Let me just go on record as not having any strong feelings about cannabis use and the issue of legalization.
The great majority of alcoholics and addicts that I’ve worked with over the years have at least tried it, and many have been regular users since age 12 or 13. By the time I encounter them, in their 20’s or 30’s or 40’s, their attitudes about cannabis and its use are pretty much set in stone. I can point out some things they may not have known, but that’s about it. Nothing I say is going to scare them away from it.
Nonetheless, I know that cannabis often plays an important role in how they respond to addiction treatment.
That’s because so many arrive in treatment having identified themselves as having a problem with alcohol or a stimulant or an opioid, but not as somebody who needs to worry about smoking pot.
You hear it over and over: “Well, of course I use cannabis, but it’s never been a problem.” They mean they’ve never been arrested for smoking grass, or missed work or run their car off the road because they were under the influence of cannabis.
Translation: I see no reason not to continue to use it in future.
This is an issue because continued cannabis use often contributes to relapse.
Here’s how it happens: You’re stoned one afternoon or evening, feeling good, and you think, why not upgrade this a bit? Maybe a couple of those beers that I left in the fridge, or maybe go next door and see if Rodney still has some of that skunk weed left from the weekend… nothing dramatic, y’know? Just refine the buzz a bit.
And then there’s the slippery slope: I smoked dope and nothing bad happened. I’ve learned a lot. Maybe now I’ll know how to stay in control. Only one way to find out– experiment.
And if we do get away with it– if we are able to stop after a couple beers and/or a few hits on the bong– it just reinforces the conclusion that we can do it again.
But all too often, it’s just the beginning of a repeat cycle.
Loss of control is almost impossible to comprehend unless you’ve experienced it firsthand. But if you’ve been down that road, making repeated attempts to control use or to stop and stay stopped, only to fall flat, you should eventually realize that what works for others just doesn’t work for you. It might have in the past, but no longer.
Which is why so many people in recovery avoid a whole range of substances, rather than just the ones they had a problem with. It’s not because a counselor advises it. It’s based on experience.