addiction

MMJ 101: Are You Worried About Becoming Addicted?

Whenever I bring up the topic of medical marijuana, whether openly asking people to bring up myths and questions, or discussing it with someone who knows about my own use, the first topic to come up is invariably the one of addiction.  People are concerned about the addictive properties, and like anytime a patient takes treatment for pain, there are the inevitable questions about whether we are worried about becoming addicted.

I’ve addressed some aspects of addiction and addictive properties in the first MMJ 101 post. Most importantly I discussed the fact that no one pauses to consider the importance of ending pain. It is such an important point that it bears stressing again. Chronic pain has severe long term consequences, and causes long term changes to the body. Treating it is a high priority. To question whether we are sure we have to treat pain, is to underestimate its importance, and this is something that most people, unless they’ve experienced it themselves, can have a hard time comprehending. To them, it’s just pain.

To have an honest discussion of addiction, we must first understand what it is. The social perception of addiction is that it is a series of bad decisions that lead to a chemical dependency. Some views stop there and collapse addiction entirely into chemical dependency, often joking of being “addicted” to caffeine or sugar.  At some point one becomes physically dependant on the chemical, creating a driving need, and ultimately the addicted person has to make another choice, this time to give up their addiction and begin the long hard road to recovery.  This view often fails to distinguish between addiction and any craving or yearning for something that one enjoys, and thus regards addiction as an act of irresponsibility.  There are some variations on this perception, ranging between people believing that addiction is wholly the result of some internal flaw within a person, and others believing that it is entirely the result of a chemical dependency.  Neither view grasps the true nature of this phenomenon.

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