Some ideas are so bad, so stupid, that we collectively agree not to talk about them. Unfortunately, the National Institute on Drug Abuse doesn’t know when to keep its trap shut.

Nicotine PatchNIDA, one of the premier federal agencies in the drug war, is now in the final stages of a clinical trial designed to determine whether nicotine can help people quit weed. Really, we’re not kidding.

Medical researchers at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill., are testing the effects of nicotine patches on patients suffering from cannabis withdrawal syndrome. This is a controversial diagnosis recognized by psychiatrists for less than two years, not because it isn’t real, but because many experts feel it’s exaggerated.

Many drugs carry withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawal is possible from almost any drug. Cocaine, alcohol, heroin, caffeine, nicotine and antidepressants all come with potential withdrawal symptoms. The problems caused by marijuana withdrawal are minimal compared to all of those substances.

Nicotine, on the other hand, is easily the most addictive substance ever to torment the Earth. No more than 9 percent of cannabis users develop addictions; more than 30 percent of cigarette smokers get hooked.

What’s more, the impacts of these addictions are momentously different. Tobacco kills half a million people each year while weed has never killed anyone.

NIDA research creates nicotine addictions

Perhaps worst of all, though, the NIDA study excludes regular tobacco smokers. That means the government and its scientists are subjecting healthy stoners to nicotine addiction. Since nicotine is the active ingredient in cigarettes, the odds are very good that some of these subjects will eventually become heavy smokers.

The idea behind the study is that nicotine patches can reduce the anxiety and other common symptoms that often accompany cannabis withdrawal. We’re at a loss as to how any patient could benefit from trading a weed addiction for a nicotine habit. One is deadly; the other isn’t. That hasn’t been a point of debate for a very long time.

But apparently the feds are so desperate to prove the alleged dangers of weed that they’ll hand out a highly addictive drug to people with addictive tendencies. And any third grader could tell them the result they’re going to get: Yeah, nicotine patches might wean you off weed. But they’ll give you a new habit that’s far more hazardous and far harder to quit.

Studies have remained in the dark

Marijuana JointThe study was scheduled to finish last year, but according to ClinicalTrials.gov, researchers are still recruiting subjects. Scientists somehow made it through three phases of the trial in four years without attracting public scrutiny.

NIDA controls the nation’s sole supply of legal weed for federally funded research. Almost any scientist who wants to study the effects of marijuana needs access to this pot, but NIDA is notorious for closing the door on anyone interested in the drug’s upside. Historically, only negative studies were allowed.

The nicotine study fits into the agency’s pattern of misleading, unscientific, and dangerous advocacy against weed. NIDA researchers are studying 116 subjects with cannabis dependence disorder, which means roughly half those people will receive nicotine patches; the rest will get placebos.

That NIDA would saddle these patients with a life-threatening addiction in order to cure a relatively minor health problem is despicable and insane.

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