04/15/20 Mitch Earleywine

This week we hear part of a surprisingly deep conversation with SUNY-Albany psychology professor Mitch Earleywine, PhD.

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Guest: 
Mitch Earleywine
Mitch Earleywine
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Century of Lies: April 15

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DEAN BECKER: The failure of the Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization, the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of lies. I'm your host Doug McVay editor of drugwarfacts.org. Dr. Mitch. Earleywine is a professor of psychology at the State University of New York in Albany. He's also a widely published researcher and author, he's on The Advisory board for NORML the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. And he's also the author of Understanding marijuana and the parents guide to marijuana now last week on the show. We featured some material from one of Professor early ones lectures his class on drugs is being held online because the physical classrooms at Suny Albany are all closed due to the shutdown in response to the covid-19 pandemic all his lectures for this semester are being uploaded to his youTube account they can be viewed by anyone. This is a terrific resource that Mitch is making available to the general public and I highly recommend people check them out. Well this week we're going to hear from Mitch. Once again only this time we're going to hear part of an interview that he and I did recently now before any Ado can possibly be furthered.I’ll let Professor Earleywine introduce himself.

DR. MITCH EARLEYWINE: I'm Mitch Earleywine. I wrote the book Understanding Marijuana for Oxford University, press I thought I was Taking an even-handed look at the research literature, and apparently Folks at the office of National Drug control policy said I was Satan and NORML gave me a call and asked me to join the Advisory board, so much for being even-handed. I’ve got a PhD in Clinical Psychology at Indiana University and had a Bachelor's in psychology from Columbia University. And now I'm on the faculty at the University at Albany State University in New York in the clinical psychology program. I run the habits and Lifestyles lab, and we basically study negative Consequences of cannabis use and how they might be misrepresented.

DOUG MCVAY:There is so much that I want to talk to you about. There is so much that you're doing at the lab for instance lets you know, I'm going to go a little bit out of order and because you mentioned it but the huh, tell me about the habits and Lifestyles laboratory.

DR. MITCH EARLEYWINE; Oh we've essentially had grad students focused on cannabis since about oh, 2005 depending upon the interests of the students we look at alleged cognitive deficits so-called addictive potential respiratory illness, some mental health, alleged negative consequences of cannabis and just kind of walk through the relevant literature try to do the studies that are relevant to see if those negative consequences are real or are they a product of poor research design, biases among researchers, biases among NeuroPsych assessors, things like that. And then we also take a look at how the best presentations for minimizing cannabis induced harm or often not the ones that we’re seen out there. So we look at social psychology theories like cognitive dissonance from reactants to show that. Hey guess what? Nobody likes to be told what to do and if you want to help folks minimize their problems in just about any behavior the thing to do is develop a good relationship and let them make choices for themselves rather than wag your finger and try to say what's right.

DOUG MCVAY: Right part of the reason I wanted to start with that is so that we have some context because you are well known as the Weed doc, you know you are an expert on this some in the subject. You didn't start out studying marijuana though. How did you get started on Alcohol and Other Drugs; looking at rather Alcohol and Other Drugs?

DR. MITCH EARLEYWINE: It's kind of a strange narrative and I'm not sure if everybody involved would see it the same way I do but when I was an undergrad at Columbia, I really did want to get into just any psychoactive substance research and one of the guys there was a very intriguing alcohol researcher named Gornstein and I was going to do some neuropsych stuff with alcoholics, but they were two female lab assistants markedly prettier than I was and a bunch of male alcoholics and what a surprise they didn't want to work with me. So I ended up doing a lot of stuff with children with ADHD back then. Attention deficit disorder does kind of covary with alcohol problems later in life. So I made the most of that then got to grad school at Indiana and worked with Richard David Young may his soul rest in peace and got to get a feel for how placebos are administered in the lab and sort of what can we learn about how much of alcohol's effect is really in our own minds. Once I had tenure at USC though. I gotta admit. I felt a lot more brave and ran to the Cannabis literature. I was teaching a course at the time. Where everybody was asking me about cannabis all the time. I had learned a few things in grad school about it and went into that research. I've been lied to for decades. Wrote Understanding Marijuana, brought it back to the class by then they were already interested in ecstasy. So yeah, I realize how capricious and fickle some of that stuff can be but you know really fell in love with not only the plant but the research around it and tried to make the most of that world after being an alcohol researcher from oh the late. 80s to the late 90s.

