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becker_marijuana+user - JAN 2.4 was RESERVE DESK Notice...

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Unformatted text preview: JAN 2.4 was ' RESERVE DESK Notice 11"? *‘x. ."vvm-lal May be Row by Comm 1 43,-“. p 11% cm 3 Becoming a Marlhuana User AN unknown, but probably quite large, number of people in the United States use marihuana. They do this in spite of the fact that it is both illegal and disap- proved. The phenomenon of marihuana use has received much at- tention, particularly from psychiatrists and law enforcement officials. The research that has been done, as is often the case with research on behavior that is viewed as deviant, is mainly concerned with the queStion: why do they do it? Attempts to account for the use of marihuana lean heavily on the prem- ise that the presence of any particular kind of behavior in an individual can best be explained as the result of some trait OUTSIDERS which predisposes or motivates him to engage in that be— havior. In the case of marihuana use, this trait is usually identi- fied as psychological, as a need for fantasy and escape from psychological problems the individual cannot face.1 I do not think such theories can adequately account for marihuana use. In fact, marihuana use is an interesting case for theories of deviance, because it illustrates the way deviant mo- tives actually develop in the course of experience with the de- viant activityfio put a complex argument in a few words: instead of the deviant motives leading to the deviant behavior, it is the other way around; the deviant behavior in time pro- duces the deviant motivatioiEVague impulses and desires—in this case, probably most frequently a curiosity about the kind of experience the drug will produce—are transformed into definite patterns of action through the social interpretation of a physical experience which is in itself ambiguous. Marihuana use is a function of the individual’s conception of marihuana and of the uses to which it, can be put, and this concep- tion develops as the individual’s experience with the drug in- creases.2 The research reported in this and the next chapter deals with the career of the marihuana user. In this chapter, we look at the development of the individual’s immediate physical ex- perience with marihuana. In the next, we consider the way he reacts to the various social controls that have grown up around use of the drug. What we are trying to understand here is the 1. See, as examples of this approach, the following: Eli Marcovitz and Henry J. Meyers, “The Marihuana Addict in the Army,” War Medicine, VI (December, 194-4), 382-391; Herbert S. Gaskill, “Marihuana, an Intoxi- cant," American journal of Psychiatry, CII (September. 1945), 202—204; Sol Charen and Luis Perelman, “Personality Studies of Marihuana Addicts,” American laurnal of Prycbiatry, CII (March, 1946), 674-682. 2. This theoretical point of view stems from George Herbert Mead’s discussion of objects in Mind, Self, and Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934), pp. 277-280. 42 Becoming a Marihuana User sequence of changes in attitude and experience which lead to the use of marihuana for pleasure. This way of phrasing the problem requires a little explanation. Marihuana does not pro- duce addiction, at least in the sense that alcohol and the opiate drugs do. The user experiences no withdrawal sickness and exhibits no ineradicable craving for the drug.3 The most fre- quent pattern of use might be termed “recreational.” The drug is used occasionally for the pleasure the user finds in it, a relatively casual kind of behavior in comparison with that connected with the use of addicting drugs. The report of the New York City Mayor’s Committee on Marihuana empha- sizes this point: A person may be a confirmed smoker for a prolonged period, and give up the drug voluntarily without experiencing any crav- ing for it or exhibiting withdrawal symptoms. He may, at some time later on, go back to its use. Others may remain infrequent users of the cigarette, taking one or two a week, or only when the “social setting” calls for participation. From time to time we had one of our investigators associate with a marihuana user. The investigator would bring up the subject of smoking. This would invariably lead to the suggestion that they obtain some marihuana cigarettes. They would seek a “tea-pad,” and if it was closed the smoker and our investigator would calmly resume their previous activity, such as the discussion of life in general or the playing of pool. There were apparently no signs indicative of frustration in the smoker at not being able to gratify the desire for the drug. We consider this point highly significant since it is so contrary to the experience of users of other narcotics. A similar situation occurring in one addicted to the use of morphine, cocaine or heroin would result in a compulsive attitude on the part of the addict to obtain the drug. If unable to secure it, there would be obvious physical and mental manifestations of frustration. This may be considered presumptive evidence that there is no true 3. Cf. Rogers Adams, “Marihuana." Bulletin of the New Y or]: Academy of Medicine, XVIII (November, 1942), 705—730. 