Why does weed make it all so easy?
January 30, 2013 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Only marijuana lets me be the person I want to be. But I don't want to be dependent on drugs just to function.

I've struggled for years with so much anger, negativity, suspicion of others, and general difficulty enjoying life. I've been in therapy (CBT) several times trying to counteract these habits. According to the assessments I took for therapy, I am suffering from depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. I don't take any prescription drugs and I don't drink because of a history of alcoholism.

A few times a year, I smoke pot. When I do, it's like all the self-destructive aspects of my mind shut up for a little while. I suddenly realize that I can be kind to myself and others. I clean my room instead of letting all the shit pile up, because I'm not paralyzed by thinking, "What's the point?" I don't assume all the people around me are idiots or jerks or trying to hurt me. I am able to enjoy basic things like food, watching a movie, cuddling with my significant other, or taking a walk.

Then, when the drug wears off, I'm back to being a nervous wreck. If I could take a little bit of marijuana every day as a real prescription, I guess I would do it -- but that doesn't seem practical or wise. I just want to be able to LISTEN to the positive impulses inside ("Take care of yourself and others,"), and NOT LISTEN to the negative ones ("Everyone and everything sucks, everyone is a jerk.").

Can you guys give me some insight as to why marijuana makes this huge difference, and what I should do? I don't want to be dependent on any drugs, but should I just get over it and use what I know works for me? I'm miserable and at a loss.

You can e-mail me if you want at M8R-a7rt8j@mailinator.com
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
But I don't want to be dependent on drugs just to function.

Hi, I'm dependent on drugs to function. Thankfully mine are all legal and prescription. Without them I have crippling headaches that make doing the basic functions of life extremely difficult or impossible (helloooo, falling over when I close my eyes).

There's no shame in it. Some people's bodies just don't work right without intervention from some other source, and that's not your fault. So that part, the part where you feel crappy about being beholden to a drug (that makes your life work without the negative side effects of killing you or destroying your life)? Please don't let that stop you.

I don't know where you live, but you haven't listed that one of the downsides is the legality of the weed, so perhaps you're lucky and live somewhere where they're down with it. Good for you. It seems to be working for you as a maintenance drug, so I say keep on keepin' on. Maybe get yourself to a drug-friendly therapist who can help you work through any guilt/addiction issues you're worried about so that that becomes less of a factor for you.
posted by phunniemee at 8:06 AM on January 30, 2013 [12 favorites]

You said you've seen a therapist, so I'm guessing the answer to this is "yes", but have you talked to a psychiatrist about meds? Even with your addiction history, there are medications out there that don't have an addiction risk. If you haven't seen one, I'd talk to your doctor and ask for a psychiatric referral. I'd look into medicating under a doctor's supervision before self-medicating, even with something as relatively safe as pot. Given that you're a recovering alcoholic, pot could become a serious problem for you.

Grass is basically having a calming effect on you, is likely the thing. I have ADD, was only diagnosed a couple of years ago, and I was a huge pothead in my late teens and early 20s. I ultimately quit because I hated being stoned and stupid all the time, but looking back, I know now that I did it because it shut up the screaming in my brain and allowed me to relax. Didn't do much for my focus or drive, but it kept me calm and helped dull the sensory overload.

Now I'm on prescribed meds, and they've literally changed my life. They're not a panacea, but hoo boy have they changed things. I totally get not wanting to be dependent on medication for the rest of your life. I feel that too. I'm otherwise in the best shape of my life, and I'm in my late 30s, and I hate hate hate it.

But? I ain't going back. I just recently had to spend nine days off my meds because of a problem, and old stuff came flooding back, and no way am I going back to that life again.

I wish you the best of luck. But seriously, talk to your doctor about this.
posted by middleclasstool at 8:11 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

all the self-destructive aspects of my mind shut up for a little while .... I'm not paralyzed by thinking, "What's the point?

Prescription ADD drugs do this for me - it's a temporary effect but very helpful. And they're legal.

Seconding talk to a psychiatrist. Or, if you are really committed to not using drugs and haven't tried regular intense exercise, try that.
posted by bunderful at 8:17 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's totally possible to learn how to stop the negative aspects of your personality without smoking dope.

Without going into the biochemical side of things, of which I am not very familiar with, I should think that a small, occasional dose of cannabis would have a mild sedative effect. Bare in mind that repeated doses will cause you to gain an immunity to the original effects of marijuana.

As the other posters above have pointed out, you can get other (legal) medication that will pinpoint the 'bad' things you are feeling. This is going to be much more acceptable, and easier to explain, than a long-term dope habit. Also, not all marijuana is the same, and you might find you get a different 'high' with different types. Whereas over the counter drugs are designed to do the same thing, day-in, day-out.

The other final point is that, with medical and social help, you might learn to be completely free of these negative impulses. Don't expect your local weed dealer to be invested in helping you be the best you can be though.
posted by The River Ivel at 8:21 AM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pot is a drug, not just a sedative. It's a psychoactive substance and brings about changes in consciousness and mood, like euphoria, or increased alertness and attention to pretty colors. Like any psychoactive substance, there are health risks and you may well develop psychological and physical dependence. I would avoid it, but that's just me. I also would avoid alcohol, why bother with putting crap like that into your body when ultimately you end up feeling worse after the effects wear off or you become more tolerant to the drug. You're going to get all kinds of folks telling you how good pot is for you, don't listen to them if you want to take care of yourself. There are other ways to be happy and productive than taking drugs.
posted by waving at 9:55 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Something to think about as you evaluate your choices, and I'm not passing judgement here...

You may feel great while high on pot, but what do others around you think? If while high only you feel like you've become the person you want to be, and everyone else finds you annoying to be around, then you're just telling yourself another lie and not solving the real issues. Ask the opinion of some trusted friends who aren't getting high with you.

I ask because pretty much everyone feels awesome, amazing, great, funny, etc while drunk/high. But that doesn't mean drunk/high people fit better into society, which I think is your ultimate goal.

If it really, truly is making you a better person that everyone enjoys being around then it just might be an option. Otherwise, talk to your psychiatrist about legal drugs.
posted by sbutler at 10:36 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are other ways to be happy and productive than taking drugs.

For some people's bodies, there just aren't. Sorry, but there it is.

OP, have you: tried talk therapy + medication? Gotten an assessment from a psychiatrist for best practices and treatment for your anxiety, depression, and OCD? Is there a reason why you stopped CBT (did it not work, or not work all the way, or what)?

Depression is a slippery thing whose treatment is really variable - what works beautifully for some doesn't work well for others. You have other options besides marijuana (not that I'm knocking it - it works on my menstrual cramps like a champ), and you owe yourself the care to explore them.
posted by rtha at 10:40 AM on January 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Same boat, modern neuro-pharmaceuticals fail miserably and are all targeting the WRONG stuff for some types of people....

New research is being done on FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase) inhibitors and other alterations that are showing promise for these types of brain chemistry.... They are currently in & out of human trials and have potential liver complications that are being worked out....

Psychiatry is a constant crapshoot, and 'mode of action' is listed as "Unknown" for most of the crap they are trying to put into people's bodies....

Some people just need alterations to endogenous cannibinoids in order to subjectively feel better... and until the US GOV quits being wilfully ignorant on health research.. it probably won't be coming quick.
posted by anthroprose at 10:46 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

The increase in life pleasure that you describe is common among many marijuana users. I am personally of the opinion that if you don't have a job where you might be drug tested, go ahead and smoke up. I know plenty of extremely functional stoners, including a successful lawyer who smokes a lot of pot every single day and is TOTALLY FINE with a wife and kids to boot. I know another successful scientist who smokes every night because he has terrible insomnia when he doesn't - he's done this for years and still maintains his research abilities.

Pot can become a habit, just like eating chocolate or taking long baths can become habits - they make you feel good. I have never heard a legitimate story of physical addiction (like heroin, cocaine, or benzos) when it comes to pot. If it makes your life better and doesn't negatively affect your job or relationship, why not? Accept that maybe you need something in your life to help you function that other people don't. We are all different.
posted by permiechickie at 11:11 AM on January 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

While I support medical marijuana, and even recreational marijuana, you should know that your experience "a few times a year" does not give you much information about what your life would be like while smoking more frequently. Some people find that frequent smoking increases the incidence of undesireable cognitive side effects like memory loss, a subjective foggy feeling, etc.
posted by decathexis at 11:30 AM on January 30, 2013

You're going to get all kinds of folks telling you how good pot is for you, don't listen to them if you want to take care of yourself.

Likewise you'll hear a lot of people telling you how bad pot is for you. You should take grains of salt from these people and anyone else who tells you what they think know about marijuana. It is a drug that affects everyone differently, and the only way you can figure out what it does for you is to pay close attention to how you feel when you use it and then be honest with yourself about it.

I think the reason a lot of people like cannabis is that it is sort of anti-take-things-for-granted medicine. It allows you to look around and see the objects and people in your life independent from the baggage you have attached to them over the years. For instance, you look at your cat and instead of thinking "That is my cat, I fed him two times today I'll have to feed him again later, which means I'll have to go to the pet store to get more food tomorrow, I need to call the vet and schedule a checkup and get more flea meds, and I need to replace the blinds in the study because he damaged them, but I don't have the money and I hope the landlord doesn't mind..." you just look at your cat and think "That is my cat. He is a living, breathing thing, and he depends on me and I must be a huge part of his world, because he's known me since he was tiny and I'm how he gets food, and I'm what makes him feel safe and comfortable, so much so that he prefers to be on or near me when he is asleep. Holy shit."

