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|On Being Stoned, by Charles Tart|
On Being Stoned
Charles T. Tart, Ph. D.
Chapter 21. "Desirable" and "Undesirable" Effects
BASIS OF CLASSIFICATION
Non-Objectivity of ClassificationClassifying the 214 possible effect descriptions as "desirable" or "undesirable" is the least objective analysis of the entire study, and probably represents my personal values as much as or more than any general standards of what is desirable and undesirable.
For example, are visual hallucinationsseeing things that aren't there(Chapter 6) per se undesirable? Many persons, especially those influenced by traditional medical models of disease, would say yes, yet my pilot subjects and informants indicated that this was usually a pleasurable and interesting effect. To sit at home, know that you are under the influence of marijuana, and see, for example, a flowing, colored ball floating in the air is most interesting, if not joyful.
What about emotional crises, "freaking out" (Chapter 16)? Again, comments by the users in describing their experiences and comments of informants indicated that while this may have been quite unpleasant at the time, it may also be highly valued in retrospect as providing necessary catharsis and/or insights into problem areas.
Criteria for "Undesirable" EffectsThe criteria I finally chose for selecting what I hoped would be unequivocally negative effects, i.e., effects which no one would value, were that: (1) the effect is clearly unpleasant to experience; and (2) it has no later redeeming value, other than the user probably learns to avoid it in the future. Of the 214 effects, 19 met these criteria.
Others will include more or fewer in their own "undesirable" list, depending on their own values.
LEVELS OF INTOXICATION FOR UNDESIRABLE EFFECTSThe 19 "undesirable" effects are plotted with respect to level of intoxication in Figure 21-1. Descriptions will not be repeated here as they have all been presented in other chapters. Question numbers are given in the figure if the reader wishes to refresh himself on the exact wording of the question. The overall ordering of effects is highly significant (p <<< .0005).
Undesirable effects are not frequent. Of the 19 effects, one was
characteristic, four were common, six were infrequent, and eight
were rare. For the other 184 effects, which could be rated for
frequency of occurrence and which were pleasant, emotionally interesting,
or equivocally undesirable, 29 were characteristic, 91
were common, 51 were infrequent, and 13 were rare. The clearly
undesirable effects thus occur much less frequently (p
<.0005) than the general run of effects. This is, of course,
not surprising, as selecting experienced marijuana users for the
present study assures getting a sample for whom pleasant effects
predominate over unpleasant ones.
MODULATING FACTORSThe relatively linear effects of various background factors are summarized in Table 21-1.
Moderate Total users indicated higher levels for not being able to come down when necessary than either Light or Heavy Total users.
It is of interest to note that many of the undesirable effects of intoxication in inexperienced users may be transitional ones that fade out with greater experience. Of the 19 effects, almost half are either significantly less frequent or occur at significantly higher levels for more experienced drug users. TABLE 21-1 EFFECTS OF BACKGROUND FACTORS ON
SUMMARYLess than 10 percent of the effects of intoxication investigated in this study seemed unequivocally "undesirable" in nature, and these effects were primarily infrequent and rare. With greater drug experience, almost half of these became even less frequent or were shifted to very high levels of intoxication. The pleasures of intoxication far outweigh the drawbacks in reports of experienced users.
Footnotes1. This includes the regular 206 items plus 8 validity scale items which were reported on in the text because of their inherent interest. (back)
2. 0ne of my more sophisticated informants suggests that it is misleading to classify difficulty in problem solving as an unequivocally "undesirable" effect. This is so in a situation where the user is strongly intoxicated and suddenly forced to work on conventional problems, but ordinarily the user will not get intoxicated if he expects to have to work on conventional problems. He may get moderately intoxicated to work on a problem requiring much deliberate work and original points of view, or very strongly intoxicated if originality of solution but not sustained concentration on the problem is required. (back)
3. For statistical reasons, the background analyses are not very sensitive here. Since most of the "undesirable" effects were infrequent or rare, only very large differences would show up in the background analyses. (back)