DOUG MCVAY: and I and part of the reason I wanted to go back there is because well, I just think it's interesting that you have that perspective of looking at other drugs of looking at alcohol and alcoholism and addiction and to go into that, to go into marijuana from there. I just think of course - context now, we're in the midst of the the shutdown because of covid-19. A lot of people are staying at home. Because that's the smart thing to do and you know people are coping in different ways. We have, means, I live in Oregon. So, there's a lot of legal marijuana that's available and those of us who indulge are able to stock up, liquor stores delivered these days out here too. And so people are stocking up on alcohol as well. Illegal drugs are a little trickier, and I'm, I'm wondering. Do you have any thoughts about people coping in the time of covid-19 and the stay home?

DR. EARLEYWINE: Yeah, I don't have a ton of parallels to compare it to but in the in the past Publications on alcohol, at least when we first started having alcohol in a deliverable form folks noted that just having alcohol delivered seem to be not necessarily a symptom of problems

but a high risk marker, so folks who did have alcohol delivered were also more likely to be binge Drinkers and even more likely to report negative consequences of intoxication. With cannabis, we don't have those same data yet. I also note like after 9/11. We saw a big spike after that day in all kinds of problematic use of pretty much anything that could alter Consciousness, cannabis being in some sense the one that had the fewest harmful results. So I kind of wish I did live in a state that had cannabis delivered. I know Nevada, California Oregon places like that. Have you know gotten the chance to have that luxury and I do feel like based on the data available it would be markedly safer than any kind of binge drinking alcohol is really tough drug when it comes to the liver function, even cardiac exposure long term, whereas cannabis, you know, if you're willing to vaporize odds are high you can keep your negative consequences to a minimum particularly if you don't wake and bake.

MCVAY: One of the other reasons I wanted to ask you about alcohol is your course, you're doing that and covid. Um, you're your professor your you're still you're doing your course. I mean, what do you see in the class on drugs? What's the name? What's the title of the class that you're doing?

DR. EARLEYWINE: So formerly it was addictive and compulsive behaviors, the woman who taught it before I got here had got it approved that. I never really changed the name, but informally, we just call it the drug class. It tends to cover pretty much all the psychoactive substances. For the first, you know 4/5 of the semester and then I devote the last 20% or so to all cannabis all the time. I've been accused of sneaking it in just because I want to teach folks research methods and need a motive reading topic and I do have to I do have to confess I make the most of that opportunity to try to train people to be good logical thinkers. But yeah, I do have a YouTube channel and I'm posting those lectures as we go. I'm going to be doing one on psychiatric meds later today and get that posted and you know between April and May I'll probably have just about any topic on cannabis. You’d ever want to learn posted on my YouTube channel.

MCVAY: And these are your, these are your class lectures. I mean these I've been in I've been listening to the I've been listening to you and there I wish I was back in school. And then again, I'm getting, I'm getting the lecture.

DR. EARLEYWINE: Hey I said I'm happy to send it all out for free. I'm grateful. I've won the Chancellor's award for the State University of New York System. I do seem to have something going on that maybe some other lecturers don’t, but more than anything it's that I'm really enthusiastic about these topics and I want to make sure everybody thinks about it from a data perspective rather than whatever they may have learned or not learned in junior high from drug prevention program that may not have any empirical support. So I think of it as public service and I'm delighted for the opportunity. It's a weird silverlining for the covid-19, but why not make it something we could take advantage of.

MCVAY: Well, absolutely, absolutely life gives you lemons, find some water in the pitcher and then make some lemonade. The thing is that, it's the passion that really comes through and what really you’re really excited about, you know, love you, as you know that I have the honor of compiling and editing drugwarfacts.org. It’s a great resource, but the thing is the facts have always supported reform, they've always supported legalization, decriminalization and harm reduction. That's just been true for decades. It's the passion of wanting to actually do something about it, of wanting to pay attention to these things. That's what's needed to make the real change happen and that passion comes through in your lectures. I, just yeah, I'm a fan. I wanted you to know that.

