Am I a marijuana addict?

If you find it difficult to control your marijuana use, if you think about using marijuana even when you are not, or if you have broken promises to yourself or others about limiting or stopping your use, you may be an addict. Only you can decide. No one in Marijuana Anonymous will decide for you.

What is Marijuana Anonymous?

We are a group of men and women who have lost the ability to control our marijuana use and have problems that relate directly or indirectly to marijuana. We share experience, strength, and hope with each other so that we can recover from our addiction to marijuana, as well as help others to recover. Our program is adapted from the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

How can MA membership help me with my marijuana use?

In MA, we know what it is like to lose control over marijuana and not be able to stop using, despite pledges, pleas, and promises. Our only qualification for helping others is that we have stopped using ourselves. If we can do it, you can do it too! It is the support that MA members offer each other that is the backbone of the program's success.

If I join MA will I need to stop drinking our using other drugs?

The only requirement for MA membership is a desire to stop using marijuana. We have found, however, that recovery requires us to examine our use of other drugs as well, including alcohol.

What happens at an MA meeting?

People discuss their problems with marijuana, what they did to recover, and what life is like now. We have found that as a group we can achieve for ourselves results which, as individuals, we failed at repeatedly.

What commitments do I make by attending an MA meeting?

None. There are no records or files and you need not disclose anything about yourself if you don't want to. No one will bother you if you do not wish to come back.

What happens if I meet people I know in MA?

Membership in MA is confidential and anonymous. Whom we see and what we hear in meetings is not mentioned outside of the meetings. People you know whom you see at meetings are there for the same reason you are and will respect your anonymity.

How much does MA membership cost?

Nothing. There are no dues or fees. MA meetings pay their bills through the voluntary contributions of those attending. A basket is passed at each meeting for contributions. Marijuana Anonymous is completely self-supporting.

Is MA a religious organization?

No, nor is it connected with any religious organization, sect, denomination, politics, institution, or any other organization whatsoever.

Is there much talk about God?

Most MA members come to believe in the idea of a power greater than themselves. Some call this power God. There is room in MA for all beliefs or no belief at all.

Do MA members continue going to meetings after they are cured?

We don't believe in a cure for marijuana addiction; too many of us have relapsed. We find it is useful to go to meetings to maintain our recovery. By association with others with our problem, we give each other strength to avoid marijuana use on a "one day at a time" basis.

What is the Program of Recovery?

The Twelve Steps are the program. The purpose of the Twelve Steps is to help us develop a relationship with a Power greater than ourselves, to improve our relationships with others, and to help us find serenity in ourselves. It is recommended you attend as many meetings as you can and do not use between meetings. We suggest that you get phone numbers of other members and call them between meetings—especially if you have a desire to use. We also suggest that you get a sponsor as soon as possible.

What is a sponsor and how do I get one?

A sponsor is someone who shares their experience, strength, and hope with you. They will help you understand the 12 Steps and will guide you along the path of recovery. You are free to ask anyone to be your sponsor, but our experience indicates it works best when men sponsor men and women sponsor women.

The Twelve Steps of Marijuana Anonymous

  1. We admitted we were powerless over marijuana, that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood God.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to marijuana addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The Twelve Questions

The following questions may help you determine whether marijuana is a problem in your life.

  1. Has smoking pot stopped being fun?
  2. Do you ever get high alone?
  3. Is it hard for you to imagine a life without marijuana?
  4. Do you find that your friends are determined by your marijuana use?
  5. Do you smoke marijuana to avoid dealing with your problems?
  6. Do you smoke pot to cope with your feelings?
  7. Does your marijuana use let you live in a privately defined world?
  8. Have you ever failed to keep promises you made about cutting down or controlling your dope smoking?
  9. Has your use of marijuana caused problems with memory, concentration, or motivation?
  10. When your stash is nearly empty, do you feel anxious or worried about how to get more?
  11. Do you plan your life around your marijuana use?
  12. Have friends or relatives ever complained that your pot smoking is damaging your relationship with them?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may have a problem with marijuana.

What is Detoxing?

