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America’s Invisible Pot Addicts

By Eric Holder follow Eric Holder   2018 Dec 28, 5:38pm 1,297 views   11 comments   watch   nsfw   quote   share    

More and more Americans are reporting near-constant cannabis use, as legalization forges ahead.

Annie Lowrey
Contributing editor at The Atlantic covering economic policy

The proliferation of retail boutiques in California did not really bother him, Evan told me, but the billboards did. Advertisements for delivery, advertisements promoting the substance for relaxation, for fun, for health. “Shop. It’s legal.” “Hello marijuana, goodbye hangover.” “It’s not a trigger,” he told me. “But it is in your face.”

When we spoke, he had been sober for a hard-fought seven weeks: seven weeks of sleepless nights, intermittent nausea, irritability, trouble focusing, and psychological turmoil. There were upsides, he said, in terms of reduced mental fog, a fatter wallet, and a growing sense of confidence that he could quit. “I don’t think it’s a ‘can’ as much as a ‘must,’” he said.

Evan, who asked that his full name not be used for fear of professional repercussions, has a self-described cannabis-use disorder. If not necessarily because of legalization, but alongside legalization, such problems are becoming more common: The share of adults with one has doubled since the early aughts, as the share of cannabis users who consume it daily or near-daily has jumped nearly 50 percent—all “in the context of increasingly permissive cannabis legislation, attitudes, and lower risk perception,” as the National Institutes of Health put it.

Public-health experts worry about the increasingly potent options available, and the striking number of constant users. “Cannabis is potentially a real public-health problem,” said Mark A. R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at New York University. “It wasn’t obvious to me 25 years ago, when 9 percent of self-reported cannabis users over the last month reported daily or near-daily use. I always was prepared to say, ‘No, it’s not a very abusable drug. Nine percent of anybody will do something stupid.’ But that number is now [something like] 40 percent.” They argue that state and local governments are setting up legal regimes without sufficient public-health protection, with some even warning that the country is replacing one form of reefer madness with another, careening from treating cannabis as if it were as dangerous as heroin to treating it as if it were as benign as kombucha.

But cannabis is not benign, even if it is relatively benign, compared with alcohol, opiates, and cigarettes, among other substances. Thousands of Americans are finding their own use problematic in a climate where pot products are getting more potent, more socially acceptable to use, and yet easier to come by, not that it was particularly hard before.

For Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, the most compelling evidence of the deleterious effects comes from users themselves. “In large national surveys, about one in 10 people who smoke it say they have a lot of problems. They say things like, ‘I have trouble quitting. I think a lot about quitting and I can’t do it. I smoked more than I intended to. I neglect responsibilities.’ There are plenty of people who have problems with it, in terms of things like concentration, short-term memory, and motivation,” he said. “People will say, ‘Oh, that’s just you fuddy-duddy doctors.’ Actually, no. It’s millions of people who use the drug who say that it causes problems.”

Users or former users I spoke with described lost jobs, lost marriages, lost houses, lost money, lost time. Foreclosures and divorces. Weight gain and mental-health problems. And one other thing: the problem of convincing other people that what they were experiencing was real. A few mentioned jokes about Doritos, and comments implying that the real issue was that they were lazy stoners. Others mentioned the common belief that you can be “psychologically” addicted to pot, but not “physically” or “really” addicted. The condition remains misunderstood, discounted, and strangely invisible, even as legalization and white-marketization pitches ahead.
Evan started off smoking with his friends when they were playing sports or video games, lighting up to chill out after his nine-to-five as a paralegal at a law office. But that soon became couch-lock, and he lost interest in working out, going out, doing anything with his roommates. Then came a lack of motivation and the slow erosion of ambition, and law school moving further out of reach. He started smoking before work and after work. Eventually, he realized it was impossible to get through the day without it. “I was smoking anytime I had to do anything boring, and it took a long time before I realized that I wasn’t doing anything without getting stoned,” he said.

His first attempts to reduce his use went miserably, as the consequences on his health and his life piled up. He gained nearly 40 pounds, he said, when he stopped working out and cooking his own food at home. He recognized that he was just barely getting by at work, and was continually worried about getting fired. Worse, his friends were unsympathetic to the idea that he was struggling and needed help. “[You have to] try to convince someone that something that is hurting you is hurting you,” he said.

Other people who found their use problematic or had managed to quit, none of whom wanted to use their names, described similar struggles and consequences. “I was running two companies at the time, and fitting smoking in between running those companies. Then, we sold those companies and I had a whole lot of time on my hands,” one other former cannabis user told me. “I just started sitting around smoking all the time. And things just came to a halt. I was in terrible shape. I was depressed.”
Perhaps most important might be reintroducing some reasonable skepticism about cannabis, especially until scientists have a better sense of the health effects of high-potency products, used frequently. Until then, listening to and believing the hundreds of thousands of users who argue marijuana is not always benign might be a good start.
1   rd6B   ignore (1)   2018 Dec 28, 5:39pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

we need MOAR government offices and rules
2   cmdrda2leak   ignore (0)   2018 Dec 28, 5:51pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

... eh. You can blame the pot, but all that it is doing to the people complaining in this article is making them feel okay about being bored.

Feeling okay about being bored too often might be counterproductive if you're in a place where you need to be getting your life together, for example if you're a teenager or unemployed.

If you have your life together, you realize that moments of boredom are a lovely, tranquil gift and a nice break from the business of Getting Shit Done most of the day. That's where pot is a nice seasoning to enhance the enjoyment of that downtime.

Pot isn't causing depression for these people, lack of meaning and the satisfaction of accomplishment is. Take out the trash, do something useful for someone else, plan for the future. Then, reward yourself with a joint and a hot bath.
3   Onvacation   ignore (6)   2018 Dec 28, 6:08pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

cmdrdataleak says

Pot isn't causing depression for these people, lack of meaning and the satisfaction of accomplishment is. Take out the trash, do something useful for someone else, plan for the future. Then, reward yourself with a joint and a hot bath.

Clean your room!
4   HEYYOU   ignore (46)   2018 Dec 28, 6:24pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Onvacation says
Clean your room!

Got me! That's some funny stuff!
5   willywonka   ignore (4)   2018 Dec 28, 6:29pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Substitute food, money, porn, religion etc. for pot in the above story.
6   Ceffer   ignore (4)   2018 Dec 28, 6:36pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Does pot make women hornier or less horny? That's the only meaningful metric.
7   FortWayneIndiana   ignore (3)   2018 Dec 28, 6:58pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Onvacation says
Clean your room!

Got me! That's some funny stuff!

Now go clean it.
8   Malcolm   ignore (1)   2018 Dec 29, 9:11am     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Ceffer says
Does pot make women hornier or less horny? That's the only meaningful metric.

I've known both types. So, some do and some don't is the answer. The some do's are keepers.
9   Malcolm   ignore (1)   2018 Dec 29, 9:18am     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

I see almost no downside to pot use at all. I would feel perfectly comfortable knowing my air traffic controller had rewarded himself with a good night's sleep the night before, especially given the alternatives.

People go through phases. I indulge about half of what I used to. I find I am far more motivated to take a creative challenge and ponder, and during emotional stress and even physical pain, it really turns life's noise volume down.
10   Ceffer   ignore (4)   2018 Dec 29, 1:22pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

If they were invisible, 80 percent of Santa Cruz population would disappear.
11   Patrick   ignore (1)   2018 Dec 29, 3:39pm     ↓ dislike (0)   quote   flag        

Ceffer says
Does pot make women hornier or less horny? That's the only meaningful metric.

Hornier, in my experience so far, but more research is needed.

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