It’s incredible what you can accomplish when you’re not high.
October 10, 2018 6:43 PM   Subscribe

My name is Neal, and I’m a marijuana addict. But I’m not a child with intractable epilepsy, or a veteran with PTSD, or a person who just wants to chill a little, or Willie Nelson. Unless you count writing articles about marijuana, I’m not profiting from the industry. I’m just a middle-aged house dad with a substance-abuse problem.

Back when my writing career was booming, I got invited a couple of times to do readings in Amsterdam, a bad gig for a pot addict. Once, after ingesting a couple of THC pills, I dumped a pitcher of water over my head and insulted the Iraqi representative to National Poetry Day Amsterdam. Another time, I pulled down my pants and flashed a crowd of several hundred. If I had any boundaries, weed erased them thoroughly. The boom ended fast.
posted by mecran01 (107 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
From a friend: I'm afraid this guy, while addicted to pot, is just an asshole and blaming it on the weed. I smoked a lot of weed in my day, dropped and snorted a lot of chemical drugs, drank like a fish, in about every combination possible. While I had plenty of moments, in Kavanaugh speak, that were cringe-worthy, the sort of thing he is blaming on pot is ludicrous. It's him. Not the weed.
posted by mecran01 at 6:46 PM on October 10 [105 favorites]


Oh, I'm sorry to see this is Neal Pollack. Just the other day, I came across my copy of his Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature and hoped he was doing well, because he had written about being disappointed about its reception, and that was a truly hilarious book. It was a complete sendup of the kind of druggy bad-boy writing that -- well, that he's doing right here ("Once, after ingesting a couple of THC pills, I dumped a pitcher of water over my head and insulted the Iraqi representative to National Poetry Day Amsterdam").

I still hope he's doing well, but I also hope his family's doing well. This must have been hell on them. This is some pretty Reefer Madness behavior, and although I am not a pot expert or even a smoker, I think there's something else back of this.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:05 PM on October 10 [8 favorites]


I get that everyone reacts to pot a little differently, but who gets high and starts a fight? Why does smoking pot make this dude so aggressive??
posted by backlikeclap at 7:08 PM on October 10 [39 favorites]


I had a friend that I had to stop hanging out with because whenever he got high he turned into the biggest idiot on the planet. I don't mean he was high and silly, like most people, he just turned into a guy that you wanted to punch in the face. He would start imitating Chinese food waiters while he ordered (seriously!), he would do dangerous things like balance on a bridge railing, point at people on the street and go "LOOK AT THAT GUY HE'S CRAZY" and any number of dumb/assholish things. I couldn't take it anymore and just gave up on him.

He was a pretty chill guy when he wasn't high, but when he got high he was the least chill person ever. He was insufferable.
posted by bondcliff at 7:12 PM on October 10 [13 favorites]


I barely remember, because I was stoned.

Wait what? Is this a thing? I feel like I would definitely be aware if this was a thing.

I used to tour with Phish every chance I got. I've met and been around a lot of extremely fucked up on substances people. I see no reason to disbelieve this dude's accounts of his behavior but it is waaay outside the bounds of my experiences with high people who aren't combining pot with one or more other substances.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:22 PM on October 10 [22 favorites]


I believe these "aggressive while stoned" stories, but they clash with my own experience to the point of serious confusion.

I do think there's a certain percentage of drug users who use their drug of choice as an excuse to "switch on" a side of their personality that they do not feel comfortable expressing when sober.
posted by scose at 7:23 PM on October 10 [84 favorites]


For those of you unfamiliar with the author: Neal Pollack on rebounding from massive hype and six-figure deals to online publishing, an interview with the A.V. Club from 2013
posted by roger ackroyd at 7:24 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]


weed ruined my life so much I get paid to write about it
posted by Max Power at 7:30 PM on October 10 [16 favorites]


I wouldn't be embarrassed for this guy if I had never seen The Wire.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:33 PM on October 10


Pot doesn’t make you an asshole, being an asshole makes you an asshole.
posted by Jubey at 7:35 PM on October 10 [45 favorites]


This article illustrates the media's issues with conflating addiction and dependence. Also, this guy sounds like a prick.
posted by dazed_one at 7:36 PM on October 10 [19 favorites]


The guy gave a truthful account of his drug additional/dependency. Just because it doesn't match up with your personal experience doesn't mean you should dismiss it out of hand. He recognized he had a problem and did something about it. What's with the self-righteousness in this thread?
posted by gwint at 7:45 PM on October 10 [88 favorites]




a couple of THC pills

So if by “THC pills” he means liquid extract in a capsule this tells us nothing bc as far as I’m aware there’s no standard dosage on those yet. So like this statement could be anything from (I get the difficulties of comparing weed and liquor bear with me) “I had ten shots and did something dumb” which ok fair enough but also “I had one shot and did something dumb” (there was a Dangers of Ritalin essay going around a few years back where the amount of Ritalin this person did his Drug Report on was equal to a couple of cups of coffee) or “I chugged a fifth in one go.” Those two latter scenarios the substance abuse is probably going to be a symptom of something more pervasive.
posted by griphus at 7:47 PM on October 10 [3 favorites]


There’s a reason that Alcoholics Anonymous started in 1935, two years after the end of Prohibition. Alcohol abuse became rampant, and the country almost drank itself off the rails. Will the same thing happen with marijuana?

