Given these snowflakes, is my partner smoking too much?
May 29, 2015 10:42 PM   Subscribe

I found out last night that my partner has been smoking pot about five nights a week, but in such small quantities that they did not think it worthwhile to mention, since I knew about and was not bothered by periodic smoking in general. I am not really drawn to drugs or alcohol, so I have no idea if this is an appropriate amount or not. Details within!

Note: I have no reason to disbelieve my partner about any of this plus every reason to actually believe them and I do not want to hear answers that start off assuming that my partner is lying. Partner says that they will cut back if I ask; partner has previously cut back on alcohol consumption (well prior to the smoking). I've known my partner for years at this point and am confident in my assessment of their habits.

My partner has a high stress job and chronic pain. The chronic pain is partly treated by muscle relaxants, but those create grogginess.

Partner was not financially able to afford to smoke pot often until the new job, so there may be some novelty factor involved. Per partner, they bought a quarter ounce two months ago and have not finished it yet. I haven't noticed any impairment, work is fine, household stuff is fine, partner doesn't seem "high" after smoking, just a little more relaxed.

Per partner, they have cut back even more on drinking since starting to smoke. Partner isn't a big drinker, doesn't have any trouble controlling intake, but does have a near relative who is an alcoholic. Partner has struggled with depression but seems to be in a pretty good place right now.

Partner is a big person, so if they have one drink that has even less effect than it does on an average person. I can almost never tell if partner has had a drink or not from their behavior. I have not seen partner to get really drunk since 2006 and partner gets a bit visibly tipsy a few times a year - New Year's Eve, etc. Partner does not conceal their drinking or smoking - I am absolutely confident that when they say they didn't think it was worth mentioning, they are telling the truth. (Our schedules are such that it was perfectly possible for me to miss this; also we have separate rooms due to snoring and work schedules.)

I just don't know enough about pot smoking to judge whether all this is okay or not. It doesn't seem to be impacting anything, I don't think it's a problem with our budget and I am not opposed to pot per se. But is this something where it always gets worse? Is is something that has a cumulative effect that won't be visible after two months? I had assumed that smoking a little in the evening most days was more the equivalent of having a glass of wine with dinner, but maybe it's not?

I would appreciate your experience - I'm looking for information about whether this is likely to be a problem in the long run. If it's not, it's no dealbreaker for me. And again, I am confident that my partner is being truthful and would be able to cut back if asked.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
But is this something where it always gets worse?


I had assumed that smoking a little in the evening most days was more the equivalent of having a glass of wine with dinner, but maybe it's not?

Few things are [allthis] or [allthat]. With that caveat: in my experience, it's generally closer to the "beer after work" end of the spectrum, where "beer" does not mean "a whole case, or maybe a pony keg" but...a beer or two. Like that.

It may be a problem in the long run, or it may not, depending on your partner's particular makeup and their life context, in the same way that that a lot of things that aren't bad or causing problems can become bad or begin causing difficulties if/when the context changes.
posted by rtha at 10:55 PM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Your assumption is correct: smoking such a small amount of pot every night is about the same as having a glass of red wine every night.
posted by samthemander at 10:56 PM on May 29, 2015 [13 favorites]

It doesn't seem to be impacting anything, I don't think it's a problem with our budget and I am not opposed to pot per se.

Isn't that your answer? As with any behavior, whether it's drugs, food, sex, as long as it's not negatively affecting anyone or anything, isn't it fine? It sounds like, because of the help with chronic pain and the fact that it's encouraging him to drink less when alcoholism is in his family, smoking pot is actually beneficial to him.

But is this something where it always gets worse?

No, despite the fear mongering that pot will lead to other drugs or turn people into stoners, that's only how it works sometimes. The way your partner uses it sounds like this isn't likely to be that type of case. I have friends and loved ones who still smoke pot sometimes, but manage to be successful and high-functioning. The size of your partner makes no difference -- with drinking, someone's metabolism is a factor, but when you're smoking pot, it seems to just work the same no matter someone's size.

A little bit as a night cap is probably not anything to worry about. If he starts smoking larger quantities and is spending more of your budget, starts lying about his behaviors, or is wanting to get high during the day when he shouldn't, then I would worry it's slipping out of control. But right now, it sounds fine and reasonable.

It does sound like you are implying your partner drinks and smokes pot at the same time though -- that makes both things feel stronger and given the alcoholism thing, it may be worth encouraging him to skip the drinking and just let the pot relax him. If he is smoking pot every night, it isn't ideal that drinking alcohol is also part of that experience and becomes a required component of it.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:59 PM on May 29, 2015 [16 favorites]

My personal view is, firstly, this is totally safe, and can be fantastic for depression, stress, and chronic pain. Plus, you know, it's fun. Plenty of people do this and it does nothing but good for them.

For me, I did fall into a bad habit with weed for a while. I was a casual/infrequent smoker for a while, and then I got pretty depressed and stressed out for a variety of work and life reasons and started using it much more frequently. I wound up taking a break from it because I had started neglecting things that I intellectually knew I wanted to do, like writing and socializing, and I knew that wasn't how wanted to keep going.

I'm definitely not saying this is happening or will happen with your dude - rather, I'm telling you this so that HE knows to keep half an eye on his use and make sure it's not interfering with things he'd like to do.

I think the reason I fell into bad habits with it was because I knew it wasn't dangerous or physically addictive, so I didn't see a need to moderate my intake at all. But now that I know that I can be susceptible to smoking too much for my own long-term happiness, I just keep that in mind and pay attention to my frequency, and it's no longer a problem at all.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:05 PM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Hi, pothead who is completely cognizant of when his use is problematic.

This is on the order of a glass or two of wine. Enough to provide a relaxation buzz, that's it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:16 PM on May 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

I was in a relationship with someone who regularly over-indulged in pot smoking. As such, I have a kneejerk reaction to it just all being bad. (I'm aware that's my own issue.)

Having said that, though, this doesn't seem particularly problematic to me. My partner:

- lied about the frequency before we moved in together
- increased usage over a period of two years
- swore to vastly reduce use of alcohol and marijuana after a few conversations about it, then did not do so... and kept it hidden from me
- flipped out at me when I discovered the pot stash and inquired about it

We're no longer together. ;)

Seems as though your partner is being much more upfront and honest. For me, the issue in the relationship was the dishonesty and the hiding. Your partner doesn't tend to conceal their habits and it seems as though you guys have the ability to have open conversations.

So, even to someone with my experiences, I wouldn't be concerned unless there's significant concealment of habits. I don't think the recent discovery of this current usage level counts as "significant concealment". In my experience, warning signs include (but are not limited to):

- inability to reduce frequency of use
- concealment of use (for example, I didn't know my partner was smoking at lunch at work in the car, then, later, I was unaware of it at all until I found the stash)
- major defensiveness when asked about the habit and/or frequency of use and/or requests to ease up
posted by sockermas at 11:28 PM on May 29, 2015

Have you tried sharing a joint with your partner before bedtime? You said you don't know much about it, maybe this might quell some of your misgivings about your partner's intake. Honestly, as a user myself, having a quarter ounce last more than two months is rare. That's less than a joint a day. More like two or three puffs at best. Also, being a larger mammal such as myself, that's just about almost enough to cut the edge off a mild migraine. If they are using it medicinally you might want to look into some online resources about weed. Erowid is a vast archive of all things dope related and can provide literally days of material to pour over on this topic.

Most of all, be caring. This is a person you love, and weed will not turn them into a monster. Be informed, not afraid.
posted by gideonswann at 11:59 PM on May 29, 2015 [7 favorites]

One thing to consider is how your partner is smoking the pot -- if it's with tobacco, they might end up developing a nicotine addiction that would cause other problems (health issues, tendency to smoke more not for the pot but for the nicotine). You can buy herbal smoking blends to use instead, which are non-addictive and imo taste nicer too. There are also other mechanisms like bongs or vaporisers.
posted by daisyk at 1:09 AM on May 30, 2015

Yeh, as daisyk said, the only real concern you should have with this habit is what is s/he doing his/her lungs. Apart from that, it really is all fine at this level, in my extensive personal experience.
posted by wilful at 4:07 AM on May 30, 2015

A quarter ounce, 7 grams, not fully consumed in two months is a very very light consumption habit.
posted by wilful at 4:08 AM on May 30, 2015 [17 favorites]

But is this something where it always gets worse?

Is is something that has a cumulative effect that won't be visible after two months?
Also nope!

Partner says that they will cut back if I ask; partner has previously cut back on alcohol consumption (well prior to the smoking). I've known my partner for years at this point and am confident in my assessment of their habits.
This is what's really important. Alcohol is probably more easily accessible and easier to over-indulge in for your partner. This doesn't seem to be as easy to escalate. The smoking isn't something that has to progress to different stages of use. It could stay at this level. Even if it doesn't, it sounds like partner can cut back.
posted by RainyJay at 4:57 AM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think you're having trouble squaring the negative connotations of pot with the person you love and that's understandable. However it sounds like very light use and I've seen the huge beneficial impact it can have for chronic pain, it can really improve quality of life.

Some people find it better to eat (via making edibles) than smoke for pain relief, that might change how you feel about it too (because then it's more like a medicine) but takes more effort to prepare and consume.
posted by lafemma at 5:03 AM on May 30, 2015

A quarter ounce spread over two months is a miniscule amount.

That's like making a bottle of booze last for about the same amount of time, maybe longer.

If he's mixing it with tobacco in a joint he's making it very weak and if he's using it straight up you're talking about a single puff a night.

It's certainly not enough for him to be impaired when he's not actually smoking and it's not representative of a serious habit.

Be aware that, while not physically addictive, pot can be habit forming, and quite seriously so. That's really down to the individual person though. Same as some people can have a glass of wine with dinner every night and be fine but in some people that can spiral out of control.

You seem confident that you know him, he doesn't seem prone to addiction and he could cut back, though, so probably don't worry about it.
posted by Dext at 5:11 AM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

A former partner of mine had chronic pain issues and smoked a small amount of pot every night before bed. It helped him tremendously and he also had a great job, had friends and hobbies, a nice apartment, etc. I don't think you have anything to be concerned about, just be happy that he has something that works for him!
posted by telegraph at 5:17 AM on May 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

Chiming in to say how incredibly little pot he's actually smoking per day if a quarter ounce lasts two months or longer. The high he's getting is really really tiny, pretty much like a nightly cocktail or glass of wine. Smoking a tiny amount doesn't mean he's going to end up a full-blown drug addict with no self control -- I know someone whose intake is similar to your partner's, and this is after years of smoking pot. Just like the scores of people on the planet who have a single glass of wine or a single beer at the end of a day and never slide into alcoholism, there are plenty of people who smoke a little pot now and then, even daily, and never slide into heavier use.
posted by palomar at 7:38 AM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

But is this something where it always gets worse?

Nope. I am a person who drinks very little and mostly doesn't do drugs and I date a guy who is a pretty regular smoker. I've had concerns about it and I share people's feedback here that it's only a problem if it's a problem. In my guy's case during times when he was super stressed out his usage would creep up until I would be like "Dude you have smoked nearly every day this week and if you're doing it to avoid stress you maybe need to face the stress head on" and we're talk about it and it would be fine.

So I'd just keep an eye on the depression and make sure it's getting addressed and treated and partner is not self-medicating in lieu of addressing it in more appropriate-to-them way (like seeing a doc or a therapist) but I'd say no this does not set off alarm bells for me.
posted by jessamyn at 7:57 AM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

But is this something where it always gets worse?

Not necessarily, but if he's using it to cope with something like depression, it may. Not that it will, but in some people, they can worsen their depression during the times they are not partaking, leading to increased frequency and length of use, and negatively impacting their mindset when not using.

Which is really not much different than self medicating with alcohol. It's probably fine and it probably won't become an issue. However their is a lot of "pot is always safe, no matter what" that fails to acknowledge it could ever be a problem. I wanted to provide a counterpoint to that.

On preview: mostly what jessamyn said.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:10 AM on May 30, 2015

This is a very, very, very small amount. From what I know of people who use it recreationally, it really does seem like your partner is using it in a measured, appropriate manner to treat chronic pain. If it begins to be a problem, you know how to handle it - they've already offered to cut down, and based on their drinking history, it seems like they'd have no issue doing it. But I wouldn't worry about it until it does become a problem; I'm seeing zero red flags.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:34 AM on May 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Like everyone else said, this is not too much. I'm getting vibes from your question though that part of why you're feeling a little anxious about this is because of the "did not think it worthwhile to mention" part. I think now that you have the information that they're not doing something dangerous, you might still want to have a conversation with them starting with "I started feeling a little anxious when you told me that and I think it was because I didn't know that you were smoking that much. It made me feel like you were trying to hide something even though I know you weren't. Would you be okay with communicating more about your habits?"

This is not a time for ultimatums or iron-clad boundaries. I'd say see where it goes from there and figure out both of your comfort level.
posted by capricorn at 8:56 AM on May 30, 2015

I know someone who, now that he lives in a state with legalized medical marijuana, started to smoke some pot to deal with chronic back pain. He says that pot works better than any of the many prescription medicines he's tried for easing the pain---and he likes it better for relaxing after work than beer. I'm not worried all about it being some sort of "gateway drug", any more than I would worry the same about beer. Is that your worry? Or is it just that "pot is illegal" and therefore must be bad? (It's not illegal for me, anymore, mostly...)
posted by leahwrenn at 8:56 AM on May 30, 2015

Per partner, they bought a quarter ounce two months ago and have not finished it yet.

This is a really low level of consumption. Especially considering they're consuming frequently enough to probably have some nonzero level of tolerance built up, so I'd be surprised if they felt particularly stoned from an average night's consumption.

There are people who maintain a low level of consumption basically forever without particularly ramping up. Especially considering it's replacing drinking, and given offers to not consume, I would wait to actually see problematic behaviors (self medicating being the most probable) before spending any energy worrying.
posted by PMdixon at 9:08 AM on May 30, 2015

Depending on what he's taking, the muscle relaxants may be way more problematic (in terms of gastric damage and liver or kidney toxicity) than the weed (which he really ought not be smoking for health reasons but it is complicated and difficult to use that sort of minuscule amount in another format). Pretty much all the available heavy-duty sleep medications are incredibly scary in terms of side effects and unstudied neurological effects. Even OTC anti-inflammatories will eventually wreck your innards.

His options suck, and you're judging him by some very old-fashioned Reefer Madness standards for using probably the safest option.

There's been some pretty good writing about medical marijuana in the past couple of years (and I'm drawing a google blank but I think Wired or Vice or Vulture or one of those magazines I confuse for each other just did a longform piece in the past month or two, maybe someone else will remember enough to be able to find it), and The Cannabis Pharmacy is a pretty thorough book. Informing yourself with some post-DARE material is probably the best way to understand what he's actually doing and whether it's a problem.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:10 AM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am also someone who is partnered with a regular smoker, whereas I don't really smoke, drink, or do any drugs.

I met my boyfriend overseas, in a place where pot has been legalized, and it is very much the culture for young people to smoke. I didn't know anyone over there who didn't smoke pot, out of 12-13 people I got to know. In fact I once stayed with a dude who was high all the time. So much so that it was indeed impairing his functioning.

By comparison, I grew up in a generation and culture where pot smoking was rare-- maybe a one-time-lark thing, and not a habit. It's also not legal here. Prior to me getting with my boyfriend, (we hadn't met yet, actually) I tried pot -- in various ways -- out of curiosity, but also just to experiment. I probably did it over a dozen times in the end, different methods.

It's not something I would continue to do, because it still doesn't really do enough to be that appealing to me, and I never really enjoyed being altered.

But smoking actually helped me a lot to understand it in general. The appeal, and how it worked. How addictive it is. The methods you can take it. Feeling myself get high, noticing the sensations. It's hard to explain. But it was almost like a science experiment for me. I don't think I would have ever been okay with dating a smoker, had I not tried it for myself. Observing people in that environment helped a lot too-- it helped me distinguish the people who were self-medicating, and used pot as a crutch, and those who were using it just to unwind, and didn't feel they needed it. It also helped me humanize pot smokers -- it was easy to think of smokers as these mysterious 'others' who have glassy eyes and get high all day.

This is a lame cliche realization, but yes, I realized one day 'Oh, they are just like you and me!'

I know, right? But this was my true thought process.

Prior to this adventure, I thought I was okay with pot smoking, but I subconsciously had a very narrow minded view of pot smokers, and I was slightly judgmental without really meaning to be. Mostly, I just didn't really understand it. I also didn't understand if it was addictive, and I think part of me thought it might be cumulative or a gateway drug. I mean, I thought I was open minded. And theoretically I was. But all I knew is that if I thought about being with a guy, the thought of him regularly smoking pot made me kind of wrinkle my nose. I, like you, was not 'drawn' to it. I didn't feel it was ideal in a partner.

I had to really unpack my bias against drug use and work on myself. For instance, why did I not think twice about other drugs, like alcohol or caffeine-- or other indulgences, but have a distaste for those who did the same with pot? I had to go back to when I was learning about drugs and the biased opinions which influenced me at the time. They had had more of an impact on me than I had realized.

Sorry for the length. But the reason I'm saying this is because your question reminds me of something I would have asked about ten years ago.

So yeah, it's probably completely fine. But is it fine with you? What if he does it forever? Would you be okay with that? And is it possible he subconsciously omitted this info because he felt you might be disapproving on some level? Perhaps you might benefit for examining your reasoning, much like I did, in order to fully fill the gaps in your understanding.

I mean, you'd hardly have asked this question if you had discovered he'd neglected to tell you he was having a double shot espresso every morning, or a glass of wine a night, right? Your mind wants to say, 'this isn't the same thing!' but yeah, at the level he's at now, it kind of is.

So it may be worth thinking about your perception of pot and drug use in general, and learning more about it. At least, if you're anything like me-- If I hadn't of done this, it would have clouded my opinion on one of the best people I know, and I may have even passed over the loveliest relationship of my life.

But no, it's not cumulative. It's not physically addicting. Whether he gets visibly high (or acts it) depends on how he's smoking it, what he's smoking (yes there are different strains that may give different kinds of highs), how much, and his constitution.

And whether it will lead to more depends more on the type of person he is, rather than pot itself. If he's the type to over indulge in things that make him feel good (self medicate) in general, it might turn badly, yes. Absolutely look out for that. It depends completely on his personality. It's been said before, but essentially: It's not a problem until it's a problem. The only way you can prevent this is to keep an eye out, and be sure to push for openness and honesty in your relationship. I don't think asking someone to cut down is necessarily the right option, either. While I have no doubt he probably would for you, it will probably work better if he wants to do it for himself.

As for escalation -- my boyfriend has smoked for almost 10 years with no escalation. In fact, he also gets chronic pain, and used to smoke a LOT more than yours (and at most only looked visibly high for 10 minutes-- but has never behaved high), and has dropped it down to the level yours has been smoking, 4-5 times a week. (Which to echo others, is a really really small amount) In my boyfriend's case, he may have the tendency to self-medicate and is cognizant of that, so that was part of the reason he cut down -- completely of his own volition-- he just didn't like that he felt like smoking more when depressed, nor the 'fuzzy' sensation when he was around me, because he felt it impeded his experiencing of the moment.


Tl;dr: You're fine. At the level it is now, it's really more than fine. Keep a dialogue and be open about it, discus your concerns. Examine your biases. It's ok to use for pain management. If anything, it's probably much better for his body than regular analgesics. Good luck.
posted by Dimes at 10:28 AM on May 30, 2015 [7 favorites]

I know people that have had a little puff or two a couple of times a week for 20 years, held responsible jobs are are fine now as they were 20 years ago.

My brother was prone to depression & his casual occasional pot use led to harder pot use, led to assorted prescription drugs, led to meth & him recently in the ICU with an enlarge heart (& other side effects) due to meth use.

The "why" of the use is as important, my brother was self medicating for conditions that needed professional help that he wouldn't get, my friends of 20 years, were taking it like a glass of wine to chill after a hard day. My brother lied & kept secrets about what he was doing & how much he was doing & why he was doing it.

I think it is much like alcohol, some people can handle it fine, some people can't.

As you are confident your partner is telling you the truth, but as as you seem to have some reservations about his use, I would have a good talk about him keeping you in the loop about his use from now on. If nothing else, if you are worried about addiction, do some research into some of the signs of addiction & talk to him about what your comfort limits would be. Say if he spends more than x amount, or keeps checking out of plans you have together to go sit in his room & smoke, or whatever your limits would be. While he has every right to smoke if he wants, he is part of a partnership & it sounds like you are in a good place so you have the right to feel comfortable too.
posted by wwax at 10:50 AM on May 30, 2015

But is this something where it always gets worse?
Absolutely not. The so-called "gateway" theory has been long disproven. The vast majority (>90%) of people who consume marijuana never develop any problems related to their use. Especially if being used to manage chronic pain. I have a lot of accomplished, professional people in my life who consume marijuana on a daily or near-daily basis, whether to manage pain or other health issues, or for relaxation, or both.

Is is something that has a cumulative effect that won't be visible after two months?
Again, no. Especially if being used in such small amounts. Regular use of small amounts of marijuana is extremely unlikely to cause any ill effects. Fewer side effects than chronic use of most other pain medications.

I had assumed that smoking a little in the evening most days was more the equivalent of having a glass of wine with dinner, but maybe it's not?
Pretty much, yes.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:05 AM on May 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

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