Many people believe that marijuana is mostly harmless when it comes to drug addiction and dependence, especially when compared to “harder” drugs. But we are finding more and more today that heavy users of marijuana are experiencing some pretty significant withdrawal symptoms when they quit cold turkey. Boulder Weekly reports that “…while it’s nowhere near as extreme or comparable to alcohol or heroin withdrawal, quitting can cause withdrawal symptoms in heavy, frequent users.”
What does this really mean? It is nothing serious, in that these withdrawal symptoms are not clinically dangerous by any means. However, it reinforces the fact that marijuana is, in fact, addictive, and that it can have a seriously negative impact on a person and their life experience.
Physical dependence is not the only measure that counts when you are assessing addiction. The fact is that if someone is using marijuana as a daily escape and they use it to cope and deal with all of their problems then they are basically addicted to the substance.
Part of this is behavioral and part of it is emotional. If you look at a heavy marijuana user and you look at how their life is composed emotionally you will find that they are not dealing with their problems and issues like a mature adult would typically be able to do. Instead, when they get frustrated or angry with a problem in their life they simply self medicate with marijuana.
This creates a slow drain on a person’s life in a couple of ways. It is almost a disadvantage that marijuana is not more devastating and immediate in its consequences, because then the typical marijuana addict does not notice what is happening, and slowly–over a certain period of time–the daily use of this drug is eroding certain aspects of their life.
How is it doing this? First of all, heavy marijuana use saps your motivation to do other healthy and productive things. I am not just repeating something that I heard here–I actually used marijuana myself for many years, and so I know how it affected my life in this way. I was using weed every single day and it was the main thing that I looked forward to. I obsessed over getting high and I obsessed over getting more of the drug. It became my main reward in life and I started to lose interest in other things.
Before I was hooked on marijuana I used to care about certain hobbies, friendships, and so on. But after I got into smoking every day I drifted away from all of my friends who did not “party” and I also let all of those hobbies fall by the wayside. I could not invest any money into hobbies because I wanted that money to spend on marijuana. I also did not really have the motivation to pursue those hobbies because I wanted to spend my time actually getting high.
Now it should be noted that I believe there is a difference between a casual user of a substance and a “real drug addict.” I am not a casual user of anything. I am a real alcoholic and a real drug addict. So perhaps what I am saying here does not apply to everyone and every situation involving marijuana.
What is more important is that every person find their own truth when it comes to marijuana use. What you need to be able to do at some point is to take a step back and really evaluate your life and where it has gone lately. Are you happy with your current situation? Are you happy with the way that you spend your time? Are you happy with your work, your relationships, your career path, your living situation?
If you are happy with all of those things then I would recommend that you keep living the way that you have been living, and don’t worry about whether marijuana may be addictive or not. If it is not a problem then it is not a problem. But the key is that you must honestly assess if you are truly happy with yourself and with your life, or if you are secretly miserable and blaming others for your situation while using marijuana in order to “find a little bit of happiness” in your otherwise miserable life.
For me it was the latter–I was actually miserable and I was unhappy with my life and with my situation, but I clung to the fact that I could be happy at any moment just by getting high. Nothing else mattered because I had discovered this wonderful drug! It became my solution for everything.
That was how marijuana sapped my motivation–because I only cared about getting high and I prioritized it over other things. Anything that used to be of interest to me fell by the wayside because I only cared about getting high and “partying.”
Now the other way that I became dependent on marijuana was in terms of my emotional state. If I had to deal with any extreme emotions in my life–whether that was being sad, upset, scared, or whatever–then I immediately recognized a huge need to self medicate with marijuana.
In my mind it was the most awful thing in the world to have to face any sort of unwanted emotions without being able to get high. That was unfair and unjust in my little world. This is because I was relying on the drug to medicate my emotions in such a way that I could deal with them. I knew that if I got high enough at any given moment that it could curtail or even eliminate an unwanted emotion. So I was very quick to use marijuana in order to “fix” my emotions.
The problem with this is that it is very, very unhealthy. It also doesn’t really work so well in the long run, because the situation that caused your emotion is likely still there when you are done being high. So you can try to stay high all the time and be numb to the world, or at some point you have to come down and deal with your real problems. The typical drug addict chooses to try to just stay high all the time rather than to problem solve.
The solution is recovery, and that solution is based on a decision to get clean and sober and to stop self medicating in this way.
Furthermore, once you are in recovery and living clean, your life revolves around finding new solutions for the challenges that do pop up in your life.
Everyone who gets clean and sober is going to continue to face challenges in the future. In order to deal with those challenges you either can choose to relapse, or you can choose to find a new solution.
This is maturity–realizing that you need to face reality, take responsibility, and face your problems head on. No more running away from every challenge that pops up. Getting high is running away. Recovery is all about facing the issues, asking for help and advice, and confronting your problems directly.
Getting high on marijuana was a solution, and it worked for us for some period of time. Eventually it stops working so well because we become dependent on it and develop tolerance. At some point it becomes easier to face reality, problem solve, and adopt a life of recovery.