Detoxing is the way in which your body gets rid of the toxins accumulated from years of using. It happens the first few days or weeks after getting clean and/or sober. It is also the very beginning of getting used to dealing with reality and real feelings with no numbing agent.

Can there be physical effects from quitting marijuana?

In spite of numerous years of being told that there are no physiological effects from marijuana addiction, many of our recovering members have had definite withdrawal symptoms. Whether the causes are physical or psychological, the results are physical. Others have just had emotional and mental changes as they stop using their drug of choice. There is no way of telling before quitting who will be physically uncomfortable and who will not. Most members have only minor physical discomfort if any at all. This pamphlet is for those who are having trouble and wonder what's happening to them.

Why do some effects last so long?

Unlike most other drugs, including alcohol, THC (the active chemical in marijuana) is stored in the fat cells and therefore takes longer to fully clear the body than with any other common drug. This means that some parts of the body still retain THC even after a couple of months, rather than just the couple of days or weeks for water soluble drugs.

Can this affect a drug test?

The experiences of some members have shown that if you quit marijuana and expect to take a drug test you should not go on a crash diet at the same time. Fasting, or a crash diet, can release the THC into the bloodstream very rapidly and can give a positive reading. This has happened to several of our members, but each time only with crash diets and major weight loss, not with just eating less than usual.

What are some of the more common symptoms?

By far the most common symptom of withdrawal is insomnia. This can last from a few nights of practically no sleep at all, up to a few months of occasional sleeplessness. The next most common symptom is depression (that is, if you're not euphoric), and next are nightmares and vivid dreams. Marijuana use tends to dampen the dreaming mechanism, so that when you do get clean the dreams come back with a crash. They can be vivid color, highly emotional dreams or nightmares, even waking up then coming back to the same dream. The very vivid, every-night dreams usually don't start for about a week or so. They last for about a month at most and then taper off. "Using" dreams (dreams involving the use of marijuana) are very common, and although they're not as vivid or emotional as at first, they last for years and are just considered a normal part of recovery.

The fourth most common symptom is anger. This can range from a slow burning rage to constant irritability to sudden bursts of anger when least expected: anger at the world, anger at loved ones, anger at oneself, anger at being an addict and having to get clean. Emotional jags are very common, with emotions bouncing back and forth between depression, anger, and euphoria. Occasionally experienced is a feeling of fear or anxiety, a loss of the sense of humor, decreased sex drive, or increased sex drive. Most all of these symptoms fade to normal emotions by three months. Loss of concentration for the first week or month is also very common and this sometimes affects the ability to learn for a very short while.

What about physical symptoms?

The most common physical symptom is headaches. For those who have them, they can last for a few weeks up to a couple of months, with the first few days being very intense. The next most common physical symptom is night sweats, sometimes to the point of having to change night clothes. They can last from a few nights to a month or so. Sweating is one of the body's natural ways of getting rid of toxins. Hand sweats are very common and are often accompanied by an unpleasant smell from the hands. Body odor is enough in many instances to require extra showers or baths. Coughing up phlegm is another way the body cleans itself. This can last for a few weeks to well over six months.

One third of the addicts who responded to a questionnaire on detoxing said they had eating problems for the first few days and some for up to six weeks. Their main symptoms were loss of appetite, sometimes enough to lose weight temporarily, digestion problems or cramps after eating, and nausea, occasionally enough to vomit (only for a day or two). Most of the eating problems were totally gone before the end of a month.

The next most common physical symptoms experienced were tremors or shaking and dizziness. Less frequently experienced were kidney pains, impotency, hormone changes or imbalances, low immunity or chronic fatigue, and some minor eye problems that resolved at around two months. There have been cases of addicts having more severe detox symptoms, however this is rare. For intense discomfort, see a doctor, preferably one who is experienced with detoxing.

How can I reduce discomfort?

