As a writer for a site dedicated to speaking out about addiction and recovery, you might think the headline, “Smoking Too Much Marijuana Brings You Down” would present the perfect opportunity for me to point out how research supports the negative consequences of marijuana abuse. It is, except I’m not entirely sure I agree. Let me explain.
NBC News reported that a new study on regular, long-term marijuana users showed a social and economic decline in their later years as compared to their parents. But that is assuming the parents weren’t potheads themselves and that the career choices made by the pothead kids are socially and economically comparable to the ones made by their parents. For example, in my mother’s generation, pursuing a full-time career in the arts was much less accepted than it is today. While her generation was certainly among the first to entertain such unstable livelihoods, it was still not considered feasible. My father might have dreamed of being a stand-up comedian (this is entirely hypothetical—my dad isn’t funny) but if he wanted to have a family (which he didn’t but that’s a whole other article), he really didn’t have that choice. Today, there are plenty of comedians who you have never even heard of (and probably never will) who make a fine living in their field, have families and even own homes. Of course there are many more who don’t. Comedy may be seen as a viable career option now, and therefore more people are choosing it over, say, going to dental school. Still, it most likely puts a person who does take that path in a much lower economic bracket than their dentist father.
Stoned Chicken or High Egg?
So, do most stand-up comedians—or artists for that matter—smoke weed? I’d venture to say yes, but that includes everyone—from the most to the least prosperous. My point is, I don’t think simply smoking pot makes you less successful. When it comes to being a long-term, daily pot smoker, it’s hard for me to be convinced that marijuana is the only variable when it comes to earning potential and financial stability. There is no doubt in my mind they are related but it does seem like it’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario.
The article goes on to say, “regular long-term users also had more antisocial behaviors at work, such as stealing money or lying to get a job, and experienced more relationship problems, such as intimate partner violence and controlling abuse.” This makes sense to me. Not because smoking pot makes people dishonest, but due to its keen ability to arrest emotional and social development, as does most chronic drug use—including alcohol.
The Pot Calling the Kettle an Asshole on the 405 Freeway
There are two main characteristics that I have observed in my friends who are long-term, daily pot smokers. First is anger. Hell hath no fury like a stoner who isn’t high. I don’t know why this is but my theory is that it’s the reason they started getting high so frequently in the first place. But anger isn’t like an injury that will heal after time, it’s an ever-growing beast that lives inside us if not processed and dealt with. It’s is one of those emotions that makes its way out of the body any way it can—through food, sex, drugs or most commonly, misplaced rage at seemingly unrelated things (like traffic).
The second characteristic I have noticed is emotional immaturity (or maybe that’s just guys in LA? I’m joking!). If you have ever seen a middle-aged man have a temper tantrum, what you have probably witnessed is the coping mechanisms of a teenager demonstrated in the body of a 50 year old. Depending on the person, this could come out as an “episode,” where the person is literally stomping their feet in protest, or an anxiety attack, where the they appear to be manic and inconsolable. Either way, this seems to be a result of underdeveloped skills in self-soothing and self-regulating emotions, skills you gain as your prefrontal cortex develops. I am not a doctor. I am simply the child of two potheads who has been surrounded by heavy marijuana users my entire life—so what do I know?
Can I Bum a Spliff?
With all in mind, there is a lot that can be learned from this study. For starters, I think it is really important to look at the kind of people who are drawn to smoking pot on a regular basis. In the whirlwind of medical marijuana, decriminalization and legalization, we seem to have lost sight of the fact that there are downsides to getting high—lots of them. While I do agree the cons of smoking weed appear to be less than drinking alcohol, it’s doesn’t mean that it should be advertised and celebrated as a viable purpose in life. Nevertheless, that is where we are at culturally. It’s much more socially acceptable to break out a joint nowadays than it is to light up a cigarette.