Cannabis Use, Abuse and Addiction, pt. 2

As is usually the case with any substance abuse, there is an underlying problem that causes use to become abuse, and abuse to eventually become an addiction. It happens all the time with the more commonly available and much more dangerous substances like alcohol and prescription medications, not to mention tobacco. And then there are the many other legal things that people get addicted to. Are we to create a law for every thing that people are likely to do in detriment to their own self? That would be a long list, and who gets to decide what’s safe and what isn’t.

A close friend of mine worked with a man who was addicted to his bicycling. Yes, addicted. He rode, and rode and rode, many miles a day and claimed that if he didn’t he would suffer. He couldn’t stop. His doctor told him he had to cool it down or risk harm to his body. He wouldn’t listen and ended up crippled and needing a hip replacement in both hips, which finally put an end to his bike riding days. He is certainly not one of a kind in this addiction. There are lots of people who get too extreme with fitness, to their detriment instead of betterment. Another friend of mine was addicted to gambling, and two more were addicted to shopping, both with disastrous outcomes.sad face and oills

I have three close friends who became addicted to pain killers of various sorts. One eventually lost his job and disappeared from our lives. One other went through treatment and stopped, but only to end up years later back in the same place with this addiction continuing today. The last one wound up divorced, but did stop using prescription pain killers altogether and has decided to grow his own medication. All of them were under a doctor’s care when they became addicted, and all of them refused surgery, (or more surgeries), which is their right. They were all legal addicts.

Enter the alcohol. It’s totally legal to be addicted to alcohol, and as a pain reliever I can speak from experience, alcohol really can be superb. The fact that it’s legal and available accounts for the large number of people in chronic pain who become alcoholics. It’s easy to get and does the job, but also has disastrous effects. How many of these people could have found relief in medical cannabis if it was available as an alternative? I think, a lot. In fact, I’d venture so far as to say that if cannabis was legal, regulated and available, there would be a lot less of all other substance addiction. And apparently I may be correct, because in the Netherlands, where there is no war on drugs, and cannabis is only mildly regulated, and treatment for addiction takes precedence over incarceration, there are many, many less substance addicts per capita than in the United States.

So looking back at the last post and this one about people I’ve know with addictions, I know only one person in all my life that I can say was addicted to cannabis, and is wasn’t because of his recreational use, but because he truly needed an anodyne from his uncontrollable, intolerable and painful home situation. Everyone wants a cure for pain, be it mental or physical pain. And many people find that cure with marijuana. Is it for everyone? Probably not.

But is there truly no harm in using marijuana? Harm to the lungs has been overcome with the use of edible cannabis products and vaporizers. As far as addiction to marijuana, I prefer to call that more of a dependency than an addiction, because there is no real physical withdrawal as with heroin, morphine, cocaine, prescriptions like oxycontin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, pregabalin, prozac, gabapentin, duloxetin, zoloft and hundreds more other perfectly legal over-prescribed, overused mass marketed drugs that are pushed on desperate people especially in America.

Happy face and cannabis leafAs far as my own use of cannabis as my pain drug of choice, I feel that if I am dependent so be it, and call me an addict if that floats your boat, but because my condition is incurable and my only option is to just “manage” it,  cannabis is still the safest choice I’ve got. No one has ever died from an overdosed of cannabis. Ever. I’ve searched everywhere I’m able, and can only determine this is a well known fact. CNN’s Sanjay Gupta looked too, and came up with the same conclusion, so if you don’t believe me, ask him.

Are the people using marijuana daily to manage their spasticity from any of many debilitating diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, addicts? Are the people using marijuana daily to overcome the pain and sickness from cancer and cancer treatments addicts? Are those who manage PTSD with cannabis in order to be able to work or enjoy time with their loved ones addicts? Is everyone who chooses marijuana to relax, every week or every day, at risk of becoming an addict? Where does it start and where does it end?

psych_officeFor people who feel they have a unhealthy dependency on cannabis that is causing trouble in their life, I suggest a change in behavior, (cut back or quit), and if that works for you, fabulous. If not, seek out a therapist to see if you are using cannabis to mask another issue. It’s your choice, just as using is.

As more research becomes available we will all better know the extent of any harm that can come from cannabis use. So far there’s not much for prohibitionists to latch onto, so they will use stories like the one I told. They pick these stories apart and blow up condensed versions to huge proportions to try and scare any of the general public that are still sitting on the proverbial fence about whether marijuana should be legalized in any form. The proponents of medical cannabis use will continue to speak from experience and attest that for many, many, people, this humble plant has saved lives, cured disease, made unbearable illnesses bearable, and has given people the ability to lead normal lives despite their maladies.

When considering using cannabis for whatever reason, you must either learn to ignore what the prohibitionists say or delve further into the research that is available yourself to determine what the truth is. There is great momentum in our country right now for legalization. The groups involved in this push for reform are doing so for various reasons and with different agendas, but they are all united in one goal – their belief that marijuana is not as dangerous as hundreds of legal substances, and that its prohibition is doing the country and its people more harm than good.




  1. I use cannabis to manage chronic pain from peripheral neuropathy and trigeminal neuralgia. I also used it to end my addiction to fentanyl, Flexeril, hydrocodone, and all the other pharmaceutical drugs the doctors had me hooked on. My pain is much better managed now using the same dose I have been using since the beginning and I really don’t care if I’m addicted or not. It’s even helped me get rid of most of the side effects the other drugs caused. Like you I use it to manage my condition and I don’t expect a cure from it.

  2. Great insights into concerns to look out for when indulging, medically or even recreationally. Dependency is certainly possible, and that possibility is only exacerbated by a belief that it isn’t. Thanks for sharing.

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