Should I be worried about my brother who smokes weed alone?
April 20, 2014 6:28 PM   Subscribe

My brother is in his late twenties and we frequently visit our parents on the same weekend (every month or two). He always smokes weed by himself in the guest bedroom at night after our parents have gone to sleep. He's currently living with our parents temporarily, and I'm visiting now and he smoked weed last night. (I've never seen him do this, but I can always smell it.) I'm trying to decide if this could signal a problem with weed.

I asked him about it once a few years ago and he lied and said that all I smelled was incense (which definitely wasn't true).

I don't really know how often he smokes. But I'm guessing he smokes plenty of nights when I'm not at my parents' house as well, possibly every night. I have no idea if he smokes with friends when he is living apart from my parents, or if he only smokes alone.

I don't smoke myself, so I don't really know how to tell if this is a problem. I know that drinking alone can sometimes indicate that someone has a problem with alcohol, but I don't know if it's the same with weed.

Does this sound like potentially problematic behavior? It's worrying that he lied about it, though it's possible he just didn't want me to tell my parents that he smokes. Are there other signs to look for to determine whether it's problematic? Should I talk to him about this?

posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Smoking alone doesn't seem to be the same kind of problem as drinking alone, in my experience. If it starts appearing to impact his ability to function normally, yeah talk to him about it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:34 PM on April 20, 2014 [6 favorites]

Maybe he uses weed for insomnia? I do not know if marijuana is legal in your state (or legal with a prescription) but insomnia is a legitimate use for medical marijuana.

I wouldn't worry about him smoking in his bedroom as long as he is able to lead a normal life during the day. Is he doing stuff like driving while stoned, giving up social engagements or attending class in order to get stoned, having trouble at work due to using marijuana? - those are some of the red flags to look for.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:36 PM on April 20, 2014 [11 favorites]

Alcoholism can be kind of a "silent" problem because even when the person with the problem is able to keep their job, maintain their relationships, etc, they are still doing massive damage to their body.

Conversely, pretty much the only damage associated with too much marijuana use is what you might see in the person's professional and personal lives. If he can maintain a job and relationships with his current level of use, and he's not smoking himself into the poor house, then he's fine.

There's still a decent amount of stigma associated with casual marijuana use which I'd imagine is why he lied about it.
posted by telegraph at 6:37 PM on April 20, 2014 [10 favorites]

I don't think you can determine whether your brother has a problem with weed or not based only on him smoking alone. I smoke weed by myself frequently but neither myself nor my family or friends would say I have a substance abuse issue. But I have known folks who have struggled with marijuana abuse and did frequently smoke by themselves.

I think you should talk to your brother. He might have lied to you because he knows you're not comfortable with his use, or for some other reason - like he's struggling. You could say, "hey brother I just want to check in with you about your weed usage. I have been under the assumption that when folks smoke alone or when folks lie about their usage they might be struggling with marijuana abuse or addiction. I care about you and want to make sure your relationship with marijuana isn't causing you harm. Can you tell me your feelings on this?"
posted by OsoMeaty at 7:01 PM on April 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

A "problem" with weed is a LOT less likely to fuck up your health and ruin your life than a "problem" with alcohol will. So even if he's smoking alone every night, I wouldn't worry about it unless there are other indications that his life is falling apart or if he starts needing to smoke it every morning just to get through the day. His nightly smokes might just be him using it as a sleep aid like other people use Benadryl or Ambien.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:08 PM on April 20, 2014 [8 favorites]

Weed and alcohol can be coping strategies for dulling or blunting pain. Most commonly emotional pain, but weed especially is used for physical pain as well. They can be maladaptive strategies in the long-run, of course. If you're concerned about him, ask him how he's doing, like in general. Don't focus on the weed as a problem, but rather a possible symptom of general unease.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:09 PM on April 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think you should take him out to dinner and just talk to him before assuming the worst. If he's living with your folks, is it because of a setback? If so, he could probably use a sibling who listened, didn't judge or assume the worst, and could understand the stress of living with your folks again. Maybe his friends are too busy, or have moved away; that happens a lot in the early 20s. You can't really know anything unless you talk to him.
posted by emjaybee at 7:27 PM on April 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't think anybody can say if this is a problem without knowing more about your brother. Does he properly manage his responsibilities? Is he working? Does he have goals that he is actively pursuing? If the answer is yes, then I don't think it is a problem. If he gets high a lot, however, and the answer to these questions is no, then perhaps he has a problem.

I don't make a distinction between smoking pot and drinking wine or beer. Most people would not claim that having a glass of wine each day--maybe even two--is a bad thing. And a lot of single people will kick back with that glass of wine or beer, alone. And they catch a buzz doing it. This is no different, IMO, than kicking back and taking a few hits. We just judge it differently.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:31 PM on April 20, 2014

Just from what you've provided here it doesn't seem like it's much of a problem. Is he holding down a job? Taking care of hygiene? Eating okay? Socializing? I've known many people with active, fulfilling and successful lives who smoke regularly in the evenings. I'd be more worried if you noticed the smell of it in the morning.
posted by ltisz at 8:01 PM on April 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding that some use marijuana simply as an effective, natural sleep aid. The proper strain can let you sleep like a baby, with none of the oversleeping or hangover effects of OTC sleep aids. That's not dangerous or worrisome, so much as rather helpful and productive. Again, many people use the substance for many reasons. Some are problematic, some are not. It's hard to tell, but it's not a bad idea to just ask him about it in a friendly, non-accusatory way and see how he responds.
posted by naju at 8:54 PM on April 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Once upon a time, I used to smoke like it was going out of fashion. Every night and most weekend days too. Then I had kids, got responsible, realised how much it cost, etc etc, and quit.

Now in my mid 40's I smoke rarely, but when I do, it is always at night alone at home. I don't have smoker-friends/boyfriends/room-mates who are fun to smoke with, like I did when I was in my 20's. The people I do know now who smoke are acquaintances, not friends. Pleasant enough in small doses but not the sort of people I'd wanna spend my entire Friday night smoking with, and then enduring their 'greening out' or lazy arguments about what movie to watch or obsessive repetitive complaints about their husbands.

So I'd rather knock back a quick cone in the laundry when my kids are staying at their grandparents/friends' places for the night, hang around in my jarmies, eat homemade rocky road and drink homemade lemonade, watch some stupid comedy which will make me laugh until I cry, and then enjoy a really good nights sleep.

Your brothers mileage may vary, but maybe he's like me - would prefer to enjoy it alone, rather than with people who, if not detracting from the experience, do nothing to enhance it.

Ask him.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 12:58 AM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I smoke alone 99.9% of the time and I definitely don't have a problem, and I use it for medical [chronic pain] reasons. Is it possible that your brother has a health condition that you don't know about? Anything from insomnia to appetite problems to chronic pain can be helped with weed, and a lot of people are still trying to adjust to legality, at least where I am.

I don't make a super big deal out of using most of the time, simply because where I live there's a horrific stereotype about stoners, but really, you can smoke every day and not have a problem.
posted by gloraelin at 2:27 AM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here's a litmus test, is he holding his life together otherwise? I'm no fan of 420, so I'll put that out there, but there are folks who enjoy an ADJ (after dinner joint) and who have had healthy relationships, held down jobs and are in general solid citizens. Same with folks who enjoy wine with dinner.

No substance is worrisome unless it interferes with life. Sure, the illegality of it can pose problems, but if he pops down to the pot shop, like other people make beer runs, then it's no big deal.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:10 AM on April 21, 2014

Nothing you have presented here is in the slightest bit worrying. Of course he doesn't want to tell his family about it, he has the kind of sibling who starts worrying if he has a problem because of some "rule" about smoking alone. Why bother with someone who is going to jump to conclusions?

I know that drinking alone can sometimes indicate that someone has a problem with alcohol

Do you "know" this, or is just a thing people say? Getting drunk a lot by yourself can be a sign of a problem, but getting drunk with other people a lot can be a sign of a problem. Many responsible adults with jobs and everything like to sit down with a glass of whiskey and relax. This sounds like what your brother is doing; and with a substance that isn't nearly as "social".
posted by spaltavian at 6:24 AM on April 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would worry about your brother if you see other troubling warning signs in his life - inability to hold down a job, screaming/snapping at a partner irrationally, etc. What you've presenting here is not so much a red flag as, like, a carnation pink post-it note with Hello Kitty on it.

Don't worry about it. He'll be fine, and if he isn't, it isn't the chron.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:05 AM on April 21, 2014

I think "right before going to bed" is probably one of the least worrisome times for someone to smoke weed. I don't see anything that you've written that would make me think that your bro has a weed problem.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:41 AM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seems chill to me. It's probably true that all things constant, a person living back at home smokin' weed has a higher probability of having related issues than a person not living back at home and not smoking weed.

But the weed isn't causal (except in people who are wake-n-baking an ounce a week--and even then--it isn't always bad).

Seems fine to me, don't worry about it.
posted by jjmoney at 10:10 AM on April 21, 2014

I know that drinking alone can sometimes indicate that someone has a problem with alcohol, but I don't know if it's the same with weed.

Based purely on anecdotal experience, I'd worry less about smoking weed solo than drinking solo. That's not to say there's no cause for concern, but I wouldn't put them on the same level.

Does this sound like potentially problematic behavior?

Potential? Sure. Probable? Hard to say. But count me in the "talk to him about it" crowd.

I do want to address some of the comments made above... I think some people can go a bit too far in their reaction to the scaremongering of the Reefer Madness crowd. Weed may not be physically addictive, but psychological addiction is no picnic either. That's an aside, of course, since there's no reason to believe your brother's smoking is a problem. Just a brief editorial.
posted by duffell at 1:41 PM on April 22, 2014

No, you should not be worried.
posted by hworth at 12:31 AM on April 23, 2014

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