Now I know I’m going against pretty much the entire industry’s narrative with this one, but I’ve got something to say, and it starts with dropping the act that cannabis is not addictive. We’ve all heard it forever, and while I appreciate this angle was designed to show that cannabis is less harmful and habit-forming than other substances, the idea that it’s magically non-addictive chemically is a farce. If no one else wants to be ‘that guy’, I’ll go ahead and say it myself: I am fully addicted to weed in all its various forms, but most importantly, I’m addicted to smoking it.
Immediately as I say that I hear Bob Saget in my head asking if I’ve ever sucked dick for it. No Bob, but you’re already missing the point I’m looking to make in favor of claiming some *other* substance is *more* addictive – which, no argument there. I also think it’s important to recognize up front that this is not *the worst* addiction you could possibly have, but it’s an addiction nonetheless, and it’s time we talked about it. Not because I want to advertise this fact, but because understanding addiction, and withdrawal, is the key to a happier existence for users of all types.
You already know this, but people get addicted to coffee, chocolate, running, sex – even social media. They develop dependencies on caffeine, sugar, Dopamine, and a plethora of other stuff. You can get addicted to things that are good for you, like working out, just like you can on things that are bad for you, like cigarettes or heroin. Weed is not on either of those poles, but the function is largely the same no matter the substance or action – you become fixated with the way said thing makes you feel, and you seek to recreate that feeling. You’ve heard of chasing the dragon I’m sure. These cravings aren’t necessarily cognizant – your addiction is running in the background, but they start to dictate your actions nonetheless, especially as you become further enthralled with whatever reaction you’re getting.
Let’s first start by defining addiction. According to the dictionary addiction is simply ‘the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity’, which frankly isn’t very helpful. If you dig in, addicted is defined as ‘physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects.’ Before we go any further, honestly ask yourself, if you had to stop smoking or consuming tomorrow, would you see any adverse effects? I know I would, I can’t eat without this shit, but even if you’d get slightly grumpier from having to rawdog existence without your favorite fix, that’s an adverse effect. I know pleeeenty of y’all who feel those same symptoms, even if you’re not ready or willing to admit that publicly.
Here’s a soft example that may seem overly simplistic, but bear with me. Have you ever stopped to think while going about your day ‘do I have time to grab a coffee?’, and then upon realizing the answer is no, you go get the coffee anyway? That’s an addiction controlling your habits, albeit in a relatively harmless way (unless that thing you had to do was super important). Now, how many times have you done something like that to get high? Before work, or an important meeting? You knew what the right thing to do was, but your desire to get that feeling redirected you. Don’t feel bad, it happens to the best of us every single day. I will say again, it’s important to recognize that something can be good for you, and addictive, too! In fact, with good addictions this next point is actually an advantage, and that’s withdrawal.
For another small example, let’s take social media. Has it been too long since you got any engagement? Starting to feel like a nobody? Better throw another post up quick so your friends will flood your brain with dopamine and make you feel good about yourself again. You might think of it differently, but you’re mitigating the withdrawal – you’re feeding your addiction to dopamine. How about those of us that are addicted to exercising? You ever notice how if you don’t work out all of a sudden you start feeling bad about yourself? Whether it be the way you look, or just how unproductive you’re being. I know I start feeling like a piece of shit whale if I haven’t got a couple thousand steps under my belt by noon. Guess where that comes from? You’re not getting enough of that reward juice you’re *used to*!
Now, withdrawal is defined as the unpleasant physical reaction that accompanies the process of ceasing an addiction. It’s one of those adverse effects I just mentioned. In other words, if it’s been too long since your last good feeling, your body starts freaking out. Withdrawal symptoms include irritability, anxiety, sweating and even depression. I want to be clear when I say that these symptoms get exponentially worse as the severity of the addiction increases, and while I AM explaining that I believe addiction is much further reaching than what DARE warns us about, they are certainly not all created equally. For example, with addictions to chems like Benzos, the withdrawals can actually be fatal, so mitigating these symptoms, and tapering off whatever substance you may be addicted to, is paramount to successfully ceasing an addiction. Quitting cold turkey is not always an option, so the idea that people should just ‘not do it’ is often not only far more impossible than it sounds, but it can actually seriously hurt or kill you.
