Marijuana tends to be disassociated with the conventional spectrum of drugs in today’s society. Certainly we can agree that cocaine, ecstasy, and heroine are drugs and thus highly addictive and dangerous. But can marijuana be mentioned in the same breath as these drugs? It is not my point nor belief to disagree that marijuana is a drug that can be addictive. I place strong emphasis however on the fact that physical dependency is not nearly as common as psychological dependency among marijuana users.
As I attempt to present the psychological effects of marijuana, we must first consider the concept of being psychologically dependant. When you are dependant upon something, you are not necessarily unable to do without it. Rather, you begin to rely on it. That is not to say that dependency is not addiction because I do believe dependency is a form of addiction. However, marijuana does not cause the same physical withdrawal symptoms as with drugs that are considered addictive. Drugs, such as crack and heroine require extreme measures to break the body’s dependency or addiction. This is the conventional understanding of what constitutes an addiction to a drug. Given the information that marijuana use lacks the ability for the body to develop a physical addiction in the vast majority of individuals, the concept of psychological addiction (dependency) becomes clearer.
Anything psychological is understood to relate specifically to the mind and thinking. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that psychological dependency is a set of thought processes or is even thought about at all. In fact I feel that this dependency is mostly subconscious and not a set of thought processes. “Marijuana, then, produces a psychic dependency in the user which impels him to the continued and frequent use of that specific drug – a dependency that is similar in important respects to actual physical addiction” (Goode, 1970, p.105).
It is important to understand why someone uses marijuana and why he or she would use it in the first place. “Millions of Americans have tried marijuana, but most are not regular users. In 1996, 68.6 million people—32%of the U.S. population over 12 years—had tried marijuana or hashish at least once in their lifetime, but only 5% were current users” (Unknown, Nov. 18, p. 6). There are several reasons why an individual would begin using marijuana and in some cases develop a dependency. One of the reasons why a user would develop a dependency is due to peer pressure “Nearly all human activities at least indirectly involve other people, and being introduced to marijuana offers no exception to this rule; in fact, marijuana use in general is exquisitely a group phenomenon” (Unknown, Nov.18). Could it be that the transition from non user to user is a result of the comfort in belonging to a group? Or is it more peer pressure than anything else? I feel that the decision to try it for the first time is directly affected by the way you feel about your peers and your connotations of the drug itself. If your circle of marijuana users are people that you respect and think highly of, then you’re a lot more likely to try it than if you looked down upon everyone you know who tried it or uses it. Once the marijuana is used for the first time a sense of openness to the drug is developed. The user then fails to realize any consequence in using it in moderation. The next thing happening is that user begins to substitute normally enjoyable occasions such as parties, as a reason to smoke and enhance the pleasure. Now the want for that enhancement becomes not so moderate.
Pleasure might be the most obvious and common factor that creates a dependency on the drug for a user. Everyone is in search of pleasure and enjoyment. This is not to say that no one is ever happy and only the use of a drug will do it. The point is that using marijuana becomes an alternate pleasure and it is this alternative to the everyday concept of pleasure that builds a dependency. You begin to depend on it when you have a problem. You use it to escape the worries of reality. Marijuana becomes that quick solution to the problem that everyone craves for. We do not want to worry about the long term, we want a quick fix and it is this that creates dependency.
The following is an interview with a marijuana user:
2.) How often do you smoke marijuana?
-“ I usually smoke marijuana at least twice a day”
3.) How long have you been smoking marijuana?
-“ I’ve been smoking for about four – five years”
-“ I began smoking because I was born with my life. I was also going through some very emotional times because of the death of a parent”
5.) Do you feel that marijuana helped you through those times?
-“ I mean, yeah, because it always made me happy when I was feeling like *censored*”
6.) Were your friends smoking it at the time?
-“ most of my friends were smoking it at the time”
7.) Did they turn you on to it? Also, did they ever pressure you to try it?
-“ Ummm, they didn’t really pressure me. I wanted to try it for my self to see what it was like.
8.) Was it enjoyable when you first started using it?
-“ The first time I smoked I had a great time…I laughed a lot. I went to a school dance and it was lots of fun”
9.) Do you think you would’ve had just as much fun if you were sober?
-“ I don’t think I would’ve even danced”
-“ cause it makes things more enjoyable”
-“ because I get to see things from a different perspective…although I am quite focused. It also helps me relax”
12.) Do you think you can stop anytime you want to?
-“ I believe I can stop smoking if certain circumstances arose, but otherwise I wouldn’t”
-“ I don’t know…. maybe if I knew that I had to take a drug test for some reason…or other circumstances arose that wouldn’t affect my future”
14.) So you could stop whenever you wanted to?
-“ yes, I think any one can quit, it just takes will power and support”
15.) Do you have any intention of quitting? Why or why not
-“ No, I don’t. It’s fun. It makes a bad day better without making the next day worse. I feel I function properly when I’m high”
16.) Do you think there is any reason why you should stop? Why or why not?
-“ at the moment I don’t think there any reasons why I should quit, but maybe later in life when responsibilities build, such as having children, that would be reason to quit. Or maybe even job responsibilities”
17.) Now, you said that you could stop through will power and support. Could you stop with will power alone?
-“ yeah, I know I could quit on my own”
18.) One final question for you. Do you think that you depend on marijuana in any circumstance or can you stop tomorrow and never be faced with a desire to do it again?
-“ no, I really don’t think I depend on it , I mean I can think of some many situations that would make me want but I could do with out it”
Even though my interviewee may not admit to himself or to me, it is obvious through my interview that he or she has a psychological dependency. Quite frankly the individual is denial. The reason he or she started was because of emotional stress and marijuana was used as a crutch. It was that quick fix that I spoke about earlier. A simple and quite temporary solution to serious problems. The individual’s use of the drug as means of pleasure is clearly evident. I asked why he or she continued and it was like I programmed the individual to say the right thing, “…it makes everything more enjoyable”(anonymous, Nov. 19,p.5). In conclusion to my research I feel I satisfied my thesis that marijuana does create a physical dependency among people who abuse it. And like any other drug abuse it leads to addiction.
Debner, C. (1985). CHEMICAL dependency. St. Paul, Minnesota: Greenhaven Press.
Goode, E. (1970). THE marijuana users. New York: Basic Books, Inc.
Anonymous. PERSONAL interview. 19 Nov. 2000.
Unknown Author. CHAPTER 3: first, do no harm: consequences of marijuana use andabuse. http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/marimed/ch3.html. (Nov. 18,2000).