Is there a way I channel my Marijuana use positively?
October 11, 2012 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way I channel my Marijuana use positively?


I was thinking long and hard about how to present this question, so I'm going to try to make it as straightforward as possible, and present all factors that contribute to my dilemma.

Until I was 21, I stayed away from alcohol or drugs of any kind because I just didn't see them as contributing to anything -- to my social life, or just personally. I like to think I survived my angsty teenage life by just channeling my frustrations into reading, studying, music, and just trying to be as "clean-cut" as possible, holding onto some vague notion I had of integrity. Oh, as you can see, I wasn't very popular. I had some close friends, but others usually agreed that I was sort of a bore to hang out with.

Alcohol entered my life in senior year of college, my closest friends pressured me once, I gave in, thought it wasn't too bad, and I've always stuck to keeping it a very 'optional' thing in my life. It's not a big deal to me at all, I never feel like I "need" a drink, I'll have one if the social situation demands it, but that's it. Though I would lie if I said I didn't like a scotch on the rocks when it's super chilly. So basically, I personally think it's never been a problem.

Come grad school, I'm 24, and one night I was feeling especially adventurous, hanging out with my very close super-hippy friend listening to some Pink Floyd (you know where this extremely cliched anecdote is going), and he asked me if why I'd never smoked weed. I remember this all very vividly because that night changed me in some ways. He said my actual personality, the one I have with my closest friends, was sort of at odds with the way I present myself to strangers. Apparently I always struck him as the type that would be "cool" with the drug use. We talked about the entire Floyd catalog, obsessed about acid folk, 60s culture, all the hippy super drug haziest things you can think of. He was right. I was "cool" with the drug use, and I LOVE counter culture and psychedelic music, but I just never thought about smoking anything. It seemed 'off' to me in some ways, I'd never even considered it because I grew up believing it to be unnecessary.

But you see, as I said above, I was feeling super adventurous that night, and said what the heck. It was a big blunt. Definitely big for a first time user. I coughed a lot, but settled into it, and chugged along, waiting for something to happen. You've probably seen this moment with countless friends, or in pop culture with any teenager experiencing their first high, it was exactly as cliched as that, only replace that person with a 24 year old. My exact thoughts at that moment were: "This feels right."

It did, it felt SO right. When the high wore off, I felt like something inside was re-arranged. It made me feel amazing, more empathetic in discussions, made me feel super clever for saying stupid shit, and all the other common tropes you can think of when you get high. It made me -- happy.

And further use through grad school only confirmed it more. It made me feel I should've rebelled more as a teenager. I felt I should relive all those years, I couldn't believe how stuck up and humorless I was. It changed me as a person. I got along so much better with people. Contrary to what I expected, it made me feel well-rounded, and motivated to do my work. I actually did better at classes and my thesis, because in some ways, I felt just way more comfortable with myself. I felt like I finally got who I was, what I wanted from life, my relationships made sense, I was more empathetic to everything and way more grounded. I wanted everything life can throw in my face and embrace it.

...and I wanted another high.

I certainly didn't think it was a first sign of dependency at the moment, because it wasn't interfering with anything. It's been just about 3 years since that first happened. I can firmly say I now have a moderate Marijuana habit. I say moderate because I go a month or two without any successfully once in a while. Anyway, but when I do stick to it, my use is limited to a joint a couple of hours before I go to sleep a few days during the week, and about 2 or 3 a day during the weekend. I've pretty much stopped drinking alcohol, I just don't need it anymore. Again, except for the rare scotch on the rocks.

So, well, I'm about 26 years old now, with a very good job in the software industry. I've never had to worry about drug tests at work. I feel like that makes me a little complacent sometimes. BUT also, I have NEVER been high at work, and I would never even consider that. My finances haven't been affected by this habit very much, though, as I keep telling myself once in a while, it's greater than zero dollars, so I am committing a portion of my life to this.

I don't want to be an addict, I've never thought about harder drugs because I know I don't need them, the sort of high I get from this feels good enough. It does remind me of the times when I wasn't into anything though, and how I ended up here; so I keep reminding myself not to go down that path. I know it's very minutely eating away at my lungs, but I tell myself I'm at least not a cigarette smoker with packs a day habit. I'm in Massachusetts where less than an ounce is decriminalized, and I never find myself in possession of more so I'm OK. In a way, I know I'm violating some law, and I haven't felt the need to explain that away to myself yet.

Girlfriend doesn't object to my drug use, my family doesn't know about it, and my friends don't care about it.

