Searching for “marijuana” on Twitter in the U.S. is apparently a cry for help

A search for “vodka”, however, will point you in the direction of the official Twitter accounts for brands such as Smirnoff and Absolut

twitter-marijuana

Photo at left by iQoncept/iStock/Getty Images Plus

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If you’re planning to search for the word “marijuana” on Twitter, prepare for a not-too-subtle implication that you might have a drug problem.

If you’re in the United States, such a search triggers the following message:

Why is this happening? Twitter has partnered with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA. (SAMHSA is a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.) Starting this week, when users search for select drug-related words, Twitter shows a notification that reads, “If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, you are not alone.” Users are directed to SAMHSA’s help line and website.

Vodka good, marijuana bad

By way of contrast, Marijuana Moment points out that a Twitter search for the word “vodka” results in so such message. Instead, it will point you in the direction of the official Twitter accounts for brands such as Smirnoff and Absolut.

Similarly, searches for words such as “beer” and “wine” do not trigger the SAMHSA notification.

The implication seems to be that cannabis is a problematic substance while alcohol is not. Reality, on the other hand, does not bear this out. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year in the United States alone. That makes alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. (For the record, the first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and physical inactivity.)

The annual number of deaths attributed directly to cannabis consumption, meanwhile, tends to range between zero and none.  

What makes this even more puzzling is that SAMHSA itself does recognize the dangers of alcohol abuse. Its website includes a large number of resources on the topic.

As Marijuana Moment points out, however, while Twitter searches for “marijuana”, “cocaine”, and “heroin” trigger the SAMHSA notification, searches for “LSD”, “MDMA”, “psilocybin”, and even “cannabis” do not.

This suggests that the entire exercise is arbitrary—and essentially pointless.

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