What is Marijuana Addiction??
Does prolonged marijuana use create a lasting chemical dependency or is it merely habit forming?
The debate about whether or not Marijuana is physically addictive or merely habit forming has been argued for years. Let’s assume, for our purposes, that Marijuana forms a psychological addiction, rather than a physical one. In a way, we’ve just taken the first step in admitting that we alone are responsible for changing our own behavior. This is a positive step. If we assert that the addiction is psychological, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s automatically less powerful, so the road to quitting weed can still be difficult. But, at least we know that were dealing with a habit rather than a chemical dependency.
Marijuana addiction treatment begins with correctly identifying the problem, just as any "addiction" treatment should. Attacking the root causes of marijuana dependence is the only way to change the behavior that leads to "sparking up."
Let’s continue with our assertion that weed forms a psychological dependency. That means that certain mental and emotional states act as triggers to send the message to the brain to “light up.” But what does the act of getting high really represent? In all cases, it represents a desire to make the current state “better” or “tolerable.” For example, if bored » make fun, if sad » make happy, if dissatisfied » make satisfied, if distasteful » make palatable and on and on. Getting high becomes a companion to otherwise perfectly good activities like watching movies, listening to music, or going to social functions. The actual activities become devalued when weed is not present. Weed also becomes a way to cope with the mundane parts of life, promising to transform activities like vacuuming into something better, when in fact, vacuuming is just vacuuming. Profound huh? Armchair philosophy straight from one ex-chronic to a soon-to-be ex-chronic.
The root of the problem is that smoking weed doesn’t actually cause anything to change, to become “better” or more “tolerable.” That’s why the same emotional states continue to repeat – and the cycle of marijuana dependence becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, because nothing has changed.
By changing the response to these emotional triggers, we can find new ways to satisfy the same states that previously led directly to the act of “getting high.” In time, these exact same emotional or mental states will no longer trigger the desire to smoke weed, and will lose their power over the users actions.
Obviously, there are many things which can complicate the process, for example, cigarette smokers who are trying to quit weed and maintain the cigarette habit will find themselves smoking three packs a day… not a solution… quitting both is the only way. Pot smokers who roll joints with tobacco need to be aware of the nicotine addiction that they have managed to incur along the way, and realize that the problem is two-fold. My suggestion for users in this category is to ramp down your joint smoking over a week, during which time no tobacco is rolled with the joint. If the joints don’t burn as well, too bad! Remember to set a quit date a week later.
Finally, your marijuana "addiction” is just as much an addiction to your lifestyle as it is to the plant. Stay away for people who you used to smoke weed with, and places where you know there will be pot. Explain to the people in your life that you are making a change. Explain that this decision is appropriate for you alone and not necessarily for the right thing for others. Stick to this commitment even if it means missing social events you would otherwise attend. Eventually, you may lose friends who you used to smoke up with regularly, but committing to these sacrifices is an essential element of your marijuana addiction treatment.
Don’t allow yourself to indulge in one puff of a joint or bong hit. You cannot trust yourself to stay off weed after breaking your new rule, and you cannot risk a relapse into marijuana dependence just when you are starting down the path to regaining control of your life.
The precise combination of methods and behaviors that will help you quit weed are your own. Everyone is different. Just as certain things will work for some, you may not respond to the same techniques and need to adapt them to suit. Keep your mind active by thinking of ways to satisfy your urges with other rewards – keep busy – and avoid bad situations. In a few months your life will have taken a new direction and you won’t look back.
Is Marijuana Chemically Addictive?
Sigh. I admit, I do tend to skirt around this question. I like to avoid it as much as possible. Why? because I never want to take a straight line on this one. But, I’ve decided to pin myself down for once.
So, in my opinion, the answer is no, marijuana is not chemically addictive. Marijuana is not a narcotic like heroin or meth amphetamine. Although THC in the bloodstream does create a "dependency", and the brain definitely develops strong neural connections and physically builds structures within your brain, I do not personally categorize sweet old Mary Jane as chemically addictive.
So, you should be relieved. For you, quitting is going to be relatively easy and painless as compared to other drug addicts and alcoholics. In my experience however, many pot heads like to cling to the commonly held opinion that weed isnt chemically addictive, which is in fact supported by a lot of credible scientific research. The problem for me has always been that this issue doesn’t do much to help anyone.
If you would like to understand more about marijuana and it unique properties and addictive potential, as well as how MJ has impacted society, law and culture, check out the book on the right… it’s all in there.