I want to place a very high priority on being a good employee, friend, and family member and it would hurt me very deeply to let this come in the way of any of that. It doesn't happen now, but I don't want it to in the future.

tl,dr: Please tell me if any of you use marijuana regularly and find that it doesn't interfere with your life. Tips to avoid your life being affected adversely because of the habit? Everyone I talk to just says "Come on man, just chill out and take it as it comes" or "You need to straighten up and be an adult". I am looking for something a little more meaningful.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Outside of your fretting about it, your pattern of use is shared by me and many people I know, many of whom are our age and all of whom are functional and contributing members of society and would probably have a harder time smoking often enough for it to negatively impact their life than they would quitting smoking altogether. I can't imagine having the time to smoke too much pot anymore. There's just too much shit to do, so I do it occasionally. Even getting on the road to excess would fuck things up for me badly enough to immediately knock me off said road. So I don't fret. I'm a mature adult and if I need to stop smoking for a while, I have 100% confidence in my ability to do so. In fact, I quit for a little over a year at one point, just to get my shit together.

You need to trust yourself. A guy who has a beer once in a while isn't fated to become an alcoholic. He's just a dude who has a beer sometimes. The reason there's a wave of decriminalization and legalization across the country is because "smoking pot once in a while" and "being an adult" are finally being recognized as not mutually exclusive at all.

And get yourself a vaporizer. The Magic Flight Launch Box is wonderful.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 1:14 PM on October 11, 2012 [8 favorites]

For me personally, I take way too much of a productivity hit from smoking to have that ever be practical, but I know plenty of people for whom it's no big deal.

I have a co-worker in tech who's a medical marijuana patient and uses a vaporizer all day, and it's fine. (Seconding the Launchbox, btw.)

You could look to places like the Netherlands for plenty of accounts of people who hold perfectly respectable careers and lead perfectly normal lives and smoke/vape, although A god... is correct that in the US where pot is various degrees of illegal, the same is also true.
posted by treblemaker at 1:17 PM on October 11, 2012

It's okay to like marijuana, and to have a moderate habit that doesn't interfere with the rest of your life. There are lots and lots of people who use marijuana for years in the way you've described and it never affects them negatively. There are also people for whom it can become a serious problem that holds them back in very meaningful ways. It's not possible for anyone here to know which kind of person you are. So if you're asking: Can it be okay? Yes, it can be okay. WILL it be okay? We don't know.
posted by something something at 1:17 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

My experience from being around a group of people who smoked a Lot was that most of them were functional, productive people. A couple of them had hit the point of getting kind of paranoid when they hadn't smoked, and unproductive when they had, so it seemed to have negatively affected their lives. But, yeah, if you're still productive and feel healthy and can set it aside when you want to? You're probably just fine - most of the folks I knew who smoked a lot were.
posted by ldthomps at 1:21 PM on October 11, 2012

Get a vaporizer to address health issues related to combustion, and take a break whenever you find yourself thinking things like "I'll be in the ideal mindset to do this tomorrow if I spend today baked out of my mind "relaxing." Personally, I wouldn't be where I am professionally without it, so it's definitely possible to do this responsibly.
posted by feloniousmonk at 1:23 PM on October 11, 2012

PS: You'll feel a lot less guilty about smoking if you do something while smoking that isn't just "hang out with people" or "watch TV." It's totally cool to do those, but find something productive you can do while high, and do it sometimes.

Personally, I clean and re-decorate because it can't really mess up the former (outside of "where the fuck did I put...") and it really helps with the latter. You can write short stories! Go outside and take photos! Whatever! The more stuff you can accomplish while stoned, the less smoking pot is "smoking pot" and more "being creative and productive."
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 1:23 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

the only way that daily marijuana use affects my life is allowing me to live it. the pharmaceuticals i'd have to take to replace the benefits would be far more costly and leave me far less able to keep up with my responsibilities.
posted by nadawi at 1:23 PM on October 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

I started out the same as you - just didn't ever want to do it, there was no special reason but it was how I felt - and when I was 23 I figured, what the hell, I'll try it and if it's great then hooray and if it's not then no harm done.

It turned out that getting high is awesome. There was a period in my mid twenties when I had regular easy access to it and I wound up smoking pretty much every day. I didn't care for that so much, and kind of got out of the habit.

As it is now: I usually have it on hand but I only smoke out maybe twice a month on average, and never on weekdays (unless I'm not working the next day).

