff of the Chicago Narcotics Survey, come to write an essay that shaped much of the drug scholarship to come? Mostly by hanging out in jazz clubs as a teen.

Becker BecomingAs Nancy Campbell, the first scholar to participate in our new, six-part roundtable discussing the rerelease of Becker’s 1953 text, will show, it was Becker’s early experiences playing piano in jazz and strip clubs in World War II-era Chicago that exposed him to the world of “deviants” and outsiders who became the primary research subjects of his long and influential career. Better known for his 1963 study Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance, Becker’s first book is finding renewed relevance and acclaim today, as the University of Chicago rereleases it with a smart new cover and streamlined design. Praising the prescience of his “wise words,” Andrew Weil said that Becker’s work long ago “pointed the way toward a more enlightened, rational view of cannabis.”

Becker argued that most marijuana smokers were students of the drug long before they became “social deviants” or consistent smokers. They had to be brought into the community by other, seasoned drug users, who showed them how consumption was done. The first session was invariably a disappointment: smokers didn’t feel any effect because, as Becker put it, “you had to learn to be high.” That meant piecing together a narrative to understand the experience, and then wanting to experience that sensation time and again. After talking with fifty regular smokers, Becker identified the three steps that needed to be taken in order to become a marijuana user:

1.) Learn how to smoke in a way that produces real effects

2.) Recognize the effects and connect them back to the drug’s use

3.) Learn to enjoy these effects, and actively seek out recreating them

From teacher to student, marijuana spread across the country in the 1960s, and Becker saw this kind of shared knowledge creating a legitimate “drug culture,” with experienced smokers bringing new users into the fold. With more people learning how to “properly” use the drug, Becker watched the incidence of unpleasant drug experiences diminish, as remedies were proposed for experiences that remained unsound, and as fears of police intervention were minimized. (Well, for some; several of our panelists will discuss this idea later on).

In a celebration of his work, Points has gathered together five of the most prominent voices in the field of drug studies to comment on this rerelease and the lasting importance of Becker’s work. Ranging from examinations of the book through the lenses of race relations to modern policy recommendations, our five contributors – Nancy Campbell, Mary Jane Gibson, Amanda Reiman, Cookie Woolner and Carl Hart – have each written a short essay on what Becker’s six-decade-old paper means to them, and where they see its applications today. Their contributions will be run every Tuesday from now through October, with the final contribution coming from Howard Becker himself. We are thrilled and grateful to host such a conversation.

In our first contribution, Nancy Campbell, Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, remembers an interview she conducted with Becker in 2005, along with her current thoughts on the lasting importance of his work.

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