What the abuse of cannabis looks like from someone who was there (2023)

What the abuse of cannabis looks like from someone who was there (1)Share on Pinterest

Hi Sam, I recently got into an online debate with someone about whether or not you can be addicted to marijuana. It's such a polarizing topic that it's hard to know if the fears surrounding addiction are legitimate or if the idea that you can become dependent on it is true.

I ask because I've had alcohol problems before and marijuana is now legal where I live, so I'm wondering if it's risky for me to try it. Any ideas?

I totally hear you about the darkness around yes or nomarijuana addictionIt's a thing. In fact, I wondered the same thing! I'm also glad you're cautious before diving into this. I think lowering the roll is a smart choice (pun intended).

But I'm wondering if the addiction question is the right one, because I'm not convinced that the semantics here really matter.

More important: it canareuse becomes problematic? Could this start to interfere with your life in ways that have some rather strange parallels to alcohol addiction? Can cannabis use be disrupted without being an addiction?


There are very few open and honest conversations about what happens when cannabisIt is notmuch more fun. I could write endlessly about the intricacies of addiction and whether or not cannabis falls under that heading. But I don't necessarily think that's helpful.

I think it's more important to be able to recognize when that line is crossed.

Although I am not a medical doctor, I believe that my lived experience offers a snapshot of what this type of disorder can be like.

Clocks were no longer a way of telling time to begin with: They existed solely to time my food consumption so that it would arrive to the exact second that I finished work.

My schedule slowly warped until it was essentially incorporated into the next time I could get high. At first it was a small, occasional part of my week, until suddenly it became the main event…every day.

I set rules for my use, but the goal posts were constantly moving. First, it was just "a social thing." So it was a "weekend thing". He was home alone, until he was homemiin yoga class, until finally all bets were off and you would have a hard time interacting with me when I was sober, assuming I really was.

My use became so excessive that I had the highest tolerance for anyone I was around, and although I did set limits, I never followed through.

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My THC ratio steadily increased until I was finally vaping pure THC concentrate and I spent most mornings trying to understand what happened the night before, my memory as fuzzy as the smoke that filled my small apartment every night until I I fell asleep.

At my worst? I had so much THC in my system that it induced psychosis (to be clear, I was consuming the amount you would normally give perfour people).

I had to call in sick to work the next day because (1) I was still high the entire next day and (2) experiencing traumatic memories of paranoia and hallucinations. These flashbacks haunted me for weeks after the fact (but didn't stop me from going back to smoking).

And despite my dogged determination to reduce my use? He never seemed to be able to do it.

You mention having a “problem” with alcohol. Ditto, friend. And in many recovery spaces, I know that people are divided on whether or not someone who has a risky relationship with other substances can safely use cannabis.

And I totally get it. For a while, I really thought marijuana was my alcohol free card. So much for that.

I know people who have used marijuana to get rid of alcohol, or as a form of harm reduction, opting for the “safer” substance when the compulsion to use arises. This has been an important step in recovery for many people, myself included, and I would never discourage anyone from making the safer choice between the two.

Some people in recovery stick with CBD products and choose not to use THC. (I've tried this, but have always backed off after a while, eventually reintroducing THC after a period I got too comfortable with.)

There are others recovering from addiction who seem to be able to handle marijuana just fine, or may do so for a few years and then suddenly cross a line, where they inevitably sober up. And there are all kinds of people in between!

The point is that each person is unique. I can't say for sure what your relationship with cannabis will be.

But what I can do is provide you with some information so that you can make the best possible decision:

  • If you know that you have had problems with other substances in the past, do not
    introducing anything else, including marijuana, without a mental health provider
    your support team.
    While many mental
    health professionals will not endorse the use of cannabis for anyone with a history
    substance abuse, this additional supervision or transparency with a
    professional, can help ensure that if your use becomes problematic, you
    you can formulate a backup plan to get sober sooner rather than later.
  • Consider joining a harm reduction support group.If you are specifically exploring cannabis, what are you fighting for?
    with alcohol or want an alternative, it is better to have a support system of
    others who are sailing in similar situations.
  • Do you have any co-occurring mental health problems that may increase
    your risk of cannabis misuse?
    That can
    include conditions such as PTSD,ADHD, OCD, anxiety and depression. If so, talk to your care providers
    whether marijuana can exacerbate your symptoms (for example, marijuana definitely did
    my OCD much worse), interact with your current medications and if the
    the benefits of use are strictly short-term or sustainable over a longer period of time
  • Know the signs.looks more
    as a reflexive choice or a desire or a compulsion when you use it? are you able to
    take a break from use? Is your tolerance growing? This interfered with
    obligations or relationships in your life? This created problems
    (financially, emotionally, socially, even legally) or got you out of
    things that are important to you?
  • It is helpful to keep a journal and record your use., especially if you have had problems with other substances in the past.
    In addition to looking for the signs above, consider the context in which you
    you are wearing. Is it in a recreational setting? Or in response to a trigger,
    stressful or uncomfortable emotion?

Although the DSM-5 acknowledgesmarijuana use disorder, I think this is largely irrelevant here. Because each one of us, whether or not we risk addiction, must control our substance use and verify that it is not negatively affecting our lives.

This should be an integral part of any type of substance use, including alcohol and marijuana.

The bottom line? No one should be on autopilot when using mind-altering substances, no matter how normalized it is in our culture.

My Sharknado daysmarathons and green outs are a distant and bizarre memory, which I am very happy about. my circus does itnohe needs extra monkeys, though those monkeys also make ice cream taste 10 times better (*sad trombones hint*).

I am completely sober (and happy!), which turned out to be the best possible option for me.

Ultimately, this is a personal decision that only you can make (and depending on the law within your state, keep in mind that it could also be a criminal decision).

It may be "just a plant," but plants can also be harmful. Did you know that tomato leaves, for example, are slightly poisonous? If you tried to eat an acorn, you could still chip a tooth or choke on it (why would you do that? I don't know, I'm not here to judge you, maybe you were playing a squirrel).

Learn from someone who learned the hard way: it's all fun and games until you're so paranoid you're convinced the illuminati are out to get you (yes, that really happened to me). Which makes for a hilarious story, but trust me, there are a million better ways to spend a Friday night than having a completely unnecessary panic attack.

Cannabis may be "just a plant", but that doesn't make it inherently safe for everyone! My best recommendation is to tread carefully, seek additional support, and be careful how you use it.

Your brain is a very valuable organ, so treat it that way, okay?


Sam Dylan Finch is a writer and content strategist based in Seattle, WA. you can say hello inInstagram,Gore,Facebook, or more information atSamDylanFinch.com.

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