Heavy marijuana use can interfere with everyday life

Q: When my son and his wife first started dating, they would on occasion smoke some marijuana.

They did so mostly when they were with their friends. There was nothing of note to otherwise worry about.

Since then, my son’s wife has mostly stopped using marijuana, but not my son. I am sure that he is using it daily, or at least beyond what I think is reasonable.

I have suggested to him that I think he might be addicted and that he should get help from an addictions counsellor but he shrugs me off.

He is convinced that marijuana is not an addictive drug and that he can stop using it anytime he chooses.

He will not talk anymore about it.

I am concerned about my son, but I no longer have any idea of what I can do to help him. What do you suggest?

A: Although I am not an expert on marijuana, I have kept up with my readings and have some thoughts you might find helpful.

What you and your son need to understand is that the marijuana people use today is different than it was back in the 1960s.

The marijuana in those days was considered low-grade quality. Its impact was marginal and the extent to which it was an addictive drug was negligible.

The marijuana people use today is more concentrated, much more likely to be influential and, who knows, it may be more addictive.

Studies are not convinced that it is as innocent a drug as your son claims. But even if today’s drug is more addictive, this is not an argument in which you want to engage with your son.

We do not have good criteria for determining whether a person is an addict. The only people who know for sure who the addicts are, are the addicts, and most of them are so heavy into denial they will not admit to their addiction. Unless your son acknowledges that his marijuana habit has gone beyond reason, you are going to lose the argument.

A more convincing stance on your part is not whether your son is an addict, but whether his use of marijuana is running interference on significant moments in his life.

If he is sitting in the bathroom puffing on a joint rather than singing happy birthday with everyone else for one of his own children’s birthday parties, then your son has a problem and he needs to do something about it. If getting his fix of marijuana is cutting into the grocery money, or taking away from his monthly cellphone bill, then he has a problem and he needs to do something about it. If he is puffing joints at work, that is not a good thing and he needs to do something about it. We are not talking about addictions here. We are talking about drug-related behaviour disorders. We are talking about the ways in which this whole thing is a problem.

If it is not a problem, then you do not need to worry so much. If it is, you can best help your son by getting him an appointment with an addictions counsellor. He can deny the addiction and refuse to go with you, but he cannot deny the problems you are documenting for him. That is your rationale for getting him into treatment.

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