People who are high aren't amazed at everything because they've turned into idiots, they're amazed at everything because nearly everything is amazing, we've just forgotten because we take everything for granted and use our brains for worrying about things we don't profit from worrying about.

But if you start using it every day you will unfortunately begin to take the benefits themselves for granted. It doesn't become useless but it doesn't force that precious new perspective on you like it used to. The extent of this is dependent upon your physiology and the quantities consumed.

You can absolutely become dependent on it, especially when it's used in a self-medication role. This dependence pales in severity next to dependence on alcohol or cigarettes, namely in that it is far less likely to end you up in the hospital, but it is dependence just the same.

Using (non-cannabis) prescription antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication is also a form of dependency, but most of those drugs are formulated for long term use at consistent dosage in a way that avoids the snowballing dosage inflation that can happen with 'instant gratification' type drugs like cannabis, Xanax and other benzos, amphetamine-based ADD medication, or alcohol. Prescription brain drugs don't pack the sudden wallop of those things but they slowly build a foundation for you to stand on so you can get your head above water a little ways and see your life and yourself a bit more clearly. Subtle but powerful.

There comes a point where you have to admit that you experience difficulty with things it seems like most people don't have difficulty with. Like seeing a dirty room and deciding to clean it, or being unable to contact old friends because it's too nerve-wracking, or constantly assuming people are thinking the worst about you and thinking the worst about them in return. It isn't the case that everyone else has solved these problems but you, the fact is they probably don't have these problems.

If you don't allow yourself to seek help, then you might as well be trying to win a footrace draped with a hundred pounds of chains and padlocks. Why is everyone else running faster than you? Because you're covered in fucking chains and they aren't! Figure out how to get them off already.

You can use cannabis as a short term fix and it won't make you a cheater or a loser or even a stoner, but in order to maintain its benefits you'll have to be watchful with it, pay attention how and when it benefits you, and scale back if if it starts to feel repetitive and unfruitful. Long-term I don't think cannabis alone can solve a well-entrenched anxiety or depression.

Or you can use prescription medications. It's often hard to find the most effective combination, but when you do it can be very empowering. All it requires is taking pills and then paying attention to how you feel. And no one has to know.

Or you can do it on your own. But this means fighting the enemy where it is strongest. Meds, including weed, are like military air power, they weaken the opposing army before you have to fight it, increasing your chances of victory. They take the hard edge off of the blade, and you use the opportunity to break through and established a foothold outside of the unhelpful thoughts anxiety and depression fill the mind with. To do it on your own you will have to wade in where the water is deepest and try to fight your way through. It's possible, and if you can do it it will make you very strong, but it's the most difficult.

If you think you're weak for needing help you are not really thinking the situation through. If you've been fighting your way, since as long as you can remember, toward the contented life other people seem to have while creaking under the weight the very heavy burdens of the anxiety and depression you were likely just born with, and you are trying to do so without sharing that weight with anything else, holding yourself severely accountable for any perceived failures, AND you've been able to build at least some kind of life for yourself, and maintain a relationship, and probably a job---that does not sound like weakness. That sounds like strength. And maybe stubbornness, but definitely strength and not weakness.
posted by TheRedArmy at 11:39 AM on January 30, 2013 [26 favorites]

So, I hear that you're miserable and feeling desperate. A lot of us have been there or are there with you, and I know you'll find something that works one way or another. Maybe pot will be it.

At the same time -- you say that you have a history of alcoholism, and you are asking a bunch of strangers on the internet for permission to start using a drug with a risk of dependency.

What can we possibly tell you here? Obviously some of us are going to say "yeah go for it" and some of us will say "I wouldn't." The truth is that lots of people do fine with pot, it sounds like some people get real benefit out of it, but for some people it screws up their life in a way you obviously know about and don't want. It's a real risk, and we don't know how big a risk it is for you because we don't know you. We can't possibly give you meaningful permission to go ahead and dive back in, you know?

Is there anyone who knows you well and is good at calling you out on things who you can talk to about this? Or, would you consider trying the (prescription) drugs that don't have a dependency risk before trying one that does?
posted by jhc at 2:58 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm 20. For more than 2 years, I struggled with an addiction...to pot. It started out just like you--made me feel more optimistic, caring, focused on life. But then, the way pot affected me shifted and evolved and just became an addiction.

I don't think you should start smoking up. Not sure what the answer is for you, but that's mine.
posted by rhythm_queen at 5:00 AM on January 31, 2013

Mindfulness meditation can offer many of the same benefits without the drugs. I wouldn't give up on the CBT either.
posted by callmejay at 11:01 AM on February 1, 2013

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