It’s 2018. Should We Be Talking about Marijuana Addiction?

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Is marijuana addictive?

Yes, says Jeff Bourne.

Bourne is the Executive Director of the U-Turn Drop-In Centre in Carbonear, a non-profit that offers what Bourne calls “a clean, safe space” for anyone struggling with addictions issues.

Last year, U-Turn had an astonishing 6000 unique visits from people in recovery from a variety of addictions. “A drug is a drug,” says Bourne. “My view is, it’s all according to what is does to you mentally. It’s the behaviour that comes with the drug.”

Bourne has seen first-hand the impact that marijuana addiction has had on people’s lives.  “There are people that after a short time of smoking it, they have to smoke it three, four times a day – or even more,” says Bourne.

“By the time they come to a point where they’re physically addicted, when they come to see us, there’s no difference then from someone who is abusing OxyContin daily. The thing with marijuana, it’s more cost effective — it costs a little bit less.”

Ahead of the 2018 legalization of marijuana, Bourne was given opportunities to consult with government on points of policy. From his initial reservations about the impact of legalization, Bourne now looks at the positive side of a government-controlled marijuana source.

“I’m at a point now, from a harm reduction perspective, at least if it’s legalized, you know what you’re buying,” says Bourne.  Through his work in the addiction field, he has heard stories of cocaine and fentanyl-laced marijuana.

As a member of the Recovery Council for Mental Heath and Addictions, Bourne was also consulted by the provincial government on their future action plan for mental health and addictions. At a current provincial health budget spend of 6% for mental health and addictions – far below the national average, according to Bourne – the province is targeting an increase to 11% within five years.

“On the ground level, you don’t really see it in the public eye, but behind the scenes the government is putting a lot of time and effort for both mental health and addictions. It might take another little while before you see this stuff unfolding,” says Bourne.

Despite the promise of increased future spending on addiction and mental health issues, the current gap in support services in rural Newfoundland points to more immediate needs. Hospitals and centralized treatment centre may allow a person to get sober, but follow-up support in smaller communities remains an issue.

“They’re going back to a community and there’s no support, says Bourne.“No NA (NarcoticsAnonymous), no AA meetings. So they’re just back into the same environment. If you’re hanging with a community of people in recovery, chances are you’re going to stay clean and sober.”

Will addiction landscape change with the legalization of marijuana, and will it open the door to other addiction issues for individuals? The ‘gateway’ theory – the idea that marijuana use would lead to harder drug usage – had passed out of addictions theory, but appears to be making a comeback.

A recent article published in the New York Times on Dec. 7th – entitled “A Comeback For The Gateway Drug Theory?” – points to new clinical studies in rats that shows usage of one drug creates a “more permissive” environment in the brain for other. While a long way from human-based experiments, it is reopening a debate many had considered settled.

About Author

David Keating

David lives in St. John's, NL. On twitter, he is @writteninhaste.

6 Comments

  1. I think this may have been “written in haste.” For most people, marijuana is not addictive. I would venture to say that any habitual smoker who quit would basically be crooked as sin for about 2 weeks, and then fine. It would have been nice to have someone offering a different perspective interviewed as well, to balance the article.

  2. Is marijuana addictive?

    Yes, says Jeff Bourne.

    Jeff Bourne saying yes, does not make it so. Not a single peer reviewed study mentioned to back it up? There are plenty out there! Come on dude.

    The gateway shit again? Really? What is this, 1986? Alcohol is THE gateway substance in our society (and no, I won’t be linking any peer reviewed studies, because I’m not a “journalist” and I don’t owe you one). The first time I smoked a joint, I was drunk. Cocaine, also drunk. Peer pressure is higher, and easier to fall for after you get a India’s intoya. Luckily I’m not a drinker, or I’d probably still be doing that shit, because the sober me wouldn’t dream of calling up my local cocaine dealer for 20 bucks worth to “straighten me out”. But, in honesty, I love that green.

  3. buck master tape on

    I got into weed after doing cocaine in cbtg’s bathroom at 5am…..My weed addiction is so bad i have too shoot up in the bottom of my foot so my family doesn’t know i’m on dat weed. It is ruining my life. All I can do is raise a child, pay a mortgage, work 40 hours a week, pay my bills, and maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle…. fuck you weed for making my life so crazy.

  4. Rich Homie Ches on

    It’s addictive to some people. Not everyone of course, but some. Anyone who has spent any time around stoners knows folks who “can’t” get through their day without smoking, and I don’t mean for medical reasons, they’re irritable and borderline useless, but will swear up and down they’re not addicted. I’m always astounded at the aggressive reactions of pot smokers when someone suggests it’s not the cure all elixir they like to believe it is. For what it’s worth, I’m 100% in favour of legalization, and part of that is informing people about potential health risks. Is it as bad as alcohol or tobacco? Not even close, but it’s still not healthy to ingest anything into your lungs, it’s tightens blood vessels, which is an issue for people with high blood pressure. For a lot of people (myself included) it heightens anxiety. This is where informed decisions will come into play, maybe edibles will be better for some, maybe CBD oil, but to get there people are going to need to know about any potential risks, and a chorus of pot smokers screaming “IT’S PERFECT SHUT UP FAKE NEWS” isn’t helping anyone.

  5. Rich Homie Ches on

    Also, anyone who claims that “um actually I drive better when I’m stoned” is either A-addicted, meaning you can’t function without it, or B-smoking crap weed

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