43 OUT SlDERS addiction in the medical sense associated with the use of mari~ huana.‘ In using the phrase “use for pleasure,” I mean to emphasize the noncompulsive and casual character of the behavior. (I also mean to eliminate from consideration here those few cases in which marihuana is used for its prestige value only, as a symbol that one is a certain kind of person, with no pleasure at all being derived from its use.) The research I am about to report was not so designed that it could conStitute a crucial test of the theories that relate marihuana use to some psychological trait of the user. How- ever, it does show that psychological explanations are not in themselves sufficient to account for marihuana use and that they are, perhaps, not even necessary. Researchers attempting to prove such psychological theories have run into two great difficulties, never satisfactorily resolved, which the theory presented here avoids. In the first place, theories based on the existence of some predisposing psychological trait have diffi- culty in accounting for that group of users, who turn up in sizable numbers in every study,‘5 who do not exhibit the trait or traits which are considered to cause the behavior. Second, psychological theories have difficulty in accounting for the great variability over time of a given individual’s behavior with reference to the drug. The same person will at one time be unable to use the drug for pleasure, at a later stage be able and willing to do so, and still later again be unable to use it in this way. These changes, diflicult to explain from a theory based on the user’s needs for “escape” are readily underStand- 4. The New York City Mayor‘s Committee on Marihuana, The Man'- buana Problem in the City of N cw York (Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Jacques Cattell Press. 1944), pp. 12—13. 5. Cf. LawrenCe Kolb, “Marihuana,” Federal Probation, 1! (July, 1938), 22-25; and Walter Bromberg, “Marihuana: A Psychiatric Study,” journal of the American Medical Association, CXIII (July 1, 1939), 11. 44 _.. 4%?er _,.,s.,.,,.,;,. :1. . “w, _.,.,._._c..r«... .4. .. Becoming a Marihuana User able as consequences of changes in his conception of the drug. Similarly, if we think of the marihuana user as someone who has learned to view marihuana as something that can give him pleasure, we have no difficulty in understanding the existence of psychologically “normal” users. In doing the study, “Iflused the method W4ndm: tiog. I tried to arrive at a general statement of the sequence of changes in individual attitude and experience which always occurred when the individual became willing and able to use marihuana for pleasure, and never occurred or had not been permanently maintained when the person was unwilling to use marihuana for pleasure. The method requires that every case colleCted in the research substantiate the hypothesis. If one case is encountered which does not substantiate it, the re- searcher is required to change the hypothesis to fit the case which has proven his original idea wrong.’3 To develop and test my hypothesis about the genesis of marihuana use for pleasure, I conducred fifty interviews with marihuana users. I had been a professional dance musician for some years when I conducted this study and my first inter- views were with people I had met in the music business. I asked them to put me in contact with other users who would be willing to discuss their experiences with me. Colleagues working on a study of users of opiate drugs made a few inter- views available to me which contained, in addition to material on opiate drugs, sufficient material on the use of marihuana to furnish a test of my hypothesis} Although in the end half 6. The method is described in Alfred R. Lindesmith. Opiate Addiction (Bloomington. Indiana: Principia Press, 1947), chap. 1. There has been con- siderable discussion of this method in the literature. See, particular] , Ralph H. Turner, “The Quest for Universals in Sociological Research,” merican Sociological Review, 18 (December, 1953). 604-611, and the literature cited there. 