Bonnie Carroll: Getting Off Pot – July 20, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Marijuana is used both medicinally and recreationally in our society. And like all mind altering drugs it can be abused and its use can evolve into an addiction. The key is how to differentiate medicinal and recreational use from chronic or addicted use that is adversely affecting your life.

Addictive use is chronic or daily use of marijuana for one’s perceived emotional well being. Addictive use of marijuana usually involves the continued use of the drug despite adverse consequences in other aspects of your life. Addiction can also be defined as a pattern of repeated use that results in tolerance, withdrawal, and compulsive drug taking behavior.

Recreational use among adults, whose brains and life experience have matured and who are able to limit their marijuana use to occasional weekends, is somewhat like using alcohol to relax. Most people don’t use alcohol on a daily basis unless they are self medicating and/or have addictive tendencies, similarly you wouldn’t use marijuana on a daily basis if your life was basically satisfying without it.

Medicinal marijuana use has been identified as a helpful treatment for a number of mental and physical health disorders. But due to the limitations of scientific research, which has been adversely impacted by the illegal status of marijuana, scientists are still learning about the many ways that marijuana can affect the brain and the body. Marijuana use has been found helpful by some people who have severe pain, nausea, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Other ailments that have shown positive benefits from marijuana use include AIDS, cancer, glaucoma and other physical health conditions.

In treatment of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, marijuana has mixed outcome: some people find symptom relief, whereas others find it exacerbates their symptoms. However, it is important to keep in mind that any psychotropic medication used to treat a mental health disorder should be used in conjunction with psychotherapy.

It is also important to note that heavy or daily use of marijuana will affect the parts of your brain that control memory, attention, and learning. But due to above mentioned limitations of scientific research, scientists are still learning about the many ways that marijuana can affect the brain: both positive and negative.

In light of this, I caution young people to be careful with or avoid marijuana use altogether for two primary reasons. First, we really don’t know what all the long-term effects of marijuana use on the developing brain are. And secondly, so our youth are able to reach their full potential in life.

If you are using marijuana on a chronic or daily basis, you may want to consider how it is affecting your life. Is it interfering with your dreams, goals and ambitions? Is it interfering with or adversely affecting your relationships? Is it affecting your ability to meet your basic needs? Is it affecting your ability to reach your full potential? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to reduce or eliminate your marijuana usage.

If marijuana use has become a problem for you or you are using marijuana to treat a mental illness, you would probably benefit from psychotherapy. Many of the therapists in our community can be found listed on the North Coast Association of Mental Health Professionals website at You can even search for therapists on this website who specialize in substance abuse treatment if that is what you need.

If you are looking for a fellowship of support to address marijuana addiction you can go to the Marijuana Anonymous website at

On the website, I found the following list of Marijuana Anonymous (MA) meetings in Humboldt County. You can find contact information for each group on the website.

MCKINLEYVILLE – Sundays at 9 a.m.

“No Train Wreck”

Misty Village Community Room

2331 McKinleyville Ave

This is a closed, non smoking and wheel chair accessible meeting.

FORTUNA – Sundays at 5:30 p.m.

Redwood Memorial Hospital

3300 Renner Dr.

MCKINLEYVILLE – Tuesdays at 6 p.m.

Church of the Joyful Healer

1944 Central Ave.

This is an open, non-smoking and wheelchair accessible meeting.

The website notes that meeting times and places can change frequently, so check the website for contact information for each meeting and call for confirmation before you go.

Bonnie Carroll is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a counseling practice in McKinleyville. Contact her directly at

Tags: ,