Marijuana? Is it just an herb?

The marijuana subject is always controversial. Will it be more or less so than my last column? Even alcoholics in recovery sometimes have a hard time understanding that getting high on anything is getting high. You can eat, snort, shoot or smoke your alcohol and drugs and your brain does not know the difference. The fact that you don't get a hangover, or that nobody knows, is immaterial. Loaded is loaded.

Why not smoke/eat this herb? Why spend much of your life stoned? Is your life really so bad that you cannot tolerate reality? Are you so boring that you cannot live in your head without using a mind altering substance? I hear you countering with, "I just like to be stoned; I can stop any time I want." Anyone can stop, but can you stop starting?

Here's what happens when you are constantly loaded: you cover feelings with the drug, even if it is the "natural herb." Opium is, by the way, "natural", from the poppy. Remember? "Poppies make you sleepy." Why not just use Heroin since it's natural, just like marijuana? By using an external substance to change how you feel, you don't get to deal with reality. Never mind external reality, what about your internal reality? Some of the stuff we learn going through life, hopefully in younger years if we are not stoned all the time, includes appropriate handling of...life...of conflicts, communications, relationships, feelings, thoughts, wins, losses and more. We get to grow, emotionally, spiritually and in our ability to handle different situations in functional and constructive ways. We learn that sadness, anger, fear, joy and all their subgroups are all just feelings. We don't have to alter them to survive. In fact, we can feel good about dealing with them, learning that the depth with which we can feel pain is comparable to the height with which we can feel happiness. We don't have to accentuate our positive or diminish our negative; we can just be in reality and be present in our lives now.

Of particular importance is that the human brain continues to develop, physiologically, until our mid twenties. If we are using chemicals, we stunt that growth.

In addition to impairing the physical development of our brains, we stay stuck emotionally at whatever age we were when we begin drug use. Ever see a thirty year old act like a twelve year old? He is a child in an adult body, not just playing around, but seriously unable to deal with reality. (Some twelve year olds are actually quite mature, but are not equipped with enough experience to deal with adult situations.) If he has been stunting his emotional growth for fifteen or twenty years with marijuana, our thirty year old does not have the adult skills to handle life on life's terms.

So here is your argument: "It's my life and I'll do what I want." ( The Animals, from the sixties...you are not the first one to think of this line). What I am pointing out is what your coping mechanisms do and do not get you. What kind of life do you want? Most stoners are under performing at work or school. Most have problems with meaningful intimate relationships and waste large chunks of time doing nothing but existing (kind of a purposeless life). If you want solutions to the above, begin by looking at your need for weed.

Oh, and this little detail, marijuana is still illegal in this country. Don't like the law? Many don't. Not liking a law does not mean you are invited to just ignore it if you are interested in being a responsible "law abiding" citizen...which, of course, you may not be. You get to decide how you want to live your life and, perhaps more importantly for those of you who are parents, you get to decide what you want to teach your children. If you are doing something you have to keep secret from anyone, including law enforcement, or your children, you are teaching that disregarding the law is okay with you. If you are regularly stoned, you probably do want to teach your children to ignore any law they do not like. Hmmm. Careful, it may backfire. Get ready to visit your kid in jail.

Dr. Dawn Obrecht is the only MD addiction medicine specialist on the western slope of Colorado. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and her office is in Steamboat Springs. She teaches a communication course to medical students at the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver info@docdawn.com.


 

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