Friday, August 1, 2008
Feeling a Need for Weed?
U.K. book on cannabis dependency.
For James Langton, author of "No Need for Weed: Understanding and Breaking Cannabis Dependency", it was no easy task to find information and support when he sought to rid himself of a 30-year marijuana relationship. Through his own efforts, and the early help of Marijuana Anonymous, Langton became abstinent. And in an effort to help others in the same boat, he published his own account, a combination of personal memoir, anecdotes from pot smokers drawn to his own Clearhead support website, and a thoughtful assessment of the nature of both active marijuana dependency and marijuana withdrawal.
Langton has written a valuable and insightful book, dedicated, he says, to those "who fell blindly in love with the drug, in all its forms, without a second thought. But this book is also for those who, just like me, found that ending this love affair was much more difficult than they could ever have imagined...."
The delights of pot are self-evident: "It didn't feel wrong, dangerous or difficult; I just enjoyed life more when my senses were heightened and when I allowed the reality of everyday life to become a little distorted. After a couple of tokes, I seemed to feel the disparate parts of my consciousness clicking into place."
So why quit at all? "For a start," writes Langton, "I wanted to be clearheaded again; to be able to remember things; to be aware of time passing at normal speed, not stretched or shrunk. I wanted more of a social life. I wanted to be more confident and not so self-obsessed. I wanted to be in control and less lazy." Finally, he felt ready to "turn away from a pleasure that had evolved into a routine, then into a habit, and finally into full-blown dependency."
Metabolically, Langton had reached a point of addiction: "I needed to smoke just to feel normal. My tolerance for dope had reached such a point that if the THC in my system fell below a certain level I would feel a deep lack, a terrible emptiness."
The author found that one aspect made quitting "harder and more demoralizing" than necessary --"the almost universal dismissal from the medical and drug treatment professions about the reality of cannabis withdrawal.... very little specialist help is available to anybody who has lost control over their dope smoking."
Langton's explanation of what had happened to him is simple and understandable: "Our dopamine levels aren't meant to be tuned to such a high pitch on an everyday basis. Maybe a few times a month or the occasional binge, but if you're smoking relentlessly day after day, particularly strong skunk, then is it any wonder you might find it hard to take pleasure in the ordinary things of life?"
Langton also offers vivid descriptions of common withdrawal effects, including "the feeling of being overwhelmed by even the simplest interactions with other people, or becoming frustrated by what you would normally consider straightforward tasks." He also noted that "night sweats are difficult because, combined with light sleeping, they can cause discomfort to your partner as well.... The sweating can last for anything up to 21 days, but usually you are over the worst after about 10." In addition, Langton suggests that if you are experiencing an extreme loss of appetite, "be reassured that this is a very common symptom. The important thing is to make sure you are taking some nutrients onboard, otherwise you will start to feel week, light-headed and slightly sick." He warns of vivid dreams, and episodes of outsized anger. (The author's salient advice on anger: You can take it back.) As for energy levels, the whole withdrawal experience can "feel like jet lag, and the best advice is to treat it as such; in other words, try not to go to bed as soon as you come home from work..."
How long does it take? "At Clearhead we have found that it takes, on average, around four to six weeks for most people to fully adjust to not using cannabis.... others will still hit upon lingering symptoms up to two months after smoking their last joint."
Overall, a good read, full of telling anecdotes, personal honesty, and practical advice.