DR. EARLEYWINE: Oh I'm delighted to hear it. I mean I have to admit it's not always effortless to keep fighting this battle and my younger daughter seems to have inherited that sense of justice that can kind of get you in trouble. But truth be told I don't want to just stand idly by while things are so awry and now I've, you know learned enough about psychological theories of persuasion and our own, you know, confirmatory bias is how much we're kind of unwilling to listen to data that are counter to the stereotypes. We've already developed and just doing the best I can to lull folks into an engagement on one topic and hopes of providing as much of an education as I can if that's coming across as enthusiasm. I'm delighted to hear it Doug.Thanks so much.

DOUG MCVAY: You're listening to Century of lies. I'm your host Doug McVay editor of drugwarfacts.org. We're listening to an interview with Professor Mitch Earleywine PhD. He's a professor of psychology at Suny Albany, a widely published researcher and author and an expert on alcohol. Marijuana and Other Drugs will hear more from that in a moment

COMEDIAN: “And nobody cares. There's a secret about the golf course, but the Golf Course is like a little tiny Vegas. You can do pretty much whatever you want. No one ever said even in states where weed isn't legal. No one has ever said **** to me about my incessant use of marijuana whilst on the links and I don't think they would. What would they say? They're gonna go over to the game Marshall. Hey that black guy with dreadlocks has a bag of weed. Yeah. That sounds about right. Right, you got a whiskey and a cigar. I got a blunt, a Diet Coke. It's a beautiful day. We are all having a wonderful time out here. Keep your head down one time. I'm on a link in Sacramento. I got paired up with this random middle-aged white dude, it's me and him on the golf course right around the 3rd hole. It was trying to smooth it out right dial it, in lock it down, right? So I pulled out a fat whoop, I took a couple puffs. I did the neighborly thing. Hey, man, you want a hit? No. Thank you. But do you have any crack? What no sir and might I had I find your presumptuousness somewhat off-putting. Because that's how I talk when I'm mad. I'm very precise.”

MCVAY: The Federal Bureau of Justice statistics recently released its report on the U.S. Jail population, according to the BJS at mid year 2018. There were a total of seven hundred thirty eight thousand four hundred people being held in city and county jails in the US. Now, there are a couple of important points that people need to understand about jails. First only about a third of the people serving time in jail have actually been sentenced or are awaiting sentencing. The other two-thirds are unconvicted. They're in jail awaiting Court action on a current charge or being held for other reasons. So we're confining thousands of people in these unsanitary Petri dishes for no good bloody reason, but that's just the tip of the iceberg loyal listeners will recall that a while back. I interviewed professor John Pfaff from Fordham law school professor Pfaff, of course is the author of “Locked In” the true causes of mass incarceration and how to achieve real Form in that interview. He pointed out that many more people are processed through and held in the nation's jails in the course of a year then are incarcerated in those jails on any one given day. How many you ask? Well according to the Bureau of Justice statistics in 2018 a total of ten-million-six-hundred-seventy-five-thousand-four-hundred 1,675,400 people were admitted to a jail in the United States. According to the BJS jails are used to incarcerate people who Sentenced to terms of a year or less. So how did they process that many people. Well in 2018 on average people spent a total of twenty five point two days in jail. So for some people it's a relatively quick turnaround - days, maybe a few weeks others can spend months even years behind bars and without even getting convicted, you know, it's scary to think that it's taken a deadly pandemic to get people to talk out loud in public. About how we can further reduce the number of people who are stuck behind bars, but what's scarier is that there are still people out there resisting the idea. I mean it's time to stop posturing and to start taking this stuff seriously. We talk all the time about situations being life or death for once that's not an exaggeration and to be clear. I'm not only talking about people who have been arrested on drug charges. There are a lot of people behind bars who shouldn't be. I applaud the Civic leaders, law enforcement leaders and the political leaders who have been speaking out on this and I pray that people hear them.

I know that you hear them because you're listening to Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation radio network on the web at DrugTruth.net. I'm your host Doug McVay editor of Drugwarfacts.org and HealthSystemsFacts.org. I have to climb down off my cross now because they need the wood. So while I'm doing that, let's hear more from that interview. Well, I say interview. I mean it started out as an interview it did but it turned very quickly into an exciting conversation. So let's try that again. Here's more from my conversation with psychology Professor Mitch Earleywine PhD.

