Graphic: Mirror Cracked
Surprise, surprise. Most people who go to drug rehab programs for marijuana don’t want to be there, and were in fact forced to either attend the dreary, pointless sessions or to go to jail.
Nearly six out of ten people — 57 percent — admitted to drug treatment programs for marijuana are “referred” there by the criminal justice system, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — meaning most people in pot rehab were forced to go there under threat of jail.
And only 15 percent of marijuana treatment admissions were self-referred, according to the study. This percentage is less than half the number of self-referrals for alcohol and cocaine, and about one-quarter the number of self-referrals reported for heroin, at 56 percent.
By contrast, criminal justice referrals accounted for only 37 percent of the overall total of drug rehab admissions in 2008.
“Primary marijuana admissions were less likely than all admissions combined to be self-referred to treatment,” the study found.
The percentage of people in drug treatment programs primarily for marijuana has risen by about 25 percent since 1998, the report found. But this increase is being driven by a proportional rise in the percentage of criminal justice referrals.
According to another federal study, the proportion of marijuana treatment admissions from all sources other than the criminal justice system — that is, the folks who weren’t forced under threat of jail to attend — has been dropping since the 1990s.
“These statistics make it clear that it is not marijuana use per se that is driving these treatment admission rates; it is marijuana prohibition that is primarily responsible,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML.
“These people are not ‘addicts’ in any true sense of the word,” Armentano said. “Rather, they are ordinary Americans who have experienced the misfortune of being busted for marijuana who are forced to choose between rehab or jail.”
In fact, a good portion of the people in rehab supposedly for their raging marijuana addictions haven’t even used pot in the past month.
According to federal figures compiled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2009, some 37 percent of the estimated 288,000 people entering drug treatment for marijuana in 2007 had not reported using it in the 30 days previous to their admission.
Another 16 percent of those admitted to “pot rehab” said they had used cannabis three times or fewer in the month prior to their admission — hardly addictive behavior.