I'm sorry I'm not engaging with the substance of this article, but certainly it was just the end of prohibition that produced rampant alcohol abuse, and not that alcohol abuse has a long history among poor white people and also probably rich white people and poor and rich people of other races and ethn going to well before Prohibition (source: Prohibition got tried), and also it was the middle of the fucking Great Depression maybe?
posted by Caduceus at 7:47 PM on October 10 [16 favorites]


I'm afraid this guy, while addicted to pot, is just an asshole

I’m going to cut-and-paste a comment that I made here back in 2014 regarding the author of this piece:
At the bookstore where I used to work, we once had Neal Pollack in for a book signing. In one area of the store, we had a wall entirely decorated with autographed, poster-sized blow-ups of book covers from past guest authors. At some point, Mr. Pollack committed the "hilarious" prank of defacing the signed poster for TV journalist Cokie Roberts's book by scribbling his name in permanent marker across the upper lip of her photo, an effect that resembled a Hitler mustache. And because it was written in permanent ink, of course the poster had to be taken down and trashed.
And, yeah, I’m no great fan of Cokie Roberts, but it was a pretty shitty stunt to pull on an independent bookstore that had been nothing but supportive of him and his work up to that point.

In conclusion: whether high or straight, Neal Pollack is an asshole.
posted by Atom Eyes at 7:54 PM on October 10 [83 favorites]


Ha, I read the first line and was all "Huh, I wonder if Neal Pollock wrote that" and then I opened the story and it *was* Neal Pollock, who I only really know from doing lots of bar trivia together several years ago. Neal is very charming and very smart, and I think both of those things allow him to get away with being a loveable asshole so much of the time. I don't think he'd even disagree if someone called him a loveable asshole to his face. Weed probably made him more charming and more of a know-it-all, which could totally lead to all the problems he listed in this piece. As a stoner who takes breaks from weed, I always enjoy hearing about stoners who just give it up completely, because it's something that I think about doing whenever I'm on a break from weed, like I am right now. Good for Neal for giving up weed completely.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:55 PM on October 10 [9 favorites]


People used to drink a lot before Prohibition. Like, a lot a lot. The 21st Amendment wasn't passed because everybody hated it--it was considered to be a rather good idea because alcohol abuse was so rampant.

I feel like whenever stories of marijuana abuse come up there's always this knee-jerk response to downplay the possibility that anybody could ever have a negative relationship with it and surely any problems are some defect on the part of the user. It's another version of "addiction/dependence is a moral failing", but spun to try to deflect any implication that perhaps weed isn't perfect and magical and carries absolutely no concerns with it whatsoever.

Drugs and alcohol don't magically turn you into an asshole, sure. They heighten stuff that's already there, sure. That doesn't mean the substances themselves don't contribute to the problems. I too know people who turn into assholes on it, and plenty of people who have dependence issues with it, and perhaps you've never, ever, ever encountered anything like it yourself but I assure you, it exists.
posted by schroedinger at 8:01 PM on October 10 [82 favorites]


Yeah, if you discover that weed makes you do asshole things, but then you give it up, you're not addicted to weed.

You're just an asshole on weed.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:03 PM on October 10 [16 favorites]


So the devastating thing that made him realise he hit rock bottom wasn’t risking his child’s life while stoned or being stoned for the end of his mother’s life. The truly devastating thing for this guy was realising he bought fake baseball tickets and having to stand outside the game...
posted by Jubey at 8:13 PM on October 10 [11 favorites]


From the horse's mouth: I started smoking regularly in the ’90s, when I was in my mid-20s. Pot made everything better — food, music, sex, cleaning — and it made nothing worse. I got depressed less often.

Which is to say, I think there are some people who have mental health issues that really need addressing who use substances to try to deal with those issues, and for those people, it often goes bad? But that doesn't mean the substance itself is at fault. What needs normalizing is that if you're in your 20s and you're depressed and not getting a lot of enjoyment out of pleasurable things and not doing well with keeping up with your adult responsibilities, the thing you need is a therapist and a stop at your GP or possibly a psychiatrist, and that whatever use of marijuana is appropriate for mental health care involves, like, professionals and therapists and stuff as appropriate.

