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Get off the ganja

Marijuana addictive? Some would scoff at the notion. But Dr. Alan Budney, a psychologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences who’s studied marijuana use for a decade, says, in a nutshell: If you want to stop smoking pot and you can’t, it’s an addiction.

Budney and UAMS’ Center for Addiction Research are inviting marijuana users who want to whip their weed habit to join a five-week study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. What Budney wants to find out is what happens when people quit using marijuana, both good and bad. Does quitting cause physiological ailments, like stomach aches? Or behavioral problems, like irritability? Or does it help former users feel more in control of themselves?

Budney’s previous research at the University of Vermont, where he worked before his former colleague and CAR head Warren Bickel lured him to UAMS, has shown that getting off marijuana can be as difficult as quitting cigarettes or other drugs, causing irritability and sleep problems, for example.

To those who question why NIDA dollars are spent on marijuana when other drugs — like methamphetamines — are more socially disruptive, Budney responds that the numbers of people who use marijuana are far higher “by a mile,” and that there is no lack of interest among smokers in projects to help them quit. Chronic marijuana use can cost people their jobs and families and emotional well-being. Budney hopes to get up to 70 participants for the study. Hooked on the herb? Want to quit? Call 686-6425; inquiries are confidential.

Scarlet letters

Rep. Pam Adcock of Little Rock has proposed legislation to require ignition interlock devices on cars driven by people with three or more DWI convictions.

Such devices require a breath test before a car may be started. The car won’t start if alcohol is detected.

The legislation has an added twist. It would require that, as long as a driver was required to have an interlock device on a car, the driver must also use a special license plate. It would be bright pink. And all numbers would begin with the letter sequence DWI.

The accompanying license plate illustration comes, by the way, from a nifty feature on the state website. It allows you to plug in your idea for a vanity license plate and it’ll tell you if the plate is still available (though not necessarily if it’s one of the words ruled out of bounds on account of taste). Go to the Department of Finance and Administration website and search for the personalized license plate request system.

Perfection squared

Two Arkansas high school seniors scored perfect 36 scores on the American College Test. As luck would have it, they happened to have been roommates last summer at Arkansas Governor’s School, held at Hendrix College.

The perfect scorers are Eric Stewart of Parkview Arts/Science Magnet in Little Rock and Andrew Walchuk of Conway High School. Stewart, the son of Michael and Janet Stewart, is a debater and Quiz Bowler. Walchuk, son of Don and Molly Walchuk, is also a Quiz Bowl participant and Conway band captain.

Only 216 students nationwide made a 36 on the test out of 1.2 million who took the test. In Arkansas, the average score was 20.6.

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