Weed Addiction Exists, and It’s not a Moral Failing
David Sheff, listed on the Time 100 as one of the world’s most influential people, says that his most recent book Clean was written to make one thing clear to its readers. This thing, he says, is “the most important fact of the paradigm explained in Clean.” It is this: “Addiction is a disease with a neurologic basis—a mental illness.” This is the information, Sheff feels, that will defeat addiction. If society would inform itself about the evidence provided by scientists and researchers, then addiction would no longer be demonized. If addiction weren’t demonized, Sheff says, we could “finally put aside our prejudices and outrage and see that addicts aren’t bad people, immoral, weak, or degenerate. Blame, shame, and anger can be replaced by compassion.” How can compassion help those struggling with an addiction to marijuana?
For starters, the conscious and subconscious negative energy directed towards addicts by others or by the addict him- or herself could be funneled into a channel that got results because no one quits using weed by being shamed into it. Shame does create oodles of negative energy, however. Imagine if the addict could free up that energy for making positive life changes.
Using the Morality Card Is a Major Fail
Using morality card to manipulate someone’s behavior doesn’t work. For instance, this strategy actually backfired on the church with regard to the gay and lesbian community. Telling gay people that being homosexual is a sin doesn’t make people turn straight. It just drives them away from Christianity. Negativity energy doesn’t help. In fact, it wastes energy. Shame, however, is our natural response to an immoral situation. Therein lies the problem: Until we understand that addiction is a disease, we will to react to it as a moral issue, and morality has zippo to do with addiction.
Addiction and homosexuality aren’t alone. This error in thinking exists in our society for any illness has a psychological component to it. Writing professor Larry M. Lake had a recent article published in Salon called “Comfort Food: No one brings dinner when your daughter is an addict.” In it, Lake recounts the generous moral support (largely in the form of prepared foods) that he and his family received when his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. However, when his daughter was hospitalized ten years later for bipolar disorder and drug and alcohol abuse, Lake observed that there were “no warm casseroles” presented. As his daughter toiled at the arduous process of recovery, and then relapse, and then recovery again, Lake quips: “No soup, no homemade loaves of bread.” His daughter, after struggling long and hard, finally gains ground on her addiction but is involved in a serious car accident when “riding in the treatment center’s van on the way back to their house after a full day of the hard work of addiction recovery.” The article ends with Lake’s amusement over the flood of food and support the car accident generates.
Lake humorously highlights the dire lack of support that exists for those struggling with addiction and mental illnesses. The “bubbling pans of lasagna and macaroni and cheese” like the ones Lake’s family received when his wife had breast cancer don’t necessarily help medically, but the feeling of emotional support they provided cannot be discounted. There is no doubt that feeling emotionally supported improves one’s physical and emotional health.
Addiction Is a Disease
Addiction needs to be detached from morality and shame. Sheff puts it this way: “Once and for all, people must understand that addiction is a disease. It’s critical if we’re going to effectively prevent and treat addiction. Accepting that addiction is an illness will transform our approach to public policy, research, insurance, and criminality.” Sheff feels so strongly about changing shame and punishment for compassion and treatment that the very first sentence of the book’s preface is this: “The view that drug use is a moral choice is pervasive, pernicious, and wrong. So are the corresponding beliefs about the addicted–that they’re weak, selfish, and dissolute.” He is adamant that addicts are in fact “gravely ill, afflicted with a chronic, progressive, and often terminal disease.” If we see addicts as having an illness, we move into a plan of action to heal them. There is a course forward instead of a lot of strife and stress about the addict’s morals and personal failings.
Sheff discusses how compassion helped him help his son recover:
At this point, it may be that you are saying to yourself that you’re not even sure you’re addicted to marijuana. You just want to quit or cut down. You don’t get how reading up on the human neurological system, the mechanisms of addiction, and society’s perception of addicts can help you. Fair enough. You may be correct in the fact that you’re not addicted to marijuana, but reading a daily inspirational saying isn’t going to help you quit or cut down. You have to go a little deeper than that, fight crazy with crazy. Getting knowledgeable about addiction gives you ammo.