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UEI am addicted to marijuana, just like other people are alcoholics or addicted to cocaine. After smoking marijuana for fifteen years, with four years of dedicated abuse, I quit last year. So, in a sense, I am a recovering addict, and will be for the rest of my life. That is the nature of chemical dependency. Don't let anyone play with you, marijuana is addictive. It took me over a year to get out of it. After tobacco and alcohol, marijuana is the most widely used psychoactive drug in the United States. And it is the least understood and most misunderstood popular drug today.
I first realized that I was addicted to marijuana in the fall of 1984 when I went to Mexico to work on some stories. Usually, I would take a stash of weed to Mexico, pre-rolled into joints, triple-wrapped in plastic, and tucked into a sock or my underwear. Mexican police rarely search you unless provoked. But I didn't take any weed on this trip, just a pea-sized chunk of hash wrapped up and stuck to the toe of my shoe; I wouldn't smoke until my photographer and I parted ways at the end of the first week. It was his idea to go to Mexico without drugs, he was afraid of getting caught. I dismissed his paranoia, but secretly welcomed it. Quitting marijuana for a few weeks would be good for me. I hadn't been abstinent for more than a day or two in over two years, often smoking for months on end.
I didn't fall asleep easily that first night in Mexico, though I only had the shy side of a tossing and turning drunk. A few hours after finally falling asleep, I was wide awake again. What little sleep I got the rest of the night was fitful; I put it down to the excitement of being in Mexico and the town's roosters, which began to crow at about three in the morning. But the same insomnia happened the next night, the next night, and so on. Anxiety or discouragement wasn't keeping me awake, I was having so much fun, my mind just wasn't going offline at bedtime.
After the fourth night, I began to suspect that my mind and body needed marijuana, or more precisely, THC (delta-nine-tetrahydrocannabinol, its active ingredient) to shut down. Too much exercise and alcohol were poor substitutes. For the first time on the trip I was depressed: then weedhe wasaddictive. I wouldn't have believed it if it wasn't happening to me. Experts are still debating whether marijuana is only psychologically addictive or physically addictive. In the end, the point is moot; addiction is addiction. I needed marijuana.
On the ninth day he was in Juárez and finally alone. She hadn't slept well the entire trip. I bought an onyx pipe at one of these stores fortouristson Avenida Juárez, and when my interviews for the day were over, I locked myself in the hotel bathroom and smoked a few shots of hashish. I felt great and slept well that night. I repeated the process for the next three nights with the same restorative results. It felt good to go back to sleep, although he wasn't happy that he needed marijuana for that. As soon as I got home, I tried to put off my first cigarette of the day until noon, but I was soon back to my old ways.
For several years before that trip to Mexico and for almost a year after, a typical day went something like this: I'd wake up around seven-thirty, have three or four cups of coffee, and be high by nine or ten. , which was around the time I started working. The first high would be followed by another an hour later and so on, until night came and he was as high as he wanted to be during the day. Most of the time I smoked in a bong (a type of hookah) because it wastes less. My daily dose was the equivalent of about four or five fatty joints, though that amount varied depending on what I was doing. Every month I was spending $80-$90 for an ounce to an ounce and a half of marijuana, which may not sound impressive to other stoners, but I was an efficient user.
Most writers are poor, and I am no exception. During my years as a smoker, I made about $8,000 a year, which means that more than 10 percent of my income went to smoking. But I reasoned that any kind of night on the town would cost me at least twenty bucks. With that amount I could buy enough weed to get high for a week.
Few people, including my closest friends, knew about my marijuana addiction. I rarely smoked at parties because I was already so high from the day's smoke and because mixing weed and alcohol made me dizzy and nauseated. And if you have an experienced head, it's easy to fool most people into thinking you're totally sober.
UEI first smoked marijuana in the spring of 1970, when I was seventeen years old. I had never heard of these things until 1968, when they first came to my school, located in a conservative, hypocritical, God-fearing town on the Texas coast.
One morning I was driving to school with a boy I didn't really like but who had a nearly new Pontiac Catalina and enjoyed driving it fast and through the night on the endless roads of the arid coastal plains. Mike was taking his time, driving below the speed limit instead of ten miles over. He pulled a pipe and a rolled up plastic bag from his jacket pocket. "Hey dude, I had a lid last night."
I examined the contents of the bag, mostly dust and seeds, which were golden brown in color.