Poorly-managed mental health issues combined with toxic masculinity stuff flip over into "asshole" pretty easily. So, not that he isn't an asshole, but man, if he was just honest about his problems when he was much younger, where would he be now? Maybe not that same place.
posted by Sequence at 8:14 PM on October 10 [30 favorites]


Yeah, I have my own problems that I avoid, but the tragedy in part seems to be giving up decades of emotional growth. Of course, that applies to a lot of substances that we use to escape pain.
posted by mecran01 at 8:16 PM on October 10 [5 favorites]


person smokes weed and has perfectly normal career, life, whatever, is not a particularly exciting story
posted by inpHilltr8r at 8:24 PM on October 10 [5 favorites]


...they call it "souping"...
posted by not_on_display at 8:39 PM on October 10 [4 favorites]


On weed by itself, I also have trouble imagining such a lack of inhibition.
On weed mixed with even a moderate amount of alcohol, well then I can totally understand.

But I do remember that once, high as a promotional blimp, I got into a bar fight with a former friend and broke his tooth with a beer bottle.

I have to assume a fair amount of alcohol was involved in this situation and if so, it seems a little disingenuous that he doesn't mention it.
posted by uftheory at 8:41 PM on October 10 [24 favorites]


who gets high and starts a fight? Why does smoking pot make this dude so aggressive??

Possibly, anyone who finds that marijuana triggers paranoia or panic or hypervigilance or anger or disinhibition and who becomes agressive when they feel those emotions.

Marijuana isn't this perfect and universally harmless sugarplum from heaven, much as certain parties want us to believe it is. It's a drug and it carries risk and can do harm.

I feel like whenever stories of marijuana abuse come up there's always this knee-jerk response to downplay the possibility that anybody could ever have a negative relationship with it and surely any problems are some defect on the part of the user.

I agree and I think it has to do with a) it makes people feel good and they don't want to think bad things about it and b) the media has been glorifying/glamorizing pot for a few decades now.

Try telling people that marijuana smoke inhalation is just as bad for your lungs as any other smoke inhalation and see what kind of response you get. This stuff cures cancer, grows hair, removes warts and makes you taller donchaknow. And every 43d marijuana plant sprouts puppies!

I have a not-totally-joking joke conspiracy theory along the lines of people in power (government? Military? Massive corporations?) Developing pro-marijuana propaganda and gradually introducing limited legalisation as a tool to keep the population sedate and easy to control as things get Worse. Of course it won't work for everyone- some people don't react well to it and some people won't use it (though I live in Canada and trying to find people who don't use marijuana is seriously A Challenge)- but the thought is always there.
posted by windykites at 8:47 PM on October 10 [46 favorites]


I'm sorry but "THC pills in Amsterdam" isn't a thing. Concentrates are not tolerated. And they're not a blackmarket thing either.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:48 PM on October 10 [14 favorites]


I'm fairly neutral regarding the risk / benefit of pot - I don't believe it is a panacea for whatever ails you or that it's a horrific harmful drug for everyone, but that for a few small groups of people it is beneficial and for a few people it can be also harmful.

But I do think it's really interesting that there is such a hostile response to the idea the latter proposition can possibly be true.
posted by chiquitita at 8:49 PM on October 10 [20 favorites]


He gets close to it, but doesn't quite admit it:

Cannabis is a psychological addiction, like TV or video games. It's not a chemical/physical addiction, like alcohol, nicotine, or opioids.

He's an asshole when he's on drugs because he's an asshole when he's off drugs. But also, he's an asshole for coopting real addiction language to excuse his behavior, and an asshole because he's making it that much harder for legalization efforts.
posted by explosion at 9:00 PM on October 10 [27 favorites]


Definitely weed is a problem for some people (as well as being actively unpleasant for plenty of people), but he's describing some mix of being an asshole and mixing his weed with other drugs, at least alcohol and maybe more.

Weed should be legal, just like alcohol should be legal, but that doesn't mean it isn't harmful or problematic.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:01 PM on October 10 [10 favorites]


Agreed, this is an unexpectedly harsh crowd. Arguing the sincerity of somebody who’s figured out that substance abuse has negatively impacted his life - and then gotten his shit together to get better - that doesn’t seem very metafilter. People are allowed to call themselves addicts, especially when their direct personal experience has shown them using a drug - any drug - doesn’t work for them.