Now, I want to for a moment back again to your to the lectures you have up if the the alcoholism lecture, I'm the child of two alcoholics and this is a topic that's of great concern to me and also because in this we’ll keep it topical in the time of covid-19 support groups and treatment. I mean, it's hard right now. Do you have any thoughts, any thoughts about your treatment and support for people with substance use disorders in this time of shut down?

DR. EARLEYWINE: Absolutely it in a time like this what we often see is folks tend to assume similarity. That is if they're at home drinking alone. They think everyone else is too and the beauty of our chance to connect socially, even if physically separated as there are tons and tons of folks who are out there not drinking alcohol in this time of need. I often begin that alcohol lecture with a presentation of the rates of abstinence here in the US about 30 percent of the folks in the U.S.

Either don't drink alcohol or drink it so rarely they can't remember. You know, they all I think I had it on New Years was that last year or the year before and that's a number that can often be quite an eye-opener when you're in front of a few hundred undergraduates as you can imagine and so I do feel like there's a chance to reach out to people and then effort to find the ones who are doing the thing that's not the thing you're doing if it's at all problematic. The data on things like alcohol craving and exercise are pretty compelling right now. So if you just happen to be

sitting on the exercise bike when you're watching Netflix at these times odds are high it's going to pay off in a whole bunch of different ways including reducing any kind of craving you might have for alcohol and then I do note based on some of my own work and some work that folks basically grab these ideas and ran with, the subjective effects of alcohol are really not the same when you're sitting by yourself and are varied depending upon if you are a child of an alcoholic father or your mom and if you have alcoholism in the family, you may be somebody who experiences alcohol is more stimulating than other folks in your house who may see it as sedating. And so this tacit assumption that, oh alcohol is the same for everybody really isn't true.

So I do feel like just because someone's out there making jokes about you know, am I going to join Weight Watchers or AA when this is over doesn't mean you have to get sucked in on either.

MCVAY: That's an important thing too because it's social anxiety is always been a problem for me. I mean really confessional mood today. I was always been a real problem for me and that's the so one would think. Well, where as I'm stuck here at home. I can't go out. I'll be fine because socializing makes me anxious. Except I crave socializing and that's, it's that I want to socialize but I have trouble doing that and therefore the substance, you know, it's a sort of a natural progression. Okay. Well, I can do this and after a little while I'm talking to everybody and embarrassing myself, but let's not even worry about that.

DR. EARLEYWINE: Well, what's that Doug is that at least data from some lab suggest that that's probably an expectancy effect. It's probably a placebo. Rather than a pharmacological one. So I wish I could slip you one of those non-alcoholic beers tell you it's a real one and see if you got more social under the circumstances. There's a important subset of folks who have social anxiety and tend to use cannabis as well as alcohol in an effort to try to combat some of that angst, but I think there are often some tacit cognition some thoughts you have about how social things work that are worthy of challenge in an effort to decrease that anxiety. And if you don't mind I'm happy to get into some of those because the folks who are both anxious and expect certain drugs to decrease that anxiety are the ones who are more likely to use and to use problematically.

MCVAY: If our listeners don't mind, doc. I'm on the couch- talk to me.

DR. EARLEYWINE: Sure. Well, I so far and away one of the most common cognitions and social anxiety is other people think I'm not doing a good job or other people think I'm incompetent in these conversations and although there is certainly a subset of folks who need some of that social skills training need to learn how to take turns with conversation. Learn how to handle eye contact, ask open-ended questions and things like that. You're hardly one of those, man. So I would like to challenge that and also emphasized that you can always check in. If you're having an odd social interaction, you can always say hey man, what's up with you two, you know go to an open-ended question and get the pressure off of you or even say hey. Oh, sorry, if that felt a little weird, as your as your segway and then let the other person respond and almost invariably they offer reassurance and then turn to their favorite topic which is usually their own angst, discomfort and appreciation for you because you called the room you emphasize that this was kind of strange and once you guys get going particularly when you get two topics that you're passionate about Doug the words just flow naturally and make for splendid conversation.

MCVAY: I was gonna say except for the open-ended question part no that was, That's me. I'm glad I faked it and I think that is part of the whole thing is learning how to fake it, that which doesn't and I'm not trying to say I'm not trying to oh, that sounds so bad. Doesn't it?

DR. EARLEYWINE: I mean the point is can I omit the behavior? Right? Can I do the action whether it's comfortable or not? Because truth be told there are things I value in life that are way more important than being comfortable or how we wouldn't be in this business. Right? So why not go ahead and do the action even though it is uncomfortable rather than waiting for it to be comfortable and then do it and this tacit assumption that everybody else is having these social interactions utterly free of distress is really worthy of question odds are high if you're uncomfortable, so is the other person and when you call the room they get to take a sigh of relief.

MCVAY: Yeah, because that is the, that is the problem. I guess that sort of expectations everyone else seems to be doing great. Everyone else seems to handle all this stuff with no trouble. Why am I the only one who has these problems, self-expression or anxiety? And it's, that's not true.

DR. EARLEYWINE: Is it let's just understand what's hilarious is some of the some of the Presentation anxiety so I mean literally if you do a list of phobias and ask people what do they fear? They Fear public speaking more than death, right? Because I mean literally public speaking gets rated higher than death on phobia list. So the point is like if you're going to give a eulogy at a funeral people would rather be in the coffin then give the eulogy like it's nuts. Right and everybody I know who's this stelar presenter invariably has you know upon questioning said, oh, I'm so anxious. I can feel my hands sweating and truth be told this idea that we got to control that or I gotta have these certain thoughts or feel these certain feelings or I can't do it is is really a crack and odds are high if it's something I value if I've got a message I want to get across or if I want to connect to somebody let the sweaty palms be the sweaty palms let the the odd chatter in my head be the add chatter in my head, but go ahead and do the action anyway, and maybe the fear will dissipate maybe it won't but truth be told at the end of the day when I lay my head on that pillow. I can say I did something that mattered to me.

MCVAY: Bottom line. We're not alone.

DR. EARLEYWINE: Not even close.

MCVAY: You'll forgive me if I dobb away a tear here.

DR. EARLEYWINE: Oh, dude it by all means. This is important, important work and I'm glad to be a part of it. I'm honored to be on the call with you.

MCVAY: You're on YouTube. You're on social media. Could you give us some of your social media handles ways to find you online and I want to get some closing thoughts from you.

DR. EARLEYWINE: Oh by all means so everyone is welcome to see my videos on YouTube and if you just search Mitch Earleywine, you'll see a whole bunch of them but a subset of them are really just my channel and I think those are the most focused and in some ways the most organized and easy to learn from the UAlbany website Albany.edu, if you search me you can find both what's up with my lab although My Facebook page, dr. Mitch Earleywine is always looking for fans. That one's more focused on the hallucinogens and links between hallucinogen use and psychopathology. I don't have a ton of room left on my regular Facebook page. But by all means feel free to take a look at that and that one's more cannabis focused and then my book Understanding Marijuana, although it is old is still available any place where you can get a book and I got to admit everything in there is still true. Even though some of the references are decades old. My edited book Pot Politics is also still a very fun read and I also have my edited book for Oxford called Mind-altering Drugs if you want to stretch beyond the world of cannabis. All-in-all. I just feel like as we have these conversations every single one of us can contribute by making sure we spread the word that we're all capable of handling a legal market for psychoactive substances if we're just thoughtful, careful and supportive of others.

MCVAY: Dr. Earleywine I want to thank you very much.

DR. EARLEYWINE: Oh, thank you Doug.

MCVAY: That was an interview with psychology Professor Mitch Earleywine, PHD and noted author and researcher and a member of The Advisory board for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Many thanks to Mitch for all his hard work and for giving so much of his time and for now, that's it. I want to thank you for joining us.

You have been listening to Century of Lies. We're a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation radio network on the web at DrugTruth.net. I've been your host Doug McVay editor at Drugwarfacts.org, the Executive producer of the Drug Truth network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs including this show Century of Lies as well as the flagship show of the drug truth Network Cultural Baggage and of course our daily 420 Drug War News news segments are all available by podcast, the URLs to subscribe run the network homepage at DrugTruth.net. You can follow me on Twitter. I'm @DougMcVay. And of course also @Drugpolicyfacts. We’ll be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform in the failed War on Drugs for now for the Drug Truth Network. This is Doug McVay saying so long. “So long” for the Drug Truth Network.

This is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition. The Century of Lies Drug Truth Network programs are kind at the James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy.