Our Empathic Nature

The Altruistic Side of Evolutionary Psychology

How to Get Off Marijuana

How to get off marijuana and deal with the depression that follows: Steps to take that will make it easier. Read More

marijuana addiction

my son has been smoking this for quite a number of years, his friends do it so its a keep in the group ,cool thing to do.
as a concerned mum i want to help him get off it but he refuses to let me in
. is there any sort of step by step guide, training , of such to get off this he can follow
from a heart renched mum watching him crumble away

to Leanne

If only there was a guidebook: "How to Help Your Adult Child Whose Using Drugs" for parents, friends, partners, other loved ones...a step by step training as you mention. But there isn't. There is an amazing program, "Al-Anon" which is for loved ones of addicts and alcoholics --and it's great, it tells you over and over to stop focusing on the addict and instead focus on yourself. While that is good advice for everyone, there is the parent's sense of responsibility to at least be aware of the condition their children are in, no matter how old they are. Many say this is an "overly-enmeshed" mother or father but I don't quite agree with that perspective. Parents (often but not always the mother) don't want to spend all their time worrying --they do it when something is really wrong, when their child --young or adult-- is sick. So your concern and heart break is quite normal, it's signaling you that you son is in trouble. That said, there is probably little you can do with him directly but have faith in him that he will pull through this. Obviously you've been a concerned and involved parent, you've loved him and somehow int he end, that means more than you can imagine.

While I'm saying I don't think there is anything you can do directly with your son, there are a few things you can do for yourself and your household. First, if anyone is "using" any mind altering substances in your household (and that includes alcohol) tell them to stop, not to do it in your home. This brings a very powerful message to adult children. Second, go to Al-Anon and really do your own program. If anyone tells you you're "worrying to much" ignore him or her. Find a sponsor who has gone through this with her children. You have to worry, its normal. But when a parent goes into Al-Anon something amazing happens in the whole family --its like bringing the message of recovery to every family member. It has some kind of domino effect and i've seen this so often. Your son will see you change, however that goes --maybe less anxiety, maybe you'll get less depressed and worried, but working a program changes people, it just works. I think this is by far the most powerful thing you can do. Try it and see what happens --its free, it definitely can't harm you, and if you live in a community where there are no Al-Anon meetings, they now have them and lots of them online.

I hope this helps you at least a little. You can of course also seek out a counselor or psychotherapist who knows something about drugs, if that interests you although it can be quite costly. And there is nothing like hearing the stories from people who have gone what you're going through. This is really how AA and NA work as well. So these are my suggestions --there is no guide book, every person, every "case" and every addict is different, so how you do this is going to be specific to you, but try to get to Al-anon and talk to people, and see what happens!

It's tough

First, I would like to say thank you so much to Dr. O'Connor for writing articles about marijuana addiction. I've spent the past year trying to quit after smoking daily for 14 years. Which has seen me relapse twice.

Next, to Leanne, I think the best avenue is to be supportive and offer help. Maybe take your son to AA or MA meetings, to see a professional, or just talk to a former addict. I can speak from experience that ignoring the problem is a terrible thing to do. When my mother found me smoking weed back when I was a teenager, she did not offer help, in fact she kicked me out the house. Even after making amends she still ignored my drug problem like the rest of my family. If I would have received counseling or therapy or analysis for depression, things may have been different.

Sometimes people are wary of letting other people take control of their lives. One of the main reasons I liked smoking was because it let be choose how I felt instead of any circumstances outside of myself. So it's important for you to show your son that he is the one who makes the active decision to quit and that you will be supportive but not intrusive.


Hi David: Thanks for your response to me and to Leanne. As you'll see from my reply above, I suggest that rather than Leanne try to take her son to a meeting, she get into Al-Anon herself --I have seen this be the most effective thing a parent or partner or other loved one can do. It is so hard to stop smoking marijuana --Its far more addictive than people realize, and the tricky thing is that some people can really smoke once in a while and then leave it alone for a long time, whereas other people can't do that, they become addicted. I think you are right that Leanne's son would not like her to tell him what to do, but by her going into recovery in Al-Anon, she is sending a powerful message. If your family had done that, you wouldn't have felt so alone with your marijuana addiction. You show enormous strength in how you've been hanging in there while struggling with this drug. I am sure you know to go to AA and/or NA yourself, there is nothing more helpful really. And know that marijuana withdrawal has physical symptoms --they seem all emotional, but really they are physical and represent neurological changes. For example when recovering addict had a huge craving for their drug --well it turns out that their body temperature has just dropped, right before or as the craving comes on. The person is not aware of it, but that's how physical this disease of addiction really is. Keep on keeping on, I know how hard it is to get off and stay off marijuana --but it sound like you are really doing it!


My story

My story for those that are interested… I smoked, spotted, bonged and consumed marijuana from around age 17 until I was 36 years old. I’m 42 now and have just started to feel like my life is back to normal. When I say normal I mean in the sense that my mental state is normal. Having said that, I still feel like I’ve led a pretty standard life. I partied just like everyone else, just that I was always was around weed. The only time I refrained was while I was in another country for a couple of years. (As an aside I did have a few years on E in the mix, but left that as that shit really does f**k you up. But that’s another story). Anyway through all this time I did function normally, got a degree, a good high paying job, got married and had kids. Looking back now there was definitely something ‘altered’ about my thought process. The reasons I stopped was 3 fold. I didn’t want to raise my kids around it, I worried about my health and wasn’t around any people would could supply it. It’s taken 6 odd years to recover for me. I found the effects on my mental state to be subtle but very clear to me now that I’m clean. At times of heavy use it was like I was in a fog. I had some dark times. I had some weird things happen. I remember 1 year went by so fast I couldn’t believe it. Looking back now I think it’s like I didn’t take notice of things. This caused time to slip by and also caused me to miss chances that would have made my life better. Relationships with other people can be slightly different because of pot. It’s very hard to put into words and the only way I can put it is that life is very subtle – one wrong word can sometimes put you at odds with another person. That could then miss you an opportunity that they could have offered. But because of the pot fog, I kinda didn’t consider it or think as deeply or worry as much as maybe I do now. I’m a lot more philosophical about things now, but that may also be because I’m older. Now I have my head back I find I’m trying to improve my education and abilities whereas in years gone by the motivation didn’t last or just shit happened, the planning wasn’t there. Life just went by one day to the next. Now I also spend heaps of time with my kids and now find them most enjoyable to be around. I think pot took away a certain drive. Having said all this, it does offer other things like relaxation and creativity but it does have to be taken in moderation, just like alcohol. And of course different people will be different. I have an addictive personality and smoked nearly every day. I may partake in another cone or too someday before I die, but it wouldn’t be until after the kids have left home. And I would stop myself getting in to the old routine again, because it’s so much fun and seems harmless, unless you know the truth. Would I do things differently if I had my time again? Yeah I wouldn’t do nearly as much weed, but the fact of the matter for me is that I just like it so much, and that my friend, is where the problemth lie. Know thyself.

reply to "my story"

Thank you for the wonderful description of your years of marijuana addiction. You perfectly describe "amotivational syndrome" that happens to many who smoke pot regularly. It is subtle but it wrecks lives. It sounds like you managed to "get through" but of course not as well as you might have, had you not been smoking pot. Pot addiction is pernicious because marijuana addicts often don't realize they're hooked, nor do they see the way it's screwing up their lives. They lack insight, which you've regained through living without it. I suggest you hang i there --at some point you may realize that much as you believe you "liked it so much" --well that's your addiction talking, not your sensible cognitive apparatus. I worked with someone who insisted --I think for 4 years or so-- after quitting, that he could write "better" on pot. 8 years later he laughs about that (he's now a PhD and wrote a dissertation, NOT on pot obviously. A problem with marijuana -differing from other substances-- is the subtlety of the ramifications, it's sneaky. Congratulations for quitting and thank for describing your experience so eloquently here.


But isn't using

But isn't using anti-depressants just replacing one addiction with another? Aren't anti-depressants as harmful? They make one dependent as much as Marijuana.

reply to "But isn't using"

Using marijuana (or any other recreational drug, including alcohol) is definitely not the same as taking an antidepressant medication. For starters, anti-depressants don't hit the "reward center" which in the case of recreational drugs, condition people to crave the experience "again and again." For most drugs of abuse it comes down to a rush of extra dopamine in the "pleasure center." Of course other neurotransmitters are involved, depending on the particular medication; but dopamine and the reward center seems to be at the heart of addiction, regardless of the specific drug. Most drugs of abuse flood the reward center with dopamine and that "feels good" reported by drug addicted people.

Hers's where the genetic and social factors come in; if someone comes from a family where one or more family members have become involved heavily with recreational drugs, it will feel "better" than it does for someone from a family with no history of addiction/alcoholism.And on the level of the social: If people come from a situation that provides no hopeful image of he future, that is constrained by poverty and discrimination, they may take on drug use as something "cool" they do with their friends, who are equally unemployed and bored. The socio-economic reality combined with genetic inheritance and recreational drug use spells the disaster of addiction.

Anti-depressant drugs don't flood the pleasure center with dopamine. They don't offer that "feel good" experience, there's no immediate reward. Therefore the conditioning to take "more" and "more simply isn't there. Furthermore, anti-depressant drugs are not addictive. Let me explain: Of course when you take any drug (or almost any drug, there are exceptions) your body --mainly your brain in the case of mind-altering substances, and those we think of as "recreational"-- gets used to it, and changes some in response. But with anti-depressants there is no "tolerance." What this means is that people taking antidepressants don't need to increase their dose to get the same effect over time.

Another important difference --it is possible to get off of anti-depressants without a withdrawal --that is if people get off of them slowly enough. The stories about horrible experiences getting off antidepressants are all coming from people who got off them much too quickly. Because one's physiology gets accustomed to the drug effects and is altered some, it is important to get off anti-depressant drugs in tiny increments, going down exceedingly slowly. In my clinical experience (meaning this is anecdotal data), withdrawal symptoms simply indicate that a person is coming off the anti-depressant too quickly. A very very slow withdrawal is indicated, and then there is nothing remotely like a withdrawal as we know it, as in the case of recreational drugs.

So --antidepressant drugs are nothing like recreational drugs and don't promote addiction. Starting on an antidepressant is not in any way replacing one addiction for another.


son and marijuana

hi again thank you so much for your advice i have been speaking to a psychologist that deals with adolescent smoking this stuff. she has been helping me through it.
my son refuses my help or advice but i keep hanging in there he can be so hurtful though he says his slowly giving up but still looses his temper when i try to give him advice or tell him about others experiences some how we seem to always end up arguing because he just wants to hear what he wants and he seems to want to be the centre of attention and when i talk about others he gets cranky.
i want to give up on him and not talk to him or help him but i seem to keep bailing him out and talking to him even though some how it ends up in arguments, any sugestions im becoming a nervous wreck leanne

reply to "son and marijuana"

Hi Leanne:

I know this can be so hard. First, you should know that kids, young adult kids who are using drugs etc. rarely take advice from their parents. So don't take it too personally. Second, maybe it would be a good idea to quit trying to give him advice. Of course you have to bail him out when you can, you're his mom and who else is paying close attention like you are. This is also --I think anyway-- a normal reaction for a mom or dad. Enabling is when someone actually helps a person keep on using. Some bailing him out is not enabling. That said, my strongest advice is for you to start going to Al-Anon, in a serious way. Like go almost every day, get a sponsor, work the steps, the whole thing. I think you will find other parents there, who are in similar situations, and that might be helpful and even comforting. Let me know how it's going.


One of the best pieces of

One of the best pieces of advice I ever picked up was to treat the addict, but love your son or daughter the same. It is very difficult to see past the eyes of the addiction but I strongly agree just showing some support and him knowing you are always there will go a long way in his recovery. He will not lose hope all the while he fights this for himself and his family. the road to recovery (http://sobercollege.com/addiction-treatment-phases/road-to-recovery/) can be difficult but creating goals can help drive success.

Should I see my doctor about my addiction ?

Hi, every one
I can't believe others are struggling with the same thing, it is good to know that I actually have an addiction that people do recognize.

I started smoking weed when I was 12 and have had it on almost a daily basis since, I have managed to completely isolate my self from the world around me and am only now coming to the realisation that the weed is to blame.

My biggest problem is my mind set, I somehow seem to have convinced my self I do not enjoy things as much when I am not stoned, and also find my self easily frustrated with the smallest things.

A strange thing is I managed to give up smoking tobacco but this is so much harder, when I have some green I always tell myself "this is the last time I will quit when this runs out" but when the next day comes I just go mad for it and cannot help my self.

I feel that now it is starting to have a major effect on my physical health, I sweat easily and have very low energy levels and zero motivation every little thing becomes a chore. I have blamed every thing for this (even going for blood tests etc...) but only the weed remains so it is time I did something about it.

So my question is should I see my GP and get a anti-depressant ?
I tried them years ago and they did not do much for me
Do you think it would help me to quit ?

Thanks for giving me somewhere to tell my story, I am sure this alone will make a diffrence.

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Lynn E. O’Connor, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, Professor at the Wright Institute, Berkeley CA, and Director of the Emotion, Personality, and Altruism Research Group. more...

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