I love pot. And I’m married to someone who stopped smoking it 12 years ago because it was ruining his life. I’ve always been grateful his favorite drug was “only” pot, because god knows there are worse things, but it was bad enough that he tried to kill himself and was hospitalized more than once. It’s real, dudes. And in some ways it’s harder to convince people you have a problem that needs to be taken seriously, because of the very attitudes on display in this thread.
posted by something something at 9:05 PM on October 10 [86 favorites]




Yes, this is absolutely a thing for some people, most drugs affect some people in different ways, your experience is not universal. There are people in my own extended family whose experience has been similar to the author's.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:16 PM on October 10 [10 favorites]


It's always amazing to me how many people seem to think that a priori there can be no possible issue with any level of weed usage at all
posted by thelonius at 9:19 PM on October 10 [28 favorites]


he's an asshole for coopting real addiction language

There are twelve-step groups for food addiction, marijuana addiction, sex addiction, porn addiction... He isn't "coopting" just because marijuana withdrawal isn't deadly. In recovery, if someone defines themselves as being out of control and needing help, that's their right and we accept it as true regardless of how it seems to the outside world.

The whole "psychological vs physical addiction" dichotomy has long seemed tenuous at best to me. It seems like a different way of saying "imaginary vs real", whereas the facts are that the mechanisms of addiction are the same. The specific chemicals differ, the intensity of effect and the severity of damage differs, but dependance is dependance. It's all chemically mediated. Your brain and your body aren't discrete categories. Your brain is part of your body.
posted by windykites at 9:23 PM on October 10 [53 favorites]


Cannabis is a psychological addiction, like TV or video games. It's not a chemical/physical addiction, like alcohol, nicotine, or opioids.

I've never known any potheads who'd be OK with their dealer selling them a bag of hemp for $100......it seems hardly credible that there's nothing "chemical/physical" about usage of a psychoactive drug that you smoke or otherwise ingest so that it crosses the blood/brain barrier.
posted by thelonius at 9:41 PM on October 10 [6 favorites]


And in some ways it’s harder to convince people you have a problem that needs to be taken seriously, because of the very attitudes on display in this thread.

Yeah, seriously, this part bears repeating. Super disappointing to see those attitudes here.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:51 PM on October 10 [31 favorites]


It’s the whole conflation of this as a “substance abuse problem that ruined his life.” While technically true, he was earning money throughout his addiction, family intact, wasn’t selling his parents’ TV or his body to maintain his addiction. He did not apparently go to jail, he did not apparently contract HIV, or develop necrotizing fasciitis. He decided to stop his round the clock use and three weeks later it was over. Apparently without detox or court ordered inpatient treatment or methadone or anything.

This is a data point of one, and I appreciate that he feels it was a personal transformation, but I’m not feeling the struggle. 11 months later and still “doing the things I always did.” This is not the addiction I know. This is not the “almost wrecked my life” I know and it is insulting to people whose lives are truly wrecked and have died from real addiction. Just stop it, you live in a bubble and you’re full of yourself.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:27 PM on October 10 [28 favorites]


It's going to take many years before decades of anti-weed propaganda has been cancelled out by proper scientific research and general awareness, years before people have a balanced understanding of weed's adversarial effects. But then again we are encouraged to daily drink a glass of a carcinogen for health reasons, so who knows what marketing bullshit the weed industry will bless us with.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 10:28 PM on October 10 [9 favorites]


overheard a few year ago:

"I look forward to marijuana becoming a mental health concern as opposed to a legal problem."
posted by philip-random at 10:34 PM on October 10 [13 favorites]


This thread is awful and I wish I hadn't read it.
posted by lalex at 10:39 PM on October 10 [35 favorites]


Just so we’re clear, you can be a progressive AND have concerns about marijuana. I’m tired of weed being vigorously protected from criticism as if it’s some sacred pillar of the left. Like many things, weed is complicated and it’s okay to have and express complicated feelings about it. You don’t have to change your party affiliation to do so.
posted by delight at 10:56 PM on October 10 [62 favorites]


I knew a woman who was married with a couple kids and addicted to marijuana. I was skeptical, but hearing her talk about it made me realize just how pernicious the addiction can be. She had basically been stoned for about 8 years. She no longer knew her husband or her kids and they didn't know her. They didn't realize she was stoned all the time, they just thought that was her personality. She relapsed a couple of times, but because marijuana wasn't immediately available she went straight to booze just like an alcoholic would.

I feel about legalization sort of similarly to how I feel about prostitution. I think it should be legalized, but not available at the local 7/11. I would prefer a red light district kind like what they have in Amsterdam. Pot's legal in Amsterdam, taxed and regulated, but it's not in your face all the time. Neither is it glamorized. From a local perspective, it's more something for tourists.

I rent some apartments to college students. Out of a pool of about 25 or so, there are always 3 or 4 that are simply stoned all the time. I went to a really liberal college. I got stoned. Friends got stoned. I knew dealers. But I'm talking stoned all the time. I go pretty quickