Author’s Note: This post is part of a larger sequence on addiction, and sampled from an appendix post of mine. For more background on the appendix format I used, read this.

If you are in, suspect you are in, or have struggled in the past with some sort of addiction, feel free to join this Discord server. It is a recovery group I set up focused on helping EAs struggling, in case they think they would benefit from having a space where they can discuss more unique struggles with a group of people who are more likely to understand them. It is currently relatively inactive, but I am trying to change this. If you are uncomfortable with this for any reason, but still want help, feel free to get in touch via DMs, and I can try to help you in some other way.

Image from the film “Adolescence of Utena

I hear many people say that “marijuana is not addictive”. This is very silly, I have met numerous marijuana addicts, in fact it is maybe the fourth to sixth most common addiction I see (after alcohol, nicotine, and cocaine, and somewhere close to opiates and crystal meth). Mind you it is also one of the most common substances people casually use, close to alcohol which is a much more common addiction in the (non-random sample of) addicts I meet. I don’t think it is nearly as addictive as some of these other substances, but it is dangerously misleading to tell people it is not addictive. No, it definitely is.

My impression is that people get the idea that “scientifically, weed isn’t addictive” from the idea that you don’t really get physical withdrawal symptoms from it when you stop. This is not what addiction is. If it was just about getting withdrawal when you stop, people would be cured as soon as they went to detoxes, or finished tapering, or white knuckled through withdrawal. Addiction is the thing that drives people to ruin their lives all over again when they try the substance again twenty years later, it is the thing that drives people to relapse on it half an hour after getting out of detox. It is the thing that you feel like you can’t live without, that even when you feel completely confident you will never do it again, you come back the next day. The thing that causes you to keep thinking about using for hours on end on the days when you have already decided that you definitely won’t use, and can only silence the obsessive unrelenting thoughts by finally giving in. Marijuana acts ways like these for lots of people. For god’s sake, people get addicted to gambling, where do people get the gall to say that in the case of marijuana, there’s some magic addiction chemical that is absent?

If you took away the withdrawal symptoms from heroin but kept everything else the same, I think it would be incredibly silly to say that you have solved heroin addiction. Silly and dangerous. Withdrawal treatment is a very small portion of the addiction-related services people use, and indeed it’s my experience that most services require you to have successfully withdrawn before you can access their services (or at least assume that you have). The methadone clinics and heroin detoxes would be pointless, but support groups, rehab, naltrexone, halfway houses, IOPs, will all have basically nothing about their uses affected.

If you want to use weed fine, I think it’s ridiculous to outlaw it, especially if you don’t support outlawing alcohol, but you should really treat it like the dangerous and addictive substance it is and avoid certain uses of it. Don’t use it every day. Don’t use it just to get to sleep unless you can figure out a plan for how to stop. Don’t use it to control severe anxiety or depression unless you have a way to stop before too long. Do not attach your identity to being “a stoner”. Don’t use it both to comfort yourself when something bad happens and celebrate when something good happens (very easy to convince yourself one of the two applies on any given day), and if you do it for these two, for the love of god, don’t use it out of boredom as well. Try not to use alone, but also if you use with others frequently, make sure it is not the only thing you do with your friends (many people have to cut off most of their relationships and face early recovery with little support network because most of their friendships became based on using).

These are all ways that things can go wrong with a substance like marijuana. It won’t always, but you are at more risk if you do these things. If it sounds too hard to avoid them, consider that you may already not be in the most healthy relationship with the substance, and consider quitting while you’re ahead[1].

Ed. note: Hi, it’s Nicholas Kross! I’ve dealt with other mental health difficulties in the past, and I’m here to make a tangential-yet-contextually-useful point: Some people/communities/media seem to tacitly encourage non-medical interventions first, including self-medication. The (kinda-strawman) right-wing version is something like “this is a character flaw, and you need personal responsibility, not this crutch of a medication”. The (kinda-strawman) left-wing version is something like “this is your inner creativity / spiritual conflict / capitalist brainwashing, and you need all-natural natureful weed, not this big pharma crap that’ll snuff out your inner light and make you a conformist sheep”. It would’ve saved me, and many of my friends, so much wasted time and life if there was a non-cringey non-boring cultural message/archetype/role-model/example of “actually, modern medicine works sometimes, so maybe try that first if you can afford it”. I may write a full post on this sometime, so that “Maybe Try Mainstream Medical Intervention” can enter the list of blog post titles memeplex of this community. (Seriously, where are the biographies of famous people that have a chapter on “he finally fixed his lifelong X by taking Y, and the problem didn’t come up again”? Surely famous people have been helped by “normal” mental-health medication before???). ↩︎

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