Can you use marijuana in Narcotics Anonymous?
January 13, 2009 2:23 PM   Subscribe

Can you use smoke marijuana and still be considered "sober" in Narcotics Anonymous?

I have a friend who has battled crack addiction for years. Recently (she says) she has going to Narcotics Anonymous and will show a NA sobriety keyring to anyone without any prompting. Also recently, she also has been smoking marijuana like a fiend, and will be restless until some weed can be scored somewhere.

I don't care about the marijuana use - given the alternatives, I would be delighted if she was nothing more than a pothead.

I just wonder if she is fooling herself, or me, or the program when she is combining weed with NA. Given her history (which includes unfortunately a lot of lying), I'm not sure what to think.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (20 answers total)
Well, a quick look at Wikipedia has some quotes from the NA Basic Text:

The only requirement for membership is "a desire to stop using," and members "meet regularly to help each other stay clean," where "clean" is defined as complete abstinence from all mood and mind altering substances (including alcohol).

So, no.
posted by meerkatty at 2:37 PM on January 13, 2009

Absolutely not. Marijuana is a drug. Using drugs makes you not sober, and therefore not "clean" in the eyes of NA. However, it sure as hell beats smoking crack. If your friend has a drug problem, trading one drug for another is only going to perpetuate the addiction. Maybe she should work on becoming "addicted" to something positive like exercise, community service, school, etc.

Yes, I have been to NA. Didn't work so well for me, mainly because of my similar addiction to the devil weed :)
posted by sacrifix at 2:38 PM on January 13, 2009

I think she's fooling herself and you. From everything I've seen there are just some people with addictive personalities that will always find something to abuse: cigarettes, pot, alcohol, other drugs.

The description of "smoking marijuana like a fiend, and will be restless until some weed can be scored somewhere" certainly in no way sounds like a person who is sober.

And you know what? That's cool. As you note there are worse things than being a pothead and if abusing pot means she'll not abuse harder drugs then great for her and hopefully she doesn't fall back into the others.
posted by 6550 at 2:41 PM on January 13, 2009

Can you consume caffeine/nicotine while in AA? Totally mood altering substances.
posted by xmutex at 3:02 PM on January 13, 2009

She is absolutely fooling herself. Yippie yay for her for scaling back on her drugs, but a pothead is not classified as sober in NA.
posted by CwgrlUp at 3:18 PM on January 13, 2009

Uh... no. And in the context of fellowship, a program that practices brutal honesty - no way Jose.

Depending on your state and availability of medical prescriptions though, this may eventually have an impact on how pot smoking is perceived in 12 step programs.

Can you consume caffeine/nicotine while in...

These substances are not illegal for adults. In the context of fellowship it's a matter of personal choice. More often, group conscious chooses non-smoking meetings and individuals are finding that nicotine in particular is a very intense mood changer.
posted by uhom at 3:40 PM on January 13, 2009

xmutex, it depends on the group. Usually, the answer is yes to both, though some restrict one or the other (or both) at meetings. FWIW, I've never heard of an AA or NA group restricting caffeine or nicotine outside of meetings.
posted by terpia at 3:43 PM on January 13, 2009

What? No, of course she can't. Marijuana is a narcotic. If she's turning up baked to her Narcotics Anonymous meetings, she's doing it wrong. Giving up bourbon in favour of beer doesn't make you less of an alcoholic.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:45 PM on January 13, 2009

Can you consume caffeine/nicotine while in AA? Totally mood altering substances.

- These substances are not illegal for adults.

Neither here nor there. AA demands that you want to stop drinking - not that you want to stop altering your mood or breaking the law.

I've never heard of an AA meeting without a large pot of coffee. And there are separate non-smoking meetings for a reason.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:47 PM on January 13, 2009

What terpia said. Really, it's between you and your conscience (and your sponsor) though if you show up reeking of pot smoke you aren't helping your fellow NA-ers' sobriety and most folks are going to take a pretty dim view of it.

Some hardliner old guys claim you need to re-set your sobriety date every time you take prescription pain meds, anti-depressants, etc. regardless of your situation.

The more sane of the NA folks I know are more rational about it, and view absolutes as just as insane as addiction.

Walking the middle ground is what sponsors are there to help you do.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:51 PM on January 13, 2009

Not that it's either here nor there, since NA encompasses addiction to a lot of kinds of drugs, but I don't believe marijuana is a narcotic.

There is Marijuana Anonymous, though, if she's ever interested, and gets sick of meetings overrun by tweakers, who are a pretty different set.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:53 PM on January 13, 2009

From the Narcotics Anonymous website:
"NA is a nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem. We … meet regularly to help each other stay clean. ... We are not interested in what or how much you used ... but only in what you want to do about your problem and how we can help."
No, you can not be using any drugs and be clean since there is no predefined list of which drugs are or aren't problematic. From the language used surrounding NA, I'm gathering you could have an addiction to NyQuil and get help from meetings if you had a serious problem and were trying to get clean.

More explicitly: In Narcotics Anonymous, members are encouraged to comply with complete abstinence from all drugs including alcohol.

This isn't hard to find, the info is on the website. Your friend is in denial, which is totally common for someone trying to get clean.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:02 PM on January 13, 2009

I'm going out on a limb here, since I know nothing about her, but I wouldn't be too surprised if her sponsor starts suggesting she get professional help to treat whatever it is she's been self-medicating for. (Google "dual diagnosis.") This might not apply to crack, but as I understand it, a lot of people get addicted to street drugs in an attempt to combat depression, bi-polar, anxiety, ADD, whathaveyou, though they probably don't articulate it that way at the time.

On the other hand, if she has a hardliner NA-er for a sponsor, she might be getting the message that even prescription therapeutic meds, for lack of a better word, are the gateway to despair, death, jail, blah blah blah.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:04 PM on January 13, 2009

I agree that smoking pot is better than other, harder drugs, but she is still addicted. Some people smoke pot and that's fine, just like some people drink alcohol. When you get the shakes and (key word) need to get more of it then you're addicted. NA and AA deal with substance abuse and addiction, so if she can't go without then I'd advise you talking to her about it. I don't think calling her a poser is going to help, but it might be helpful to point out that she's not using anymore, she's abusing.

You can abuse all sorts of things, too. Have you heard of addictions to nasal sprays? The substance doesn't even need to be mind altering to be harmful.
posted by big open mouth at 4:56 PM on January 13, 2009

I believe this is what I once heard a friend scoff at as "the marijuana maintenance program". (In other words, not considered "clean and sober".)
posted by availablelight at 6:21 PM on January 13, 2009

Marijuana is a narcotic.

Minor point, but for clarification: No, it's not. Marijuana is classified as a hallucinogen; it's not a member of the narcotic family.
posted by mediareport at 6:55 PM on January 13, 2009

The "what's a narcotic" issue is a derail, it is not germane. Marijuana use is definitely not considered sobriety in NA. And your friend knows this, and is surely being exposed to recovering heavy pot users if she is going to meetings. People using and in denial while in groups is not exactly the exceptional case: it is par for the course in a group composed of addicts. Indeed the attitude is often that a person is better off going to meetings even if they are still using.

It is worth worrying about your friend because serious addicts often use softer or more acceptable drugs like pot or drinking as bridges between periods of abusing harder drugs, but the issue of whether or not it is acceptable for NA is probably not something you need to worry about. You could ask her if she ever talks to her sponsor about her pot use if you feel like having an argument (probably).
posted by nanojath at 8:43 PM on January 13, 2009

Hallucinogen is a terrible classification anyway (most of the drugs ever labeled as such do not produce actual hallucinations), and I think you'll find a fair amount of debate even among the terms proponents as to whether or not marijuana belongs in it. There is very little consensus about what sort of drug it is. Intoxicant; Stimulant; Psychedelic; Depressant; all of these labels could be accurately applied, and while narcotic is not a popular term for cannabis, some of the heavier indica strains certainly have narcotizing effects.

To address the question though, there are people in NA for marijuana, so I think it goes without saying that it is not a substance the hypocritical caffeine/nicotine allowing dogma will permit.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 8:43 PM on January 13, 2009

The "what's a narcotic" issue is a derail, it is not germane.

Yeah, you're right. I apologize for being pedantic; NA obviously uses "narcotic" in a fairly loose way that includes lots of drugs in different classifications, and turgid dahlia's point is pretty clear. That said, the folks in NA I've known (I used to work at a place that was a hangout for people in recovery) have varied widely in their approach to things like this, as small_ruminant mentioned above.

Is your friend at least being honest about her pot smoking with her sponsor?
posted by mediareport at 9:25 PM on January 13, 2009

This often comes up in AA also. When someone mentions this phenomenon, I often hear a chuckle roll through the crowd, as if to say, "Oh, honey, how silly you were when you were newly sober. We're glad you're over that now." If she's serious about kicking the crack, then I suspect she will be induced by others in the program to give up the pot eventually so that she can truly commit to staying clean.

Just a side-note: If you're thinking that maybe you should be the one to tell her that she's deluding herself, I'd skip it. Things like this always sounds best coming from other addicts, who can share their own experiences. (And as I said, chances are she's already hearing this at meetings.) If you're curious about how to help her and not enable what you see as self-destructive behavior, you might check out an Al Anon meeting.
posted by greekphilosophy at 9:57 AM on January 14, 2009

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