I wrinkled my nose at the musty smell.
It weighed considerably less than an ounce. “Tapa”, I soon learned, is a loose term. So this is marijuana, I thought. "Why not?"
I filled the pipe with some powder and took out the matches. I lit it and inhaled the smoke as deep as I could and held my breath until I couldn't take any more. He knew exactly what to do; everyone our age knew how to smoke weed, even if they hadn't seen it yet.
We passed the pipe back and forth, puff after puff, until the charge was depleted, in accordance with due anti-drug ritual. The thing tasted as bad as it looked, and the acrid smoke scratched my nostrils unpleasantly. Except for leaving a rancid taste in my mouth, the drug didn't affect me.
I smoked marijuana several times during the last three semesters of high school, but I never got high. I finally got high sometime during my freshman year at UT. In fact, I don't remember anything about the experience, except that it left me feeling a bit relaxed and sleepy. The pot we had back then wasn't much better than it was in high school; it was more leafy than dusty, but it still tasted and smelled funny and was full of seeds. When I started biking my sophomore year, I quit smoking pot and also most drinks, aside from the occasional beer in the off-season. Bike racing has become the new compulsion in my life.
The first time I got dizzy was on a hot summer night in 1974. Bike racing in Texas was in its summer hibernation. A group of us got together for dinner and afterwards someone produced a joint. "Oaxaca," he called. "Primary things".
Stoned, we watched the clouds flee in the full moon and admired the mysterious glow that spread through the neighborhood. The music we were listening to took on spatial dimensions, and a rock on the porch suddenly turned into a skull. Every time I closed my eyes, mystical scribbles danced on the inside of my eyelids. It was fun, but clean lungs were still important to me. I smoked weed a couple of times a year at parties for the next several years and never used any other drugs.
I graduated from UT in 1975 with honors and a BA in history, spent a year at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, and then decided to drift for a while, no matter how long, on the bike: bike racing, working on them. I didn't start using marijuana regularly until January 1979, when I took a boring but well-paying job on an assembly line in Austin to give my pocket some extra padding for the upcoming racing season. After a week at work, I was so bored that I started eating weed, sprinkled on top of a peanut butter and honey sandwich, before I went to work. I was still protecting my lungs. About an hour later I had a good buzz and the job wasn't too bad. I found that taking drugs didn't negatively affect my performance either; in fact, I had one of the best efficiency levels in my department, better than many of my direct superiors. My bosses mourned my departure when I left for Chicago that spring.
I returned to Austin in the fall after a six-month racing season in the Midwest, disappointed in my performance, worried about my uprooting, and with no interest in returning to the pretentious but small-town Texas racing scene, not after what what he had done past on the major league circuit. I decided to quit racing and open a bike shop. While I waited for one partnership or the other to take hold, I went back to work as a mechanic at a local garage and began working as a driver and cook at a few downtown restaurants and bars for little more than minimum wage.
I lived with a five-cent pot dealer, so there was always a lot of pot in the house. But it was more than normal grass. I had smoked Oaxaca, Guerreran and Colombiano in the past, and they left me cold. That was fennel: fresh, fragrant,pura sinemilla(seedless marijuana), scientifically grown in Lost Pines between Bastrop and Smithville. It was a sour tasting thing that jumped in your step and made you want to rock and roll instead of slowing you down and putting you to sleep.
The late 1970s marked a new era for marijuana in Austin and the rest of the United States. Until then there was a popular prejudice against homemade and domestic marijuana. The American industry may be in decline, but American ingenuity has led to a revolution in marijuana cultivation and the character of the drug itself. Brilliant young stoners put the latest technology to work and developed marijuana that was six to seven times stronger than what we had started smoking ten years earlier. It was like the difference between driving a Model T and a Ferrari. The days of 2% THC and $10 bags are gone forever. The new weed was 12-14% THC and sold for $100 a cap. Dried, moldy, numbing, cheap marijuana from Mexico and Colombia has been driven off the market by this supersinsemilla,locally grown or imported from California, Arkansas, Oklahoma or Hawaii. Jamaican weed also became easier to find and even though it wasn't quite as fresh, it still had a strong effect. Marijuana had become big business. Visibly non-hippie guys who didn't use became kingpins of the marijuana trade. Dealers started packing guns and people started dying as the risk increased.
In the past two years, Mexican marijuana has made a comeback, at least in Austin, and probably accounts for at least half of the marijuana sold in the city. But it's nothing like the Mexican weed we started many years ago. although it is notpura sinsemilla,however, it is good material, fairly fresh and clean, with only a few dozen seeds per bag (distributors sometimes cheat by making the caps by adding seeds to the bag to make it a full ounce in weight). It sells for around $80 a bag, and locally grown fennel is $150 an ounce when you can find it.
Many people think that marijuana is a crude and simple drug due to its simple preparation process (harvesting and drying), but the opposite is true. Precisely because it is so unrefined, marijuana is a complex drug about which little is known. And due to the recent rapid evolution of super weeds, scientists have been forced to re-examine their precepts, which are already in short supply.
There are more than 420 recognized chemical components in marijuana, many of which are found in other plants. At least 61 of them are found only in the cannabis plant and are therefore known as cannabinoids. Of these, only THC and cannabidiol (CBD) have been studied well enough for scientists to characterize their individual pharmacology. Alcohol, on the other hand, has a simple chemical composition, C2H5Oh; The effects of alcohol on brain activity are relatively simple compared to the complexity of THC's effects on brain mechanisms. No one knows exactly how marijuana works in the brain. The researchers did not identify specific THC or cannabis receptors, but noted that the THC molecule interacts with various types of neurotransmitters in ways they do not yet understand.
Just because we don't know anything about the other 59 identified cannabinoids doesn't mean they're neutral components. In all likelihood, one or more of them interact with THC. I have a hunch, after years of using many different marijuana strains, that the interaction of THC with various concentrations of these "support players" produces the variations found from one marijuana strain to the next. Some marijuana produces instant drowsiness; other marijuana produces an energetic euphoria, or an imaginative euphoria, or a reflective euphoria, or a body euphoria, or a dizzying euphoria. Some herb hits you with everything it has in a few seconds; then you have the "vine" herb, which sneaks up on you and just keeps coming.
Usable concentrations of cannabinoids can be affected by harvest and preparation. Harvest time and drying method are critical to the maximum potency of marijuana. To further complicate matters, the frame of mind you're in when it comes to smoking matters. If you're depressed, taking drugs is likely to make you even more depressed; if you're happy, you'll probably be happier. And spur-of-the-moment emotions aside, marijuana affects different people in fundamentally different ways, provoking aggression in some, reluctance in others, paranoia, or silliness. I have several hyperactive friends who smoke regularly to "keep their edges polished."
TThe fall of 1979 was excellent for cycling, with weeks of mild, balmy afternoons. I rode most afternoons and almost always smoked half a joint before riding, something I would never have done if I had been a rider. It was also a crush, and I fell for an attractive woman fresh out of college who was even more groundless than I was. One of the few things we had in common was getting high. I kept up our relationship long after I should have been gone, out of a desire to makesomethingin my working life.
As we got closer to our breakup a year later, I started smoking more frequently. Getting high helped put my girl issues on the back burner for a while.
My problems with women sometimes got in the way of my work. I had started writing for a living; I filled in the gaps with time and money while waiting for the bike shop to happen. When love got me too depressed to write, smoking a joint often helped break the melancholy.
I still cooked, worked on the bus, and waited tables in a cafe where many of my coworkers were artists and stoners, mostly stoners. We always met in the alley before opening to smoke a few fat ones, and then repeated the process every two hours whenever there was a sufficient lull in business. We always smoke good stuff. A smoke marathon can include three or four $100 an ounce strains of marijuana, which only adds to the depth and complexity of the high. We would head back inside, comfortably insulated from the slings and arrows of our often undignified clientele. By "isolated" I mean I felt like the real me was floating somewhere a few feet up and out of one side of the shell that was humping Shiners or rolling enchiladas. I felt like he was watching me on TV.
By the fall of 1981, he had a book contract, was writing regularly for a new magazine, and was in love again with a witty but flighty young woman. My marijuana smoking habit slowed down that fall and winter because I had a terrible case of mononucleosis and spent most of the year on my back.
In the spring of 1982 I was feeling better, writing and smoking more. I stoned myself to enjoy life's pleasures, I stoned myself to avoid its low points, and because my personal problems interfered with my creativity, I stoned myself to write. Soon I was getting high to write whether something bothered me or not; it freed my blocked mind and sent it running in all sorts of interesting directions.
Writing has never been easy for me. I mainly struggle with this. I spend a lot of time waiting for a lucid idea to form. And when I'm depressed, tired, or sick, I can't write. Getting high often opened the door to my creativity. I am not alone — wrote J. Anthony Lukas inNew York Times Book Review: “It is true that for some writers—particularly young writers—liquor may temporarily seem like a compositional aid. Psychiatrists tell us that many creative people have a "gatekeeper," a psychic mechanism that blocks creativity and must be put to sleep somehow for the process to flow. For a while, alcohol may serve that purpose."
It started taking more and more weed to open my door regardless of my mood. Still, my writing career progressed, slowly but surely. I received good reviews and better attributions. People have praised my work for its clarity. I liked the irony.
My friends told me: “How can you write while you are high? My mind turns to mush when I'm high" or "Every time I write while high it seems so wonderful at the time, and when I read it later it's stupid." In fact, I can't explain it, except that I'm a disciplined person. Although I often smoked on purpose to get the creative juices flowing, I did my editing and polishing in a relatively straight state.
There were many times when I panicked when my marijuana stash was reduced to seeds and stems and realized that no matter how carefully I examined them, there simply wasn't any more dope in the house. So I started thinking about friends who might have something I could "borrow" or worse yet, have to wait for one of my drug dealer friends to get up or come home from work so I can get another half ounce. (For the most part, my dealers were users, members of the peace and love generation who paid off their habit by selling ounces of marijuana to friends and friends of friends. They had regular jobs and were not involved in criminal activity. Most did .nothing but marijuana - most "retail" dealers only sell the drugs they abuse.In dealing, the amount of danger directly correlates to the amount of money involved), and when I did, I had the most glorious feeling of peace and release, and I was able to go back to work. I was back to normal: drugged.
Every time I thought about how high I was getting I got depressed so I tried to think about it as little as possible - getting high helped.
After several years of smoking, I became adept at timing my doses. He usually knew how little or how much to smoke for any given activity. Sometimes though, I would miscalculate and get so high that the room would spin and the words on a page would blur before my eyes and the pressure on my brain was so intense that I couldn't do anything but walk down the street. to let the rush subside, praying fervently to God to set me free. When it finally wore off, at least half an hour later, I was relieved, but in a few hours I would be high again.
You can do amazing things while high if you have enough experience with the drug you are using and if the activity comes naturally to you. Former pitcher Dock Ellis threw the only no-hitter of his life while he was riding on acid. He was so stoned that he didn't even realize there were no hits until the ninth inning, when a teammate praised him for it. Bicycling comes so naturally to me that I could do it stoned, even mountain biking at breakneck speeds over the up-and-down limestone trails and cedar-infested goat trails of the Hill Country west of Austin, dodging it. staggering slopes and sliding down dirt-filled hairpin turns as you pedal the fine line between stealth and disaster. It's a test of courage, instinct and reflexes, and to be successful, the rider and the bike must become one. During a four or five hour trip, I would stop to get high at least three times. Because? Because it increased the excitement, making me even more reckless.
But in the New Year of 1985, my addiction to marijuana caught up with me. Normally healthy, I caught several colds that winter; Instead of drying off after every cold, my sinuses remained partially clogged, and several times a month I would wake up with nasal headaches, which I had never had before. When I was riding a bicycle, it felt like iron bands were wrapped around my chest, so I couldn't breathe as deeply as I used to. And my lungs hurt too, like when you inhale cold air.
Marijuana produces 50% more tar than the same weight of, say, a Camel. Since a joint is generally smoked at the smallest size possible, it produces twice as much tar as if it were smoked as a regular cigarette. Marijuana tar contains more than 150 complex hydrocarbons, including carcinogens such as benzo[a]pyrene. The concentration of benzo[a]pyrene in marijuana tar is 70% higher than that of the same weight of tobacco tar. A fully burned joint produces about five times more benzo[a]pyrene than a cigarette of the same weight smoked down to a 30mm butt. The amount of benzo[a]pyrene trapped in the lungs from one joint is probably even greater than that from five cigarettes, because marijuana smoke is inhaled deeply and is retained for up to thirty seconds. So just two or three joints a day can carry the same risk of lung damage as a pack of cigarettes.
In an experiment conducted at the University of California School of Medicine in 1976, a group of young, healthy marijuana smokers were matched with a control group. Lung function tests after two months of heavy use showed 25% increased airway resistance in marijuana smokers. Among cigarette smokers, evidence of chronic bronchitis with significant breathing difficulties will not appear for fifteen to twenty years.