For some of the milder detoxing symptoms, a few home remedies have proven to be useful:

  • Hot soaking baths can help the emotions as well as the body.
  • Drink plenty of water and clear liquids, just like for the flu.
  • Cranberry juice has been used effectively for years by recovery houses to help purify and cleanse the body.
  • Really excessive sweating can deplete the body of potassium, a necessary mineral. A few foods high in potassium are: melons, bananas, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, and tomatoes.
  • Eliminate fat from the diet until digestion is better.
  • Greatly reduce or eliminate caffeine until the sleep pattern is more normal or the shakes are gone.
  • The old fashioned remedy for insomnia, a glass of warm milk before bedtime, helps some people.
  • Exercise not only helps depression and other unpleasant emotions, it helps the body speed up the healing process.

The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using marijuana.

Tradition Three

Marijuana Anonymous was formed so that marijuana abusers would have a safe haven for recovery, without being ridiculed for "only" being marijuana addicts. However, many of us have found that the only way that we can keep our sobriety is to abstain from all mind and mood altering chemicals, including alcohol. As stated in our third tradition, the only requirement for membership in Marijuana Anonymous is a desire to stop using marijuana. In fact, there's not even a demand that we stop using, only that we have a desire to stop. There is no mention of alcohol or any other substances. This is to adhere to the "singleness of purpose" concept.

When we give up the drug of our choice, a void is created. The initial struggle to abstain from marijuana use often leaves us vulnerable. For the first time in years, we no longer have marijuana clouding our feelings; we don't even have a name for some of these feelings. We may experience happiness, pleasure, satisfaction, enjoyment, fulfillment, and other positive feelings; we may also experience anger, depression, resentment, sorrow, dejection, fear, emptiness, and other negative feelings. To fill these voids or numb the pain, we may start to use, or increase the use of, other substances such as alcohol, cocaine, pills, or other drugs. Since we've never done feelings, of any kind, too well, we may use mind or mood altering chemicals to take the edge off our powerful new feelings, both positive and negative. Although we may not now be addicted to these substances, their use can lower our inhibitions and leave us open to repeating old patterns of thinking and behavior, which can lead back to marijuana use or on to new addictions.

Many of the addicts who come to MA have just not been able to stay clean and sober. While a few have gone back to using marijuana right from the start, most have started with another substance. It is usually alcohol since it's so readily available and socially acceptable. They felt safe since alcohol had not been a problem for them in the past.

They also wanted to be "a part of," and not be different from their non-addict friends. However, we are different from our non-addict friends! That's one of the things we have to learn if we are going to turn our lives around. There is an old saying: "Once you're a pickle, you cannot go back to being a cucumber." For many of us, a drink on Friday night can become a few drinks on Friday night, and then a few drinks a few nights a week, and so on and so on. We know the story. We played that one out with marijuana. Or maybe we just have a couple of drinks, lower our resistance, then pick up a joint and there we are out using again.

Those of us who have managed to put together a few years in this program have learned to think of other substances as something we haven't gotten addicted to....yet. It doesn't mean we can't and won't, if given a chance. The fact that we became addicted to marijuana reflects a tendency towards behavior that may lead to cross addiction (addiction to other substances). Particularly during the first few shaky months, we might find ourselves drawn to new obsessive behavior, that might have been unacceptable before. We may overeat, become addicted to our jobs, find ourselves on shopping sprees we can't afford, etc.

In fact, because of our past addictive behavior, we even have to be very careful of prescribed medications! We addicts have a dangerous tendency to self-medicate. If the doctor tells us to take one pill, we figure two will be better. If we have three pills left over after an injury or surgery, we save them instead of throwing them away. After all, we tell ourselves, we might need them the next time we are in real (or imagined) physical pain. We cannot deviate from prescribed use without placing our sobriety in jeopardy. As recovering marijuana addicts, we have learned that we must be very vigilant about our sobriety at all times, in all ways.

The belief that marijuana cannot be addictive is widely circulated throughout the world. Well, somehow, we managed to get addicted to this "non-addictive" substance. We recovering marijuana addicts don't need to play with fire by checking out other addictive substances.

To reiterate, the only requirement for membership in Marijuana Anonymous is a desire to stop using marijuana. It is important, however, to recognize the potential to create another problem as we strive to recover from this one.

© Marijuana Anonymous World Services. Reprinted by permission.