This post was originally published on January 14, 2015.
Try not to roll your eyes when I tell you that not only can you get hooked on pot but also that more people are ending up in rehab for it. According to The Denver Post, clients with marijuana addiction recently accounted for 19 percent of Colorado’s residential rehabilitation programs.
Now, we know the majority of recreational users don’t end up addicted; according to this piece, only nine percent of marijuana users risk addiction compared to the 15 percent of drinkers who risk developing an alcohol dependency. But being a pot addict is definitely a thing now. According to the 2013 NSDUH, marijuana accounted for 4.2 million of the estimated 6.9 million Americans dependent on or abusing illicit drugs. And these are only the ones who are admitting it.
That is Good Shit, Bro
How do we get these kinds of statistics? From people who show up in rehabs and hospitals as well as those on the other end of help lines—and they are doing this in numbers never seen before. I can only assume that this is because of the fact that the kind bud we have access to today is just really fucking strong. In 1995, the average THC levels in weed seized by the DEA were just under four percent. Now, we can get shit that’s five times as strong prescribed by a doctor.
I also blame this on edibles. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a “when edibles attack” story. I ate half of a cookie before Cirque de Soleil once and spent the whole show with my eyes closed, cowering in my seat because I was convinced one of those rubbery people was going to land on my head.
It’s Just Weed
The idea that something is harmless can put us in risky situations. Once upon a time, cocaine was used in toothache drops for children and amphetamines were marketed as a decongestant. In this month’s New Yorker, sociologist Howard Becker makes this point about opium being sold over the counter for “women’s troubles” 100 years ago: “When middle-class women could buy opium, they did, and they got addicted.”
Sounds simple enough. In order to know something is a problem, we need to see its adverse affects. With the push to decriminalize the marijuana industry, more studies are showing the short and long term effects of smoking pot and what they are finding is that even those who only smoke a few times a week have significant abnormalities in the areas of the brain that control emotion and motivation. These brain changes are even more significant in developing brains, i.e.—teenagers.
Everybody’s Doing It
Look, weed is easy to get—easier than beer and cigarettes for most teens and if it’s easy to get, you should at least try it, right? Everybody’s doing it. This is exactly how I lost my virginity. Peer pressure and just the observation that something is status quo can be a powerful motivator. Still, 75 percent of those students who said they could get weed in under an hour weren’t doing it, primarily because they were afraid of getting in trouble—from the law or their parents.
So if we remove that barrier, we are putting more kids at risk of developing an addiction to pot. Which leads me to a recent female teacher scandal that wasn’t about how she had an affair with a student or committed fraud to get thousands of painkillers. Nope, this time it was a teacher who let her middle school students smoke out at her house. While the buzz around this focused on the fact that her career was the casualty, can we at least consider the fact that this may have not been the biggest problem here?
The Double-Headed Dildo
Look, I’m not saying that pot smoking is a slippery slope for everyone. I won’t be the one telling my teenage niece that if she smokes pot she’ll end up on one end of a double-headed dildo just to score (apologies—this is my go-to gage for desperation). But I will be telling her how new studies are showing the effects of pot smoking on her brain. I will explain to her how new neural pathways are going up and that hitting the pipe on the regular before the age of 25 only increases her risk of addiction. And she will not listen. Maybe I will just tell her she could end up like me? That should scare the shit out of her.