Now that marijuana has become far more legal in the United States, the question of addictive potential has been increasing lately.
The Daily Item says that “My concerns are the six times greater chance for psychosis, the 9 percent chance of addiction, which rises to 17 percent for addiction in adolescents, drug driving, and the effect on the brain.”
So the data that we do have available at this point shows a clear risk of addiction that is certainly greater than someone who finds an alternative way to treat their medical problem. Also there is a chance for cross addiction, meaning that if someone starts using medical marijuana and becomes addicted to it, this could then “ruin” them for opiate based painkillers and even alcohol as well.
Most people scoff at this idea and argue that marijuana is a “soft drug” and is not the same as other harder drugs such as heroin or cocaine, and therefore the addictive potential is far, far less. But this is not reality. The truth is that marijuana can be very addictive, and we need to be cautious of this when we are using it in medical (and in a recreational) capacity.
It is true that, when compared to most other drugs of abuse, marijuana is much less intense when it comes to physical dependency, withdrawal symptoms, and things of that sort. But this doesn’t mean that it is not addictive. It just means that it is not as physically addicting as most other drugs of abuse.
I can tell you from direct experience what the nature of marijuana addiction is really like. First of all, if a person starts to abuse the drug then they typically become obsessed with it. Either they are getting high or they are thinking about getting high all the time. If they are not thinking about it then they are looking for ways and means to get more of the substance. It becomes all encompassing at first because it is an emotional escape for the person, and it becomes a shortcut to “a good time.”
Ambition drops when you are getting high every day because your bar for entertainment, life satisfaction, and pursuing personal goals drops off almost completely. Why try to organize something fun and exciting when you can just get high and watch Netflix? There is not as much need to reach out to friends or organize get togethers if you are able to entertain yourself simply by getting high. So your standards start to shift and to lower as you become addicted to the drug.
If you use marijuana in the short term then it may not have much impact on your emotional life. However, if you are abusing the substance every day over an extended period of time, you are going to have situations in which you are going through some sort of emotional upheaval in your life. Maybe you are angry, maybe you get frustrated, maybe you are facing some serious fears of some sort. Whatever the situation may be, if you are getting high every day then you will handle that situation very differently then if you were clean and sober. And the way that you handle it while smoking marijuana every day is that you allow the drug to medicate your emotional state. This is good in the short run but bad in the long run. The reason it is bad in the long run is because when you allow yourself to self medicate with marijuana then you stop doing the sort of work that would allow you to work through your negative emotions in a healthy manner. So you essentially stunt your emotional growth when you get high every day and this will lead to emotional immaturity in the long run.
In other words, you no longer know how to deal with life and how to handle reality and the basic stress of everyday living. The problem is that you have come to rely on marijuana for all of that. Personal crisis in your relationships? I need to get high. Demoted at work unfairly? I better get high. Family problems or issues? I need to get high to deal with this. And on and on. When your solution for everything is to self medicate with weed, then every problem that pops up seems to demand your “solution.” Getting high becomes your default mode of operation, and it is how you get things done, how you function.
So my caution to you would be that you don’t want to create this dependency and slow your thinking down if you can avoid it. And the drug sort of stays with you for a while, along with the lifestyle that accompanies it, so I would suggest that in order to give yourself a fair trial you really need to take a full year off of the stuff to make any sort of evaluation. Of course if you are truly addicted to the drug and you are self medicating with it in the same way a real drug addict does, then I would also suggest that you need to eliminate alcohol and other addictive drugs as well.
Marijuana is still a “real” drug and you may need to seek help in order to get clean and live a sober life. Do not be ashamed because you need help in order to overcome any sort of addiction. Weed is still a drug and it can be very difficult to face reality with no chemical crutch at all any more. I certainly needed help in order to overcome my addiction to marijuana.
At some point, of course, I started to look beyond marijuana at other substances that I could self medicate with. It turned out that what I was really addicted to was the self medicating, the numbing of my emotions, the daily escape–so using other substances such as alcohol, cocaine, and painkillers tended to work as well. But marijuana was always in the picture, and no matter what substances I was experimenting with at the time, I always maintained the old standby which was marijuana. I could not let it go because it seemed like it thoroughly altered my mood when I was frustrated or upset about something. I could be having a “bad day” and I could smoke a strong amount of pot and suddenly I was teleported to another dimension, at least temporarily. To an addict like myself, that was a magic trick that was just too powerful to ignore.
Today, I still know how to teleport myself, but I do it without getting high on chemicals or risking addiction. For example, I meditate with noise canceling headphones on, or I go outdoors for a jog. Those are new tools that I have learned about in recovery that actually “teleport me” more reliably than marijuana did, and I do not build a tolerance to those things. The problem with pot is that eventually you get so used to abusing it that it is not even fun or novel any longer, and then you want to experiment with other substances.
Just know that marijuana is a real drug of abuse, even if it does not create a crippling physical dependency like some “harder” drugs. It can still lead you down a path of destruction.