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By Noel Neu, MS, LMHC

Lately I have been reading how marijuana is safe and wonderful, and how it will change your life for the better. All over social media, there is a buzz on how this wonder-drug will benefit your life. One recent posting with a background of cannabis paraphernalia stated the following: “When I first started smoking marijuana I planned on saving it only for special days, little did

I know that every day would become a special day.” Another posting’s headline read “12 ways how marijuana can improve your life.” Not that pro-cannabis rallying and extolling is anything new, as it has been part of anti-government backlash hyperbole for at least the past 50 years. However, at this time the grand romanticizing of cannabis has become more commonplace and accepted with the legalization of it in two states and growing.

Currently I am neither for nor against the legalization of marijuana in our society. As I see it, legalizing it can lead to regulation of the drug so that more accurate statistics and concrete research can be made to its ill-effects as well as any perceived benefits. What I do want to make claim to is the anti- romanticizing of marijuana as it does have powerfully harmful results when used chronically in a family setting. The following is my experience, strength, and hope both personally and professionally over the past twenty five years.

Marijuana is a central nervous system suppressant. This means it lowers the reaction time of nervous system processes. This includes impairment physically, mentally, and yes, emotionally. The result is a disconnection from what is really happening in life, and the creation of an illusion. I discovered that once living
in this illusion the only way I could maintain stasis (feeling ok) is to continuously inhale marijuana into my system on a daily basis. My own romanticizing of marijuana began while I was in college.
I became truly successful as I committed to doing well in school for the first time after I got to college, which is around the same time that I discovered this wonderful “high” of being stoned which resulted in a contrived sense of being “free.” I became convinced that I had figured it all out. I could be successful in school and smoke all I want as long as I did not mix the two. Which I did not do ever, thus, feeling in control. I did want the illusion of feeling “free” to last as long as I could make it. Around ten years later I hit a bottom spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and yes, physically in a career that I could not stand, with a life that I did not want, and a belief that I needed to continue smoking marijuana to feel anything. This is called addiction and marijuana is a drug that you can become addicted to.

Marijuana is a-motivational, isolating, and distracting to any sense of what is really important in life. It creates what I call the “legend in my own mind syndrome.” This means that no real connection with self, with a power greater than self, nor with any real support system is ever genuinely made. Just a series of if-only scenarios that occur one after another that leave the chronic marijuana smoker with the belief that they are a victim of his/her time or of any perceived or actual societal factors. This victim belief is carried over in dealings with family, neighbors, work peers, and friendships. Most friendships to a chronic (daily) marijuana smoker are steeped in the procuring, smoking, and pontificating of marijuana and all that it “cures.” This leads to a life unfulfilled unless filled with the drug that is believed to be so very good for you.

In my first year of early recovery I bumped up against another difficulty, in that marijuana was perceived as not being a real problem compared to crack cocaine or heroin. Fortunately for me I had a major support that helped me to see that marijuana recovery is more challenging. Since it has been downplayed and minimized, the result often ends up with an enabling of the problem. Honestly, nobody celebrates crack or heroin addiction, but the celebration of smoking marijuana to heal your problems has become increasingly stronger and louder.

In my 16 years since my last use of marijuana, I have learned about who I am as a person. My strengths, weaknesses, my hopes, goals, and dreams. I have learned that this plant that I was ingesting was not the cause of my problems, however, it contributed to me not being able to get to the cause which was actually my faulty belief that I needed a drug to enter my system to feel free and alive.

Professionally over the past 12 years, I have had the privilege to work with many young men and women, as well as adolescent boys and girls, experiencing the spectrum of marijuana use, from abuse to dependence. Romanticizing marijuana from them makes sense, since they have been unsure of themselves as well as the difficult challenges that life has put in front of them. Unfortunately for them the result has been the stunting of their growth as human beings in their abilities to communicate and effectively connect with their families and themselves.

This is the essence to my desire of anti-romanticizing marijuana. It is my hope that with the continued legalization of marijuana, a device to detect marijuana levels similar to breath devices for blood-alcohol levels will be developed to further analyze the impairments marijuana causes while driving. In addition, with marijuana being freely admitted to being smoked, better analysis of lung diseases can be researched to determine correlation to marijuana intake much like the research being completed on cigarette smoking.

Any argument that marijuana is “better” for you than alcohol or cigarettes is counterproductive. More than often, this argument is made by people very determined to smoke marijuana on a daily basis because they need to. The confusion with being under the influence of cannabis is that it has the user believe that they want to use it rather than need to use it. This keeps the illusion that all is under control, and smoking marijuana to reduce stress on a daily basis is the solution. This is the same argument made by functional alcoholics who do not believe they have a problem.

Let’s not romanticize it. If we are going to legalize it, let’s put it into the category that suits it, with alcohol and cigarettes, where it can truly be regulated and thoroughly researched. Then we can help those addicted to marijuana to get the help they need and not be told “it’s just marijuana.” I believe this is the true path to freedom – Believe in Yourself and Follow Your Truth. No “wonder drug” is necessary.

Noel Neu, MS, LMHC is the CEO and clinical director of Empathic Recovery (www.empathicrecovery.com). Mr. Neu has been a clinician in private practice for over ten years and has developed programs for “Assertive Awareness” training, “Living your Truth” to build self-esteem, and helping families with addictions heal.

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