Here is how I handle it: I never get high just for the sake of being high. If I let myself, I could very easily slip into the habit of getting baked and frittering away God knows how many nights in front of the TV doing nothing - so I don't. Instead, I only get high if it's going to add to whatever experience - a nice long bike ride, attending The Donkey Show, a night on the town, cleaning the house, whatever. I draw comics so sometimes I'll smoke a bowl or two and do that. The trick - for me - is that the idea is always "I'll get high and [whatever]," as opposed to just, "I'll get high and...just be high."

So far so good. My family kind of has a history of alcoholism and/or bad relationships with intoxicants so I keep an eye on my own patterns with regards to that. Hasn't been an issue for me so far.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:31 PM on October 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think as with any recreational drug, such as alcohol say, there are certain red flags that may indicate problems. Everyday use, not being able to go long periods of time without use, 'needing' the drug in order to cope with everyday stress or as a regular crutch. And with illegal drugs one should add what the amount of risk you place yourself or others at in order to get and use the drug. Depending on where you live it is not JUST the monetary outlay that can affect your life. If you get busted it can result in serious financial and legal headache that may follow you for quite some time.

that isn't intended to scare you away from using it, rather just ensuring you are clear eyed about the risks you take, and how great they would affect others. Being a young guy without kids and other related responsibilities allows for greater risk taking with fewer consequences.

There are, I am sure, millions of people on the planet for whom regular pot smoking (or alcohol drinking or...) presents little difficulty, there are also quite a few people who use it as an inappropriate crutch and sometimes it ruins lives.
posted by edgeways at 1:35 PM on October 11, 2012

Don't conflate too much your change into a more outgoing person with your use of weed - it's part of this whole package of overthinking the issue you've slipped into. If you need to justify fairly minimum use to yourself, anti-anxiety (allowing for greater emotional bandwidth & extroversion, which is all you, not the drug) is a perfectly sound reason. If anything maybe cut down on those weekends? If you've got time to do stuff, and aren't trying to decompress after work, then that's probably where you shouldn't have to fall back on it to have a good time, idk, no judgment.
posted by MangyCarface at 1:42 PM on October 11, 2012

I don't see anything particularly troubling about your use. But I would like to point out that I think your conflating your experience of doing drugs with the substance. Weed was part of you getting over being a rigid bureaucratic kid who doesn't have fun and nobody likes*. Stopping weed won't condemn you to going back to that. And if a chemical substance is necessary, maybe you should dig deeper and understand why**.

*I was also this kid, so if I sound extra harsh, it's only because I'm so grateful I decided that's no way to live.

**Alcohol was my drug of choice. I never hit dependence. But I did suffer some periods which clearly resembled self-medication for anxiety and ADHD. Alcohol realized my efforts to control away the anxiety were self-destructive, but also created a buffer so I didn't seek help until a number of years later. To this day I still monitor my drinking as an early warning sign that my anxiety isn't being managed well.
posted by politikitty at 1:51 PM on October 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

To answer your specific questions (without too much personal detail): Two very important people in my life, without whom I would not exist (ahem) smoke DAILY. Have for hundreds of years now. I remember finding it when I was twelve and they were utterly cool about it: The lecture was "Do not share this information with your friends, have you ever gone hungry?, did you even think we were doing it?, DO NOT do it until you are at least in college or we will have your ass, and in the future mind your own damn business." It totally opened my eyes and for the record, I never did it until college.

Those two people have always been productive citizens, loving wonderful people, creative humans with an amazing capacity for empathy, blah blah. I don't know if it is their drug use but I tell you what, they are mellow and chill and a pleasure to be around.

I have a friend who is a nurse that smokes daily. He's a wonderful, lovely friend to have and I cherish him. My ex was a respiratory therapist - smoked daily. In fact, now that I think about it, MOST of the friends I've kept all these years smoke daily. There have been those that do that have fallen by the wayside because they were slackers/losers/assholes but I think that's just statistics.

tl;dr I know people who use marijuana every day. It does not effect their life. I'm not saying you are them but it's totally possible. In short, if you're still accomplishing what's necessary to be an adult, setting and meeting goals for yourself, and being productive, I'd say you're fine :).
posted by youandiandaflame at 1:51 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

You seem like you have a pretty good grasp of the positive and negative aspects of your marijuana use, so that's my advice for you: keep an eye on that as the years go on, especially as life changes come up, and make sure the positive still outweighs the negative. I think this is all a self-aware person needs to do to keep a habit (whether drugs, hobbies, or the internet) from interfering with his or her life.

