Let’s start with an obvious statement everyone can agree on: cannabis is a psychoactive plant that changes how you feel, think, and perceive.
A Little Perspective
Now, let’s follow that up with a few other obvious statements. Alcohol, caffeine, energy drinks, and sex also change you think, feel, and perceive.
Is alcohol addictive? For some people, yes.
Is caffeine addictive? For some people with long-term habituated use, it is indeed physiologically addictive.
Is sex addictive? Mostly no, but some people are sex addicts.
So what about cannabis? Is cannabis addictive? Again, mostly no, but for some people yes.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cannabis has roughly the same rate of addiction as caffeine.
Think about that next time you’re in a Starbucks with a 20 person line in the morning: statistically speaking, 1 or 2 of those people are literally addicted to their morning fix.
The point here is not to shame people or make things illegal based on their “addictive” properties. The point is to open a larger discussion of addiction itself, what it truly is, and what is an appropriate, compassionate response.
What Is Addiction?
According to a professor emeritus at the University of Washington, Roger Roffman, “addiction results from a combination of biological and psychological factors that contribute to conditioned behavioral patterns that are very difficult to stop or resist.”
A combination of biological and psychological factors.
What this means is that there are few things in this world that are truly addictive on their own. There is always a psychological component, and often, this is the most important part.
In the case of cannabis, the fact that it is psychoactive is only a trigger. It’s a means to an end that is bolstering or covering a deeper psychological wound. From this perspective, all addictions are ultimately some form of self-medication.
Addiction and Trauma
Deeper than the physical properties of the substance are the wounds people carry. Sexual trauma, for example, is an especially deep wound and is strongly linked to addictive behaviors. All kinds of trauma can lead to addiction, and addiction to a substance is far from the only possibility, as is the case with sex or gambling or shopping addicts.
What to Do About Addiction?
Sometimes we can see people around us slipping further and further into a hole of addiction. If cannabis use is normalized in your social circle, it can be easy to let it slide and not say anything.
Given the complex nature of addiction and the clear role of psychological factors, if you see someone becoming hopelessly dependent on cannabis, compassionately reach out and see how they’re doing. Don’t judge or lecture them, just try to connect and see what’s going on beneath the surface.
If they are truly addicted, then they need help.
Sometimes all it takes is knowing that someone cares enough to notice to set someone on a different path.