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Mother Knows Best: How Do You Know If You Have a Problem with Cannabis?

Can you actually be addicted to cannabis, and how do you find out?

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Dear Mother,

How do you know if you have a problem with cannabis or not?

— K.T.


Dear K.T.,

I'll start by saying that if you're even entertaining the question, there might be something going on. There's a lot to unpack when it comes to cannabis and addiction, so let's dive right in. Hopefully, by the end of this, you'll have a better idea of the role cannabis plays in your life and whether or not it's a healthy one.

For some, cannabis is a lifesaver, particularly for folks who take it medicinally. It is absolutely possible to wake up every morning, take a hit off your vape, and proceed to have an average day where you work, run errands, hang out with your significant other and/or kids, cook meals, and watch TV. In fact, for some people, cannabis actually makes all of that possible!

However, just like any other medication, there is a chance that it can be abused. The fight for legalization often trots out the fact that cannabis is not an addictive substance. And it's true. You do not become addicted to cannabis in the same way you would for opioids, for instance. And there's also the fact that you cannot overdose on cannabis. All true. But, with that said, almost anything in your life (from food to exercising to even shopping) can become detrimental to your daily life if you allow it to, including marijuana.

There are some questions you should ask yourself if you're worried that you might have a problem with cannabis:

Can you function without it?
This may not be a simple answer. As I said before, some folks rely on cannabis to get through the day. However, if you're not using cannabis medicinally, ask yourself how you feel about not using cannabis for a day or two. Does the thought make you feel good or neutral? If so, then you're probably in an OK space. If you immediately become anxious, upset, sad, or depressed, you definitely want to explore those feelings and why you might be having them.

Does it interfere with your daily life?
Those who use cannabis medicinally do so in order to allow them to get on with their day to day needs. However, some folks can abuse cannabis to the point where they're ignoring other facets of their lives. Does your cannabis use make you miss work or lose out on a job? Do you smoke too much so you're unable to go run errands, pay bills, do household chores, etc…? If you're consuming cannabis to the point where it negatively impacts your day to day life, you might want to reevaluate the role it plays.

Has it impacted your relationships?
Sometimes, people will have a hard time realizing that they even have a problem. Occasionally, it takes hearing it from others to get us to notice something isn't quite right, especially if we're too deep in. Have you gotten into fights with friends or family over your cannabis use? If you have children, do you find yourself parenting in different ways that may not be as beneficial to your children? Do you find yourself declining social invitations because you'd rather stay home and rip some bong hits? Do you lie to friends about your cannabis use?

If you've answered yes to any (or all!) of these questions, you might want to take a long, hard look at your cannabis use. Now, answering "yes" does not necessarily mean you have a problem. Or, it might mean you do. How do you know for sure?

Talk to someone (in real life!) if you haven't already. That could be a friend, relative, or (ideally) a doctor. Your provider should not shame you for using cannabis, nor can they report you for doing so. Hopefully, they will listen to you and help you figure out if you have a problem or not. And don't be discouraged! While the solution may be to quit cannabis all together, perhaps you can find a way to use cannabis in a healthy, safe, and supportive way. After all, as I said up top, the fact that you're even questioning it means you're at least thinking about it. And that's a big part of it all.

Good luck!

— Mother