In another study, a group of laboratory rats inhaled marijuana followed by aerosolized bacteria. The lungs of rats exposed to marijuana showed proliferation of the bacteria; those of control mice did not. If the implications of this finding can be extended to humans, it would suggest that marijuana smokers have a limited ability to avoid lung infections. Cannabis tar, when painted on the skin of mice, causes precancerous changes similar to those produced by tobacco tar. Cultured isolates of human and animal lung cells also undergo precancerous changes when exposed to cannabis. Small samples of bronchial tissue from twenty-year-old heavy hashish and tobacco smokers contained precancerous changes not normally seen in heavy tobacco smokers under the age of forty.
I wasn't happy with my crippled respiratory system, but I learned to live with it; I liked getting high even more. I kept deciding that I would start eating marijuana to save my lungs, but he kept forgetting. Additionally, smoking is a much more efficient way of getting THC into the brain, because the cardiovascular system transports blood directly from the lungs to the left side of the heart and brain in just a few seconds, minimizing opportunities for elimination, binding to tissues and metabolism, which occur to a greater degree if marijuana is ingested. Researchers have established that 20% of the THC in inhaled marijuana smoke is absorbed into the bloodstream, compared to about 6% if marijuana is ingested. Unlike alcohol and most other water-soluble drugs, THC and other cannabinoids are lipid (fat) soluble. Because lipids make up much of the fine structure of the brain, THC enters the brain quickly and tends to stay there. Peak THC and cannabinoid blood levels occur around the time you finish a joint and then rapidly decline to around 5-10% of your starting levels over the next hour. This rapid disappearance is mainly a consequence of THC entering the brain and other fatty tissues. In the liver, THC is rapidly broken down into a compound called 11-hydroxy-THC, which is also psychoactive, and over twenty other inactive products (marijuana produces over two thousand chemicals in the body when smoked). . Due to the rapid distribution of THC to other tissues, blood levels may not reflect the concentration of cannabinoids in the brain and other organs.
THC accumulation in body fat has been unequivocally demonstrated in humans. A substance is not necessarily toxic just because it is retained in the body for a long period of time, but if a substance has inherent harmful effects, the longer it is used, the greater the risk due to progressive buildup of toxicity.
While there is debate about exactly how long it takes the body to get rid of THC and related compounds, the process takes a long time compared to the rapid elimination of alcohol and other water-soluble drugs. The lungs and kidneys release less than 10% of the alcohol, while 90% is metabolized at a rate of 5 to 10 milliliters per hour. A sip of alcohol must be eliminated within six hours. A single dose of THC has an estimated half-life of five days to a week, and full elimination can take up to a month, 80 percent through the intestines and 20 percent through the kidneys. According to a current theory, a regular user will accumulate THC at a faster rate than they will get rid of it, and the accumulation will be much faster when smoking marijuana with 15% THC than with old marijuana with 2%.
Clinical observations have long suggested that heavy and regular marijuana use can damage the lungs, affect reproductive and endocrine functions, cause long-lasting behavioral disturbances, and decrease resistance to infection. The effects of marijuana on the children of users, chromosomes, cells and cell reproduction, brain function and physiology, and the human immune system are also being investigated.
Research methods are far from standardized. Much of the research was done at large government-sponsored centers such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Ontario Addiction Research Foundation. NIDA is also the conduit for the majority of US government funding (about $8.5 million last year) for university researchers across the country. Important work on the effects of marijuana on health and productivity has been done at the UCLA Health Sciences Center, Harvard Medical School, and on various campuses in the University of California system. The Army is especially interested in how marijuana use affects working with complex machines; funded several major studies. In our understanding of marijuana, we are where we were thirty or forty years ago with respect to alcohol and tobacco.
Bi 1985 Smoking marijuana began to affect my thinking, not overnight, but gradually, almost imperceptibly. Over the years, I had used more and more marijuana to get high, and it often didn't work, no matter how much I smoked. I got high, but all it did was turn me off, put me in a haze, made me lazy and lethargic. Since he could only buy marijuana in small amounts, he smoked different varieties of marijuana from week to week. A pattern began to emerge. I was exuberantly stoned the first two days, then fell into lackluster loafers while smoking the rest of the bag. Finally, not even the first stock rally was good unless you were smoking with a friend. I spent more and more time depressed about not being able to write, not doing anything but reading or watching television because nothing interested me. I was slipping into what the experts call an amotivational syndrome.
Paranoia began to set in. As always a shy person, I began to feel even more uncomfortable in a room full of strangers. I had little to say, partly out of shyness but mostly because of the stupor that enveloped me. I missed many of the parties I was invited to, either because I was too sleepy from the day's cigarette or simply didn't feel like socializing.
In July, I was in a painful bicycle accident because I was high. Coming down the bank of a steep stream on the mountain bike, I tripped on my handlebars upside down. I had simply forgotten, in my confused state, to sit down and lower myself into the chair. I didn't break any bones, but I did have considerable bruises and scrapes and was bedridden for a week.
I then began to suspect that I had developed an allergy to marijuana. Every time she smoked, she had a dry, scratchy throat, a stuffy nose, dry eyes, and flushed face. The same things happened when I ate marijuana. I suspect I got sick at least once from eating raw marijuana. Since there are no laws regulating the harvesting and curing of marijuana, it is often contaminated with ingredients such as herbicides, animal manure, and fungi. Marijuana could have spent weeks in the damp hold of a ship or in a rain-soaked field. All the Colombian weed I smoked was moldy. Properly curing marijuana for freshness, cleanliness, and flavor is an art, and you can bet the big growers in Colombia and Mexico aren't overly concerned with the purity of their product. Salmonellosis (food poisoning caused by Salmonella bacteria) and aspergillosis (disease caused by mold spores) are two of the diseases that ingesting dirty marijuana can cause. And since marijuana is just marijuana, like dozens of other allergens, there's no reason someone shouldn't develop an allergy to it.
In August 1985, I went to San Angelo for a race, my first since 1979. Due to back problems and also an intestinal virus, I hadn't ridden a bike in two weeks. Still, I felt reasonably confident. It was an empty trust. I withdrew halfway through the 26 mile race with a bad back and rubber legs. The pace had been unexpectedly fast from the start. I ran into oxygen debt early on and never got my second wind. I was still out of breath when my friend finished in ninth place. We smoked a big one on the way back to town, but instead of making me feel better, smoking made my heart race to nearly two hundred beats a minute and it didn't stop for four or five hours. I felt like a tornado roared in my chest and I feared that my heart would break free of its moorings at any moment. I did not smoke again the rest of the day.
Starting on that Sunday, I cut back on my smoking habit and decided to quit eventually, although I didn't set a date when that would happen.
A few weeks later, he was down to one joint a day. My tolerance had dropped, and a few bongs spaced out throughout the day got me as high as I wanted. But I didn't get a good high; I felt horrible: tired, confused, depressed, feverish, and paralyzed.
The end finally came not with a bang but with a groan. Three weeks after the trip to San Angelo, she drove to Reynosa to work on a story. I smoked most of a joint on the way down, and it made me feel absolutely sick. I left a single wrapped joint a few miles on this side of the border for the return trip, but I didn't take anything with me across the border. On the way home, I smoked half the joint, with the same miserable results. A year ago, I could have smoked three joints on that boring drive.
It was time to give up, I decided, but I couldn't bring myself to do it all at once. One or two shots late in the afternoon seemed the best compromise; once I got a little used to it, I would try to stop completely. This phase lasted only three days. Even after only a few hits, paranoia got the better of me and I was afraid of losing my mind. So I completely gave up.
Two days later, I had absolutely no energy and my head felt like it had been stuffed with cotton. I felt like I had mono all over again. Within an hour of waking up, I was so tired that all I wanted to do was go back to bed. But I couldn't sleep. She would read, although after a while even reading became tedious, she would close her eyes and wonder what was happening to me. Exhausted as he was, he did not sleep well at night, just as he had not slept well in Mexico a year ago. After several days like this, I went to my doctor for a checkup, but he couldn't find anything wrong. We came to the conclusion that marijuana withdrawal was throwing me off my feet; He prescribed a mild tranquilizer so I could sleep at night (THC is a sedative and eventually your body becomes dependent on it). I did notice a pretty quick improvement in my respiratory system, but my head still felt clogged.
I would get up every morning, make coffee, and try to read the newspaper, but some mornings I would have trouble reading the comics section. Every time I tried to read about my favorite subjects, like Mexico, the Soviet Union, or Afghanistan, I had to reread the stories several times to register their meaning.