7. I wish to thank Solomon Kobrin and Harold Finestone for making these interviews available to me. 45 OUTSIDERS of the fifty interviews were conducted with musicians, the Other half covered a wide range of people, including laborers, machinists, and people in the professions. The sample is, of course, in no sense “random”; it would not be possible to draw a random sample, since no one knows the nature of the universe from which it would have to be drawn. In interviewing users, I focused on the history of the per- SOn’s experience with marihuana, seeking major changes in his attitude toward it and in his actual use of it, and the reasons for these changes. Where it was possible and appropriate, I used the jargon of the user himself. The theory starts with the person who has arrived at the point of willingness to try marihuana. (I discuss how he gOt there in the next chapter.) He knows others use marihuana to “get high,” but he does not know what this means in any con- crete way. He is curious about the experience, ignorant of what it may turn out to be, and afraid it may be more than he has bargained for. The steps outlined below, if he undergoes them all and maintains the attitudes developed in them, leave him willing and able to use the drug for pleasure when the opportunity presents itself. Learning the Technique The novice does not ordinarily get high the first time he smokes marihuana, and several attempts are usually necessary to induce this state. One explanation of this may be that the drug is not smoked “properly,” that is, in a way that insures sufficient dosage to produce real symptoms of intoxication. Most users agree that it cannot be smoked like tobacco if one is to get high: 46 ,v‘wm a « l m". Becoming a Marihuana User Take in a lot of air, you know, and . . . I don’t know how to describe it, you don’t smoke it like a cigarette, you draw in a lot of air and get it deep down in your system and then keep it there. Keep it there as long as you can. Without the use of some such technique 3 the drug will produce no effects, and the user will be unable to get high: The trouble with people like that [who are not able to get high] is that they’re just not smoking it right, that’s all there is to it. Either they’re not holding it down long enough, or they’re getting too much air and not enough smoke, or the Other way around or something like that. A lot of people just don’t smoke it right, so naturally nothing’s gonna happen. If nothing happens, it is manifestly impossible for the user to develop a conception of the drug as an object which can be used for pleasure, and use will therefore not continue. The first step in the sequence of events that must occur if the per- son is to become a user is that he must learn to use the proper smoking technique so that his use of the drug will produce effects in terms of which his conception of it can change. Such a change is, as might be expeCted, a result of the in- dividual’s participation in groups in which marihuana is used. In them the individual learns the proper way to smoke the drug. This may occur through direct teaching: I was smoking like I did an ordinary cigarette. He said, “No, don’t do it like that.” He said, “Suck it, you know, draw in and hold it in your lungs till you . . . for a period of time.” I said, “Is there any limit of time to hold it?” He said, “No, just till you feel that you want to let it out, let it out.” So I did that three or four times. 8. A pharmacologist notes that this ritual is in fact an extremely efficient way of getting the drug into the blood stream. See R. P. Walton. Marx'- buana: America’: New Drug Problem (Philadelphia: 1. B. Lippincott, 1938). p. 48. 47 OUTSIDERS Many new users are ashamed to admit ignorance and, pre- tending to know already, must learn through the more in- direct means of observation and imitation: I came on like I had turned on [smoked marihuana] many times before, you know. I didn’t want to seem like a punk to this cat. See, like I didn’t know the first thing about it—how to smoke it, or what was going to happen, or what. I just watched him like a hawk—4 didn’t take my eyes ofl’ him for a second, because I wanted to do everything just as he did it. I watched how he held it, how he smoked it, and everything. Then when he gave it to me I just came on cool, as though I knew exactly what the score was. I held it like he did and took a poke just the way he did. No one I interviewed continued marihuana use for pleas- ure without learning a technique that supplied sufficient dos- age for the effects of the drug to appear. Only when this was learned was it possible for a conception of the drug as an object which could be used for pleasure to emerge. Without such a conception marihuana use was considered meaningless and did not continue. Learning to Perceive the Effects Even after he learns the proper smoking technique, the new user may not get high and thus not form a conception of the drug as something which can be used for pleasure. A re- mark made by a user suggested the reason for this difficulty in getting high and pointed to the next necessary step on the road to being a user: As a matter of fact, I’ve seen a guy who was high out of his mind and didn’t know it. [How can that be, manP] Well, it’s pretty strange, I’ll grant you that, but I’ve seen it. 48 l Becoming a Marihuana User This guy got on with me, claiming that he’d never got high, one of those guys, and he got completely stoned. And he kept insist- ing that he wasn’t high. So I had to prove to him that he was. What does this mean? It suggests that being high consists of two elements: the presence of symptoms caused by mari— huana use and the recognition of these symptoms and their connection by the user with his use of the drug. It is not enough, that is, that the effects be present; alone, they do not automatically provide the experience of being high. The user must be able to point them out to himself and consciously connect them with having smoked marihuana before he can have this experience. Otherwise, no matter what actual effects are produced, he considers that the drug has had no effect on him: “I figured it either had no effect on me or other people were exaggerating its effect on them, you know. I thought it was probably psychological, see.” Such persons believe the whole thing is an illusion and that the wish to be high leads the user to deceive himself into believing that something is happen- ing when, in fact, nothing is. They do not continue marihuana use, feeling that “it does nothing” for them. Typically, however, the novice has faith (developed from his observation of users who do get high) that the drug actually will produce some new experience and continues to experi— ment with it until it does. His failure to get high worries him, and he is likely to ask more experienced users or provoke com— ments from them about it. In such conversations he is made aware of specific details of his experience which he may not have noticed or may have noticed but failed to identify as symptoms of being high: I didn’t get high the first time. . . . I don’t think I held it in long enough. I probably let it out, you know, you’re a little afraid. The second time I wasn’t sure, and he [smoking companion] told me. like I asked him for some of the symptoms or something, 49 OUTSIDERS how would I know, you know. . . . So he told me to sit on a stool. I sat on—I think I sat on a bar stool—and he said, “Let your feet hang,” and then when I got down my feet were real cold, you know. And I started feeling it, you know. That was the first time. And then about a week after that, sometime pretty close to it, I really got on. That was the first time I got on a big laughing kick, you know. Then I really knew I was on. One symptom of being high is an intense hunger. In the next case the novice becomes aware of this and gets high for the first time: They were just laughing the hell out of me because like I was eating so much. I just scoffed [ate] so much food, and they were just laughing at me, you know. Sometimes I’d be looking at them, you know, wondering why they’re laughing, you know, not knowing what I was doing. [Well, did they tell you why they were laughing eventually?] Yeah, yeah, I come back, “Hey, man, what’s happening?" Like, you know, like I’d ask, “What’s hap- pening?" and all of a sudden I feel weird, you know. “Man, you’re on, you know. You’re on pot [high on marihuana].” I said, “No, am I?" Like I don’t know what’s happening. The learning may occur in more indirect ways: I heard little remarks that were made by other people. Some- body said, “My legs are rubbery,” and I can’t remember all the remarks that were made because I was very attentively listening for all these cues for what I was supposed to feel like. The novice, then, eager to have this feeling, picks up from other users some concrete referents of the term “high” and applies these notions to his own experience. The new con- cepts make it possible for him to locate these symptoms among his own sensations and to point out to himself a “something different” in his experience that he connects with drug use. It is only when he can do this that he is high. In the next case, 50 Becoming a Marihuana User the contrast between two successive experiences of a user makes clear the crucial importance of the awareness of the symptoms in being high and re-emphasizes the important role of interaction with other users in acquiring the concepts that make this awareness possible: [Did you get high the first time you turned on?] Yeah, sure. Although, come to think of it, I guess I really didn’t. I mean, like that first time it was more or less of a mild drunk. I was happy, I guess, you know what I mean. But I didn’t really know I was high, you know what I mean. It was only after the second time I got high that I realized I was high the first time. Then I knew that something different was happening. [How did you know that?] How did I know? If what hap— pened to me that night would of happened to you, you would’ve known, believe me. We played the first tune for almost two hours—one tune! Imagine, man! We got on the stand and played this one tune, we started at nine o’clock. When we got finished I looked at my watch, it’s a quarter to eleven. Almost two hours on one tune. And it didn’t seem like anything. I mean, you know, it does that to you. It’s like you have much more time or something. Anyway, when I saw that, man, it was too much. I knew I must really be high or something if anything like that could happen. See, and then they explained to me that that’s what it did to you, you had a different sense of time and everything. So I realized that that’s what it was. I knew then. Like the first time,...
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