But they’re not all THAT bad, and some cessation will just cause you to be grumpy, or make things like sleeping more difficult. While it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all thing, it’s important to note that these are still tell-tale signs of addiction, even if it’s not the most severe one. Many people consider ‘routines’ to be separate from addictions, which isn’t fundamentally untrue, but many are not appropriately recognizing these ‘routines’ for what they are.
If your ‘routine’ has a whole set of rituals, it may be a bit more than just a thing you like to do sometimes – and that’s okay. Not all addictions require rehab, and they’re not all going to fuck your life up. I know plenty of people I consider addicts even if they themselves don’t, who are doing exceedingly well for themselves. Most of them have figured out the appropriate techniques for managing their developed needs.
To the point of managing our addictions, I think many in the industry would benefit simply from *smoking more*, especially when they feel overly stressed. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen people get into tiffs at events that were entirely caused by someone’s overt grumpiness due to their high levels of sobriety. Perhaps the bad day you’re having is caused by your avoidance of that thing you really love, and do all the time when you’re not as busy. I’m not saying you necessarily need it to survive, but the rest of us might like being around you a bit more if you’re managing your attitude. Next time you catch yourself bitching, go grab a hit instead. Usually fixes the small stuff. What’s that old Snickers ad? You’re not you when you’re fiending? I’m not mad at your addiction, but your inability to manage it. After all, the enemy of my friend is my enemy too, and sometimes your enemy is not being stoned, so, you know, smoke some damn weed before you talk to me.
That last part was obviously a joke – I say all this not because I want to demonize smoking weed or make it seem like an uncontrollable beast. Far from it – in fact, we all have an Endocannabinoid System, and I believe that properly feeding it is essential to living a full and happy life. I look at it like my need for food and water – while we don’t call them this, the adverse effects for not eating and drinking is dying, so they technically fit as addictions – those are pretty bad repercussions.
But the truth is, cannabis keeps me grounded. And it has made so many things so much better for me, too. It’s made me try and do things I otherwise wouldn’t have (not because they were bad but because I was stubborn) and it honestly makes me feel better whenever I feel any type of sick. It’s a warm glove. Has it made me do some dumb shit? Sure, but I believe the scales are still weighing in my favor. Maybe that’s just me. But my reason for going on this rant actually has less to do with anything weed related, and more to do with the idea of addiction, and the almost demonization that rides in tow. We’ve created a stigma on the word to classify ‘others’ and that’s bullshit.
You see, not all addictions are as manageable as cannabis, and while I truly believe that I’m okay, I don’t need help, and I don’t need to quit, there are an immeasurable number of people addicted to other substances that do, and aren’t. My purpose here today is not to get you to think negatively about the way you consume, but to humanize those that we’ve somehow started deeming less than because of their (not always) chosen devices. As situations like homelessness increase we hear people brush off those suffering as ‘addicts’, and people who can’t help themselves. But the truth is, we’re all addicts, to varying degrees and of different things, but the idea that we are somehow not each trapped by something ourselves and that those ‘others’ are ‘less than’ is to me the same thing as pretending one race is any superior to another.
I believe that people make mistakes, and some of those mistakes are harder to take back than others. For many, a decision they made to try something when they were young may have created lifelong issues. I was very lucky to see first hand at a young age the damage some of these more serious drugs could cause and managed to avoid them myself, but countless people I love and respected were not as fortunate, and fell into what many of us pretend are easy to avoid traps. Depending on where you come from, it’s not always so easy. Those people deserved more grace than even I afforded them, and many are no longer with us as a result of society choosing to look the other way in their time of need. I will live with that regret, but something needs to be done to stop perpetuating the cycle.
Perhaps understanding, and identifying with, those we feel ‘better’ than, is a good place to start.
I understand the desire to want to feel better than something, or to feel like you’ve solved a problem others haven’t been able to, but the truth is for most of us everything is relative, even if we choose to look the other way. You can’t run from reality, despite the creative language you may rebrand it with. I mean, I haven’t even mentioned our phones yet — do you really believe you have a healthy relationship with that thing? It’s incredibly helpful, but many of us are also hopelessly stuck to it – it has not only changed the way we interact with each other, but the world around us – is that really that much better than the chemical fixes others are after? I don’t think so, and if there’s anything you take from reading this hopefully it’s that you’re an addict too, probably of many things, whether you’re ready to admit it or not, and that that’s okay. It’s something we should empathize with, not ostracize.