In conversations, I sometimes forget what I just said or was going to say, or what the other person said. I had trouble finding the right words for the ideas I was trying to express, and when taking notes during an interview, I often transposed letters and words.
It took almost a month for my sleeping habits to return to normal, meaning falling asleep easily and staying asleep. I also started to remember my dreams. THC almost certainly suppresses REM and delta sleep, which is when dreams happen. During my smoking years I remembered perhaps half a dozen dreams a month; after stopping, I remembered at least as many upon waking up.
I was straight for almost three weeks, mostly keeping myself busy every morning to resist the urge to light up that first joint. If you could get past two in the afternoon, you could avoid smoking for the rest of the day.
So it happened. One morning an interview fell through and suddenly she had nothing to do. I still had a couple of weed joints that I didn't have the heart to throw away. I began to wonder if I could get the old magic back after a few weeks of vacation. Also, I really wasn't comfortable being straight: getting high was normal for so long. I got incredibly high, but I didn't get happily and energetically high, I just got numb. I spent the rest of the day repenting and vowing never to do it again, but I didn't throw away the rest of the boat. Exactly one week later, I found myself with another morning off. I was depressed by how long it was taking me to break the habit. So I turned it on, again hoping I could get some of the old magic back, but I didn't. I tried it the next day with the same results. So I left the city for several days to avoid further temptations.
Another week went by and my head still felt like it was filled with cotton candy. I had about two bongs left on the tray. "What the hell," I thought, "the disease can't be worse than the cure." I smoked the rest and my mind relaxed. I sat down to write for the first time in weeks about this story. I felt fine for about an hour. Then lethargy set in and the juices stopped flowing. I was glad that I had experienced some of the old feeling, but that was all: apieceof the old feeling As I tossed the rest of the weed into the backyard, I knew this was it finally, no matter the temptation, it would have to be cold turkey from then on. The magic is gone. He would only be able to catch a glimpse of it again, no matter how much or how little he smoked.
UEI myself kicked my marijuana addiction, like most ex-bosses of my generation. And most of my generation are former bosses. The 1982 National Inquiry on Drug Abuse estimated that more than 18 million Americans between the ages of 26 and 34 will have experienced hair less than once, 8.67 million of age range will use it in the past year, and 5.5 million will use it during or last month. Research has indicated that as Americans age, they tend to give up marijuana and most drugs except alcohol. But the survey also suggested a slight increase in the number of heavy users.
Few marijuana smokers seek professional help for their addiction, which is not to say that marijuana is an easy drug to quit. Most addicts who receive professional treatment are poly-abusers: they abuse more than one drug. Alcohol and marijuana is a common combination. Speed freaks and cocaine addicts smoke weed to calm down.
All of the drug counselors I spoke to said that people who only abused marijuana made up a small percentage of their clients, but they all said that about half of their clients smoked marijuana regularly. Clients did not see marijuana as a problem; they were there to help with other drugs. “Insidious” is a word counselors often use when describing marijuana. For its intended purposes, marijuana works better than most drugs. You cannot overdose and die from marijuana in the same way that you can die from cocaine, alcohol, or heroin. It is almost impossible to get arrested for DWI with marijuana, given the lack of an easy test for marijuana intoxication. Marijuana is a predictable drug and doesn't give you a hangover the next morning. And while marijuana can be just as addictive as cocaine, it's an addiction that takes much longer to develop and behavioral changes take longer to occur. It is such a gradual slide that often the abuser, his friends and family do not realize what is happening. Stoners tend to fade into wood.
A psychologist told me that when she started working, she did not take her addiction to marijuana seriously. She now feels that the longtime stoner is the most difficult client to work with, for two reasons: first, the longtime user loses his insight; obvious things are not apparent. As an example, she pointed out to a client in his early thirties that he had been a chain smoker for ten or twelve years and quit just because he would go to jail if she didn't. She had a couple of kids, one of whom had screaming nightmares most nights and had a tendency to set the house on fire. The woman did not think that her son had any particular problem. Second, the client must stay clean for a long time to get results. Mac McLester, supervising counselor for the Renaissance Addiction Program at Shoal Creek Hospital in Austin, noted that "the hardest thing about dealing with stoners is getting enough of the drug out of your system to get to them."
