Against drug laws but worried I am addicted to marijuana


Further Reading


I am 25, male and a daily marijuana user. What marijuana-specific techniques are available to help me lower/stop usage? I also use other drugs, but mostly dope. I’m not a big alcohol drinker, but I just can’t seem to get by without my nightly smoke. I’ve been hearing that there are new thoughts on the topic, given the discovery of the ‘natural’ marijuana-like (enzyme?) in the brain. Thank you for any help, your page looks outstanding.


Dear J:

You are right to examine your marijuana smoking when you feel it is problematic and it seems compulsive. That this is the case is completely independent of what neurosystems marijuana acts upon. These systems do not create compulsive users (which is why most users are not addicted), and these systems really only provides a secondary description of addiction in those for whom use is compulsive.

I have addressed the question of reducing marijuana use in my Ask Stanton section (see below).

Best, Stanton

The writer asked Stanton his opinion about someone who smoked marijuana daily but was happy and more productive as a result of this habit, and who quit several weeks a year to demonstrate he wasn’t dependent. He asked whether imprisonment or forced treatment of such a person was called for. I knew the person to be a drug reform activist.

Dear _____: You’re setting me up, aren’t you? Clinically, the description you give is no different than having several glasses of wine with meals daily. (You even throw in the enhanced life performance to make sure I don’t miss your point.) Then you ask me if he should be jailed or forced to enter treatment! I don’t even think people’s lives are improved when they obviously have a problem and are forced into jail or treatment.

Best, Stanton

Sorry, sir. You’re right about the “setup”, although it was for personal reasons. “Friend of a friend”, and all that. I asked about forced treatment because it happened to me once for alcohol. Hospital doctor came in and told me, freshly wrung-out by the hospital’s detox and still fairly traumatized, that I could sign a release, “voluntarily” signing my rights away to enter a nearby treatment center. If I didn’t sign, he said, he’d have a judge issue a court order *mandating* my treatment, which would have taken away even more of my rights (at least, that was how the doctor described it to me). The doc said it was the easiest thing in the world for a doctor to get a judge to sign such an order.

I wanted to check with someone who 1) wasn’t working off the government tit, 2) wasn’t getting rich off of “referrals” which consist of dark, ominous threats to get whacked-out patients to railroad themselves into “treatment centers”, where the best rebuttal a counselor has to accusations of wrongful imprisonment is “we’re not locking you up; we’re keeping you *safe*” (happened to me), and 3) knew *something* about the nature of addiction.

Thing is, I see myself as being psychologically addicted to marijuana. My father was an alcoholic (ruined his life), and I came damn near. I don’t drink anywhere near what I did three years ago, and I’m *very* happy. However, I’m a creature of habit (pardon the pun), and I worry sometimes that I merely replaced one addiction for another. The sticky bit is, unless one views “addiction” as INHERENTLY harmful, rather than being accompanied quite often by harmful effects of chronic abuse of the chemical (but not always), then I’ve got no problem. Buuuuuut….I’ve still got that nagging worry that *any* drug use that ain’t alcohol is totally slammed in the straight world (you know, *that* straight world… the one everyone hates, but lives/works/attends school in).

I also didn’t know for certain whether my current anger against the WOD [War on Drugs] is my rather well-developed love of freedoms Americans haven’t had since before I was born, or if it’s just so I can smoke my weed in fragging peace.

Anyway, see you on the lists, and I’m glad to see that your site is now linked from From what I’ve seen of it, I could have used a counselor like you three years ago.

Dear ______: Well, in that case, a lot of people are psychologically dependent on a lot of things. But if they are productive, happy, and the habit doesn’t interfere with their functioning and relationships, I don’t think it is an addiction. You obviously do have some additional concerns about smoking, mainly (a) you value freedom and don’t want to see your well-being dependent on any external experience, (b) the danger of pursuing an illegal habit in a dangerous place (America). These are both valid concerns.

The value for me in therapy is when people come to grips with their own motivations to change. If you and I were in therapy, we might explore whether you could find alternative means for expressing the freedom that marijuana symbolizes for you and different ways to produce whatever mj grants you. Is there anything else that produces a comparable experience for you? I’d like to know more about the negatives you associate with smoking, including any negative reactions you get from people close to you.

I also always want to explore with people that range of meaning and satisfaction in their lives, in their work, their careers, their interests, their play, their spare time, their home, their relationships, their community and political involvements (which I know is something important to you). Nothing frees people from the downside of habits like greater and more expansive positive involvements in both new and familiar areas.

The point in not forcing people into treatment is to allow them to balance their motivations in their own minds. This is the respect we need to grant every human being who we expect to walk the earth freely. Perhaps you can maximize the positive experience of smoking mj while eliminating the compulsive aspects of smoking for you and its potentially dangerous aspects from a legal standpoint. Would this make you feel you were acting more in your own best interests and more in keeping with you views of freedom? This has to be your judgment, since I won’t tell you that mj is bad for you.

I agree with you that doing something too much in lock step makes me uneasy. It doesn’t fully jibe with my sense of myself. As we age, we sometimes begin more calmly to deal with things. We feel stronger, ironically because we are more accepting of our own and life’s limitations. You seem to feel you have made substantial progress in your drinking habits lately. Do you have more room to improve with drinking still, or are you where you want to be? I’d like to find out what enabled you to change your drinking and how you felt about it. You know, you are your own expert of change.

No amount of habitual behavior you have engaged in in the past predetermines the patterns of your future. This is not to say you will wake up and be free to act with complete independence. But you can change both small and large aspects of your life course, if you choose to do so.

Best, Stanton

Stanton Peele

Stanton Peele , recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts by The Fix, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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