Marijuana In Recovery — Why Not?

“If caffeine and nicotine are accepted in the program, and they are both mood-altering substances, how come weed isn't? Pretty soon doctors will be able to prescribe it. They already can prescribe it in some states.”

Most drugs are useful and manageable when properly prescribed and used, but history has made it clear that such is often not the case. Doctors can prescribe Oxycontin, and you can buy beer at the gas station. However, legality has absolutely nothing to do with addiction. (And it has never been shown that doctors are the best source of ideas for staying sober, except in the very rare cases when they are specifically trained to treat addiction.)

The First Step reads, “We admitted we were powerless over (alcohol) (our addictions) – that our lives had become unmanageable.” It doesn't say and that our lives had become unmanageable. Our lives were unmanageable because we were powerless over a drug.

There are many different kinds of mood-altering substances. Some are clearly problems, some less so, some aren't problems at all, and some are problematic over such long periods that we tend to think they're not major issues. Nicotine is an excellent example. Tobacco products are the number-one preventable cause of death in the world, yet the next cigarette, cigar, chew or dip isn't likely to be the one that kills us – as far as we can know. Obviously there is, at some point, a level of exposure that makes the difference, but we can't see it and it's easy to ignore.

Denial, as they say, is not just a river in Africa. And, for the record, many treatment centers no longer permit nicotine use during treatment and strongly encourage newcomers to quit smoking. Their position is that an addiction is an addiction, and that we are either ready to be clean or we are not. While nicotine may be an “outside issue” in AA, it certainly isn't in NA, but in both cases the fellowships take the position that the drugs with the most serious immediate effects need to take priority, and experience has shown that to be the case. No fellowship that I know of, however, has ever stated that they believe nicotine to be harmless.

Caffeine, in anything like reasonable quantities (200-250 mg. a day, not five energy drinks), is unlikely to make our lives unmanageable. Small quantities, in fact, are now believed to be good for us, especially if gotten from brewed coffee.

Drugs like alcohol, opioids, barbiturates, benzodiazepines and – yes – weed, are a different story. All have been shown, in repeated scientific studies that have been published in reputable scientific journals for the review of any expert who wishes to challenge them, to have both short-term and long-term effects that can negatively affect both users and the people around them.

Marijuana works on the same pathways in the brain as other drugs of abuse. As long as those pathways are kept active, the brain cannot make the repairs that allow long-term recovery to be successful. From that standpoint alone, there is no place for marijuana in recovery.  Nicotine works in a slightly different way, and does not seem to impair recovery as much.  However, recent research has indicated that it may have more undesirable effects than has been believed.

From an overall point of view, consider that the purpose of recovery is to learn to live a healthy, productive life without the crutch of drugs – to face life on life's terms, to learn to live, love and prosper in a healthy way, and fit into the rest of society.

There are many things that can block that progress, from eating disorders to sexual obsessions, shopping, gaming and any other activity that can be used – to excess – to keep us from having to deal with life.  When we depart from our purpose of living life on life's terms, and need to use things outside ourselves to make us feel good, we are not truly in recovery.  The exception, obviously, are medications such as antidepressants, which do not affect the brain in the same way as drugs of abuse.

Sobriety is about getting sober. Either you're on board that flight, or you're not.

No Comment — Marijuana Use And Stroke

Marijuana, the most widely used illicit drug, may double stroke risk in young adults, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2013.

Research on drug use goes down the toilet

Analysis Of Waste Water May Be The Key To
Determining Community Drug Use

Sewers don’t lie. People may be less than forthright about what they put into their bodies, especially if that includes illicit drugs, but a chemical analysis of what comes out of their bodies removes all mystery. According to drug and addiction researchers, analysing wastewater for remnants of illicit substances provides the only truly objective indicator of drug use patterns in a community.

“Whatever you think about drugs, people need to have objective data so they can at least have an informed discussion,” says Caleb Banta-Green, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute in Seattle.

(Sorry… the rest of the article was removed from the internet. Sigh.)

Just Two Non-Blaming Talks With Teens Can Reduce Marijuana Use

According to researchers at the University of Washington and Virginia Tech, just one brief voluntary discussion with an adult reduced teenagers' use of marijuana by up to 20 percent.  The research was carried out among frequent users who, after hearing the program explained, volunteered to be interviewed.

The researchers report that many of the teens had concerns about their marijuana use, frequency of use, and the overall effects it might have on their lives, but were not sharing them with family or friends because of imagined peer pressure and the reactions of family members.  They stated that the response was overwhelmingly positive among those interviewed, and that it seemed to be due to the non-blaming opportunity to air their questions with people who clearly knew what they were talking about.  The program was designed “to attract people who aren't ready for a full treatment, but are interested in having a conversation with a professional trained to discuss concerns with substance use.”

The report goes on to say that the most reduction came from motivational interviews where the teens discussed their use with the interviewers, and explored potential problems that might occur because of the physical and emotional effects of smoking.  This achieved an average 20% reduction over a 60-day period (from an average of 40 days of use out of 60 days to 32 out of 60 days), and the reduction still held at about 15% after one year.  The other approach, an educational interview that used PowerPoint presentations to present factual information about marijuana use, showed an 11% overall drop at the end of one year.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Drug abuse costs rival those of chronic diseases

Drug abuse in the US (not including alcohol) costs the economy $193 billion a year, according to a new report.  That figure equals or exceeds the cost of chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Read about it…

Strength? We don’t need no stinkin’ strength!

Nowadays I hear a lot of folks saying (to recovering people) things like “You’re so strong!” and “Be strong!”  I hear newcomers say “I pray for the strength to beat my addiction,” and other stuff like that.  While I understand the thinking behind such remarks (all too well), there are a few comments I’d like to make.

One of the first things we need to learn in recovery is our powerlessness.  We are powerless when it comes to our addictions as long as we are using our drugs of choice, and for some time afterward. If this were not true, we’d simply quit and no one would ever relapse.  The only strength we need is the strength to admit that unpleasant fact, accept it, and listen to people who know what they’re talking about — since we obviously don’t.

That does require a certain amount of guts.  We addicts and codependents hate to admit that we aren’t in control. In fact, though, weren’t most of our problems based on our illusions of control:  controlling our drinking or other drugging; controlling our addicts; controlling our kids; getting everything just right and then having it welded, as a friend of mine used to say?  (He was talking about tuning his 12-string, but the remark is so addict!)

When we have the strength to admit that we’ve lost control, that we’re whipped, that we can’t go on, then we have finally reached the point where recovery is possible. Without that realization of powerlessness, recovery is unlikely, if not impossible.  That’s why I worry when I hear folks speaking in terms of “strength.”  When we think that way, we are in danger of becoming convinced that we are no longer powerless, that we can control our using and keep it “social” this time, that he really isn’t a  rotten wife-beating s.o.b. when he’s drinking, that if we just took Muffy in off the street and give her a clean place to sleep, she’ll realize that she’s much better off and will quit using those nasty drugs.

In early recovery we don’t have much power, if any. We don’t need strength, we need the humility to learn from others the things that we were unable to learn on our own: how to handle our urges, our relationships, our jobs, our spiritual growth — in short, how to live lives of sobriety.  Then, after we’ve gone a good distance in that direction and our bodies and minds have begun to recover from the beating we gave them for all those months or years — at that point we begin having some power over our addictions.  As long as we don’t use.

Addiction is like a rattlesnake.  I can pick it up and haul it around wherever I please — all day long, if I like.  That’s strength.  But if I get careless, that’s when I find out what powerlessness is all about.

The Effects Of Pot Can Linger A Long Time After Getting Clean

I get a lot of letters on a personal site regarding an article I wrote about Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).  It’s one of the primary causes of relapse, and a subject that is poorly-covered in a lot of treatment facilities.  Because there's also very little about it on the Internet, the article gets a lot of traffic.

PAWS refers to a collection of symptoms, related to the use of alcohol and other drugs, that continue for quite some time after we get clean and sober.  It’s too complex to go into in detail here, but suffice it to say that it can be the cause of a lot of discomfort and — if not dealt with constructively — can often lead to circumstances where it seems as though we might as well use, since we’re so miserable anyway.

I bring this up because I ran across another article, rhapsodizing about the benefits of smoking marijuana, that totally ignored the downside.  I find that extremely annoying.  While it may be true that it is no more harmful than alcohol, that’s begging the issue since alcohol can be horribly destructive.  So I offer the following letter for your consideration, along with my reply. [Read more…]