Most of the currently available literature says that it takes anywhere from three weeks to three months to "detox", that is, to remove accumulated THC from your body. As I write this, it's been four months since I decided to quit smoking and three months since my last setback, and only now is the fog beginning to lift from my brain. Yesterday was the first day since I quit smoking that I didn't feel confused, high. Chuck Roper, clinical director of the Solutions Counseling and Treatment Center in Austin, told me it would probably be six months before I felt completely normal. You're probably right: you've been where I am. The progress of marijuana withdrawal is so gradual that it cannot be measured on a daily basis; progress from week to week or month to month is more appropriate. Some experts say you never detox.
Experimental evidence in rats from the laboratory of the Addiction Research Foundation in Toronto suggests that long-term exposure to high doses of marijuana can cause learning disabilities and brain wave changes that last long after the addict quits smoking. These disorders are accompanied by subtle changes in brain cell connections that can be seen under an electron microscope. Such experimental evidence of brain damage in animals is consistent with clinical observations in humans.
Imagine waking up high, not from smoking anything, and not pleasantly high, but exhausted, lethargically high. Imagine feeling like this the rest of the day every day for four months. Or, if you've never gotten high, imagine living with a hangover (minus the headache) every day for months. Some days, even several times a day, especially if I was under stress, I would have a "flashback": I would feel incredibly high for fifteen minutes to an hour. There are a number of hypotheses for flashbacks, and one espoused in a popular drug advice movie goes something like this: THC bubbles enter brain cells and, once inside, mixes with neurotransmitters. When a brain cell is stimulated, it fires neurotransmitters; sometimes you can mistake a THC bubble for a neurotransmitter and shoot it at another cell. Hence the flashback.
In addition to sleep disturbances, marijuana users who quit smoking may experience irritability, loss of appetite and weight, sweating, nausea, diarrhea, tremors, and depression. The intensity of withdrawal symptoms from marijuana is not as marked as that from alcohol, barbiturates, or opiates. But physical withdrawal from these drugs usually ends within a week. The withdrawal from the boat lasts and lasts and lasts. After several months I had serious doubts as to whether my mind could recover; I wondered if I would spend the rest of my life sweeping floors or stacking boxes.
Sor how do you help a stoner who can't do it himself? Just like you help any other addict. Most professionals avoid categorizing by drug, preferring to talk about chemical dependency in general. Chuck Roper put it this way: "It's the altered feeling you get addicted to in the beginning, not a particular drug." Estimates conclude that between 10 and 15 percent of the American population is addicted. Alcohol is the easiest drug to obtain, which is why most people get hooked first. But which drug an addict chooses isn't really important; it is the cause of the addiction, not the addiction itself, that must be treated. You won't get anywhere if your alcoholic client quits drinking and turns to marijuana.
The first and most difficult thing to do is get the smoker to quit (or at least cut down drastically) and keep him clean long enough to convince him to seek help. Since most addicts suffer from low self-esteem, most addiction programs are a combination of education and counseling to change the client's attitude. Individual counseling is accompanied by group therapy, which is probably the key to recovery. Part of a chemically dependent person's problem is their denial of the problem, and group therapy is effective in overcoming this. An individual therapist can be fooled, but not a room full of fellow addicts. Group therapy also allows members to support each other and re-establish meaningful relationships. Most addicts tend to associate with other addicts during their addiction period; group therapy reminds them that they can be accepted by others, flaws and all.
Roper said the incidence of relapse among marijuana smokers is probably higher than among any other group of chemical users because there isn't much social stigma associated with smoking marijuana and because it's hard to get caught. Also, many people think that marijuana is a harmless drug.
So where does the story end? For me it never ends. I will be a recovering stoner for the rest of my life and will have to avoid the temptation to switch to another drug for marijuana. I still have the urge to get high when I feel bored, frustrated, or alienated. To avoid these feelings, I socialize more and try to keep busy.
I also drew some conclusions about marijuana: I don't see anything wrong with its social use by adults (I define it as one or two joints per week smoked by people over 21). Pregnant women and children should not smoke marijuana. Over the next ten to fifteen years, we will begin to see the long-term effects of heavy use of the new super weed, and I'm not looking forward to the results. I see an increased incidence of lung cancer, emphysema, bronchitis, and other related respiratory illnesses, and I wouldn't be surprised if there is an increase in certain forms of mental illness. Marijuana is a mind-altering drug, not a toy. Despite feeling much better these days, I still don't know if I got out on time.
Richard X. is a pseudonym.