Specific hazards to watch for include: weight gain (the munchies can really nail you as you age and your metabolism starts to slow), negative changes in the way being high feels or affects you the next day (I know several people who quit for a few years in their late 20s because the "hangover" was just no fun), new friends/new situations which lead to being stoned all the time, and any other marked increase in usage which doesn't correspond with short-term stressors. Many drug problems are really environmental problems -- if you start to smoke a lot more or smoking starts to cause problems for you, that's a good time to stop and reassess your life in general.
posted by vorfeed at 1:57 PM on October 11, 2012

I enjoy a puff and have for years and my usage has only decreased over time. It has never affected my education, work, finances, or relationships so I'm comfortable with that. I've known smokers who lived in a perpetual haze, putting the weed above all else, but that's not the norm (at least in my own context). Most are responsible, sensible adults who are discreet about it.

So yeah, moderation.
posted by futureisunwritten at 1:58 PM on October 11, 2012

Let's just say I have a friend who smokes pot everyday. It's fine. Don't worry so much about it. It's a pretty innocuous habit. Mary Jane can make all of life's mundane stuff so much more enjoyable. Need to spend two hours mowing your lawn. Take a couple rips first. Need to go to the grocery store, make a detailed list first ha, and go get your shopping done. Same goes for laundry. Baked time doesn't have to be vegged out couch time. Train you stoned brain to do things productive and be creative. Give your self stoner assignments and create something out of your buzz. Go for a walk. Go work out. So much of the stigma about pot use is totally unfounded. People medicate themselves in all kinds of ways, this is a natural way of doing so that's been around for a very long time. Except for the BS laws surrounding it, pot is pretty much harmless IMO.
posted by trbrts at 2:03 PM on October 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

There is a time and a place for everything.

If you were a teenager, my advice would be different. One side effect of marijuana usage that I've witnessed is apathy; I've noticed this in the teen users I know, they just kind of stop caring about stuff and use it as an escape. I also feel any constant drug or alcohol use at a young age stunts a person's emotional growth.

But you? You're in your mid 20s, done with your major schooling, you've got a job and don't use weed irresponsibly (like driving or operating heavy machinery). You can afford it without stealing money to pay for it, your use isn't negatively impacting anyone and you are aware of the risks, so do what makes you happy - in moderation of course.

I know several adults - many are professionals - who would be batshit crazy, on all kinds of meds or an alcoholic if they didn't have their few puffs every night to take the edge off the day.
posted by NoraCharles at 2:15 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

IMO, smoking weed daily is far better than regularly getting tipsy, or drunk occassionally. It is pretty innocuous.

If it didn't contribute to my anxiety I'd still be smoking; it never impacted the quality or quantity of my work, friendships, romantic relationships, etc. I was a PhD student during the years of heaviest usage (multiple bowls daily) and I excelled academically. I was far from the only one in my cohort to smoke.

I think you'd be surprised at how many "upstanding" citizens smoke weed. Having been raised by pot smoking hippies, the only adults in my life that didn't smoke were people in industries where they were subject to drug testing. These people are totally straight looking, pillars of the community types.

Seriously, don't stress about it if it isn't negatively impacting your work and relationships. The guilt/shame/anxiety will contribute more toward the negativity than smoking in moderation.
posted by peacrow at 2:16 PM on October 11, 2012

A few years ago, my sweety said "hey, why don't you stop drinking for a month". So I did. Turns out after that month ended I said "I was probably drinking too much before, I should tone it down", and now I have maybe a drink or three a year. Essentially, I'm a non-drinker.

But, my big take-away was: If someone close to you asked you to stop for a month, would it be a big deal? A month isn't all that long. If the answer is "yes", you may (see all the caveats above) have a problem.

So if your use bugs you, how about trying a month without? Find something else to fill the holes (yeah, it took me a few weeks to figure out how to hang out with friends without drinking), different ways to relate to people. If, at the end of the month, you say "okay, done that, the adjustment wasn't hard", all is good. Otherwise, you might want to work on other patterns and solutions to the problems that marijuana is currently fixing for you.

(And the thing that spawned the alcohol experiment for me was also something where we were experimenting with various food. So, relatedly, could you try doing without potatoes for a month? How is marijuana different from that? Are you okay with that difference?)
posted by straw at 2:22 PM on October 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also: always listen to yourself. The power of marijuana to trigger self-insight is a real thing, and (IMHO) the reason why your first session really might have led to lasting change in you. When that flash of insight hits, pay attention.
posted by vorfeed at 2:29 PM on October 11, 2012

It's one of those things, either it has no hold over you and you can use it occasionally for the rest of your life, or you'll be a functional pot-head, or you'll get dependant on it and be a burn out.

For me, I stopped decades ago and haven't missed it. But Pot is a lot better today than it was in the stone age. My dealer Fred didn't really know too much about cultivation.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:35 PM on October 11, 2012

I know many people who partake daily and get only benefit from it -- or at least, are not negatively impacted. I wish I could smoke regularly but I can't have it around. I always end up amping up my usage and eating too much, being unproductive, and smoking during the day when I had promised myself to wait until evening. The thing is, its negative impact was very obvious, and so was the solution to simply stop using it. If you don't notice any problem, then there likely isn't one, so enjoy. BTW, don't worry about your lungs.
posted by summer sock at 2:37 PM on October 11, 2012

I smoked pot every day for, well, decades. Then my guy died and I didn't know where to find any. So overnight I quit cold turkey. I went from daily use to nothing.

The only "withdrawal" I experienced was a couple of sleepless nights coupled with vivid dreams, and the nagging sense of gee I wish I had some pot. This lasted about four days and then I forgot about it. I went almost two years without smoking and didn't really miss it. After smoking daily for years and years.

I noticed no uptick in cognitive performance or attitude. I was neither more focused nor more scatter-brained.

The only difference I found is that my life is slightly more enjoyable with pot in it.

Marijuana's consequences in your life are more likely to be determined by its legal status in your area than by its pharmacological properties.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:13 PM on October 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

One thing that is important to keep in mind is that these days slightly more than half of the pot in the United States is grown and trafficked by Mexican cartels. Pot provides the backbone of funding for cartels with its high profit margin and low overhead product, the quantities they move and the profits they take are massive. Quality is still an indication but no longer anything like a guarantee of non-awful sources as cartels have moved into that market too.

If you would like to know more about the shittier sides of the industry I'd recommend the specials that CurrentTV's Vanguard series has done on it,

Marijuana Wars in California and Mexico, Part 2

Also, The Narco War Next Door

They arn't square or hyperbolic by any stretch but are still honest about the harsh realities of where much of North America's pot comes from.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:47 PM on October 11, 2012

The biggest effect pot has on me (a non-smoker) is a tendancy to be called things like rigid, uptight, bureaucratic, no fun and unlikeable by those who ARE smokers. Please don't be one of those name-callers, and we'll all get along fine.
posted by easily confused at 4:12 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best guideline I've heard: "Make it a treat."

That is, it should be special, not routine. Elevating, not escaping. Engender new experiences, not just lead to sitting on your couch on a beautiful Saturday staring at a screen. Simple as that.

Make it a treat.
posted by kprincehouse at 5:20 PM on October 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Moderate use is okay. Between work, school and all those other responsible things you have to do, you'll find you don't have time to sit around and smoke joints all day, anyway. If you start to find you 'need' it to function, quit for awhile. You'll be alright. There's no real withdraws or side effects aside from mental ones, and no one's ever overdosed on weed. (Except for maybe those dogs in Colorado, but those are DOGS, not humans.)

The only time my marijuana use has ever caused me issues was in high school when I stopped caring about everything else and just focused on getting high with my friends. Now that you're an adult, considering you just started smoking, I think you're mature enough to handle it.

Honestly, I've always thought there were more pros than there were cons to smoking grass. The laws surrounding its' usage are ridiculous.
posted by camylanded at 6:25 PM on October 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

One thing that is important to keep in mind is that these days slightly more than half of the pot in the United States is grown and trafficked by Mexican cartels. [...] They arn't square or hyperbolic by any stretch but are still honest about the harsh realities of where much of North America's pot comes from.

Accordingly, one positive way you could channel your marijuana use would be to speak out, campaign, or donate to groups fighting for legalization, harm reduction, and/or sane drug policy. If every smoker in America donated just $5 for every quarter-bag they bought, the drug war might be over by now... and cartel control along with it.
posted by vorfeed at 7:48 PM on October 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you use mj in the same way that some people go to a doctor and get a prescription for something to deal with occasional anxiety, which is acceptable.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:37 AM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mefi's own maias wrote this piece on Kicking Cannabis, which may be more than you want, but which may have some useful parts for you.
posted by gingerbeer at 2:28 PM on October 12, 2012

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