If smoking or consuming cannabis is something that you enjoy, that’s okay. But—and we know this isn’t popular to say—yes, you can be addicted to weed.
We know that addiction is not really about the drugs. Addiction is a coping mechanism in response to dynamic personal and social challenges, and drugs are just one way that people do that. For this reason, it doesn’t make sense to demonize any particular drug as “too addictive” or, on the flip side, let any drug off the hook as being “not addictive” at all.
Whether or not you’re planning on partaking in the festivities on 4/20, this weekend may be a good time to turn inwards and ask yourself some questions about your relationship with cannabis. Here are a few to get you started:
1. When you smoke, what do you get out of it?
Think about how smoking makes you feel. Focus on the differences in your mind state before and after smoking. Does it give you a sense of euphoria? Does it relax you or does it heighten your anxiety? All of these and more are possible. Different people respond differently to cannabis.
Considering the specific ways that cannabis alters your mind state, are there qualities in yourself that make you more drawn to these effects? If you struggle with anxiety or depression, does weed help alleviate that? If you’ve had a past trauma that keeps you up at night, does weed numb the pain and help you sleep?
If you find that consuming cannabis gives you extra social and emotional benefits, you may be more vulnerable to addiction. This isn’t to say that self-medicating with cannabis means you are automatically addicted to it. However, it does put you in a more vulnerable position when stressors increase in your life if cannabis is the only way you are addressing them.
2. If you couldn’t smoke, what would you do instead?
Maybe you smoke when you get home to cool off after a long day at work. Or, maybe you prefer to smoke socially when you’re going out. However you consume marijuana, consider what would happen if you could no longer smoke. If you discovered that you were getting drug tested for a new job and had to quit, what would you do instead?
Maybe you’d watch Netflix or play video games or meditate instead. Or, maybe you would turn to a different substance. The key is to wonder whether you can be without the substance or behaviors that you may be using to take over your mind or numb the pain. If you find that you are not able to manage the day’s stress without smoking or using another substance, then maybe you’re in a place where your stress level is just too high. High stress levels are a big factor in a person’s vulnerability to addiction.
If you find yourself at a loss for alternative options, or breaking promises to yourself to try these other options, you might begin to wonder if your relationship with cannabis is problematic.
3. Are there any negative consequences as a result of your smoking?
You might find yourself in a situation where weed is getting in the way of things you hope to accomplish. For example, have there been financial or legal consequences as a result of your smoking?
Or you might find that smoking impacts your relationships. Do you find yourself hesitating to reach out or spending less time with the people that you care about? Maybe you notice that you only keep in touch with other people who smoke.
Has pot reduced the quality of your work? Maybe a career isn’t that important to you and you prefer to focus on something else. Or, maybe you find that there an incompatibility between the kind of work you’re doing and the amount that you’d like to smoke.
If you have an internal dialogue debating whether or not you should smoke less, notice what it’s saying. Think about your own goals and whether or not your consumption is getting in the way. A negative consequence is what YOU consider to be negative, and your intuition can help you determine what that is.
All these questions are meant as entry points to reflect on multiple aspects of your life and the role that weed plays in it. These can be helpful regardless of whether you’re using it recreationally or medicinally.
Maybe you answer these questions and find that you are totally fine with the way you use it and the way it impacts other aspects of your life. Or, maybe you answer these questions and discover that something doesn’t sit right. You have an instinct, and it’s all about tapping into it.
Your answers to these questions may shift over time. It’s never a bad idea to take a moment and just check in with yourself. And if you do determine, now or ever, that there’s something you’d like to change in your relationship with a substance, notice any judgment coming up. Self-knowledge is empowering.
So, this 4/20 and beyond, remember to stay safe and stay curious!