In a way it’s easy to get find yourself with a drug addiction, especially when the initial drug choice is marijuana. There’s reason why marijuana earned the name, “the gateway drug”.
Marijuana might be harmless to start, but over time, addiction can sink its roots into your life. That addiction can develop with marijuana, but also with other drugs that might have developed after using marijuana on a regular basis.
In fact, studies show that if an adult started to use marijuana as a teenager, he or she is more likely to develop an addiction. A 2010 article in the Los Angeles Times pointed out that 9% of people who use marijuana develop an addiction to it. And research indicates that the earlier a person begins to use marijuana, the more likely he or she will become dependent on it. Also, dependency will develop within two years for 17% of those who began smoking marijuana at ages 14 or 15.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)’s February 2014 report of drug use in Los Angeles County, marijuana was reported as “the primary drug problem” with 27.2% of drug rehab treatment admissions for marijuana addiction or dependency. Marijuana drug treatment admissions showed a 25% increase from 2011. Furthermore, marijuana was identified in 30.8% of drug reports analyzed in laboratories. Of drug seizures across Los Angeles County, 35% of those were marijuana, among various illicit drugs. Lastly, marijuana ranked second in the list of illicit drugs reported in the poison control system.
Frequently, for those who end up using drugs and alcohol, there are feelings, thoughts, and beliefs that ultimately lead to using drugs on a regular basis. Alcohol and drugs induce an altered state and therefore provide an escape from the tumultuous inner atmosphere that an individual might have. Some feelings are hard to bear, especially if they are intense, and particularly if an individual feels that he or she cannot express those feelings without being hurt in some way.
For instance, common feelings that precede drug use include sadness, frustration or irritation, anger, shame or embarrassment, and nervousness or anxiety. When these feelings fester inside, expressing them might become more and more difficult. This makes finding an escape from these emotions, as in drug use, versus articulating them the easier choice.
The perceived benefit of smoking marijuana is the numbing effect it has. The drug numbs an individual from feelings, and sadly, it only keeps them in a dysfunctional cycle. There’s a strong, often unconscious need to be free of those feelings, but substance use only pushes them away and adds to their power over its user. In fact, addiction is a cycle of self-harm, where feelings are pushed away and doing so perpetuates the festering of those feelings, which in turn strengthens the need for drug use.
There’s a saying in the mental health field: what you resist persists. The only way to heal the underlying issues is to allow the expression of those feelings, as challenging as they might be, and begin to unravel the events that caused those feelings in the first place. The only thing that will lead to no longer needing drugs emotionally or psychologically is the expression of those feelings in a safe environment with someone you trust.
Participating in drug detox and drug treatment can not only address the addiction, but also help an individual heal from the cycle of addiction itself. Often, whether it’s food or drugs or overworking, addiction is a disease that can show up in any area of life. Participating in a drug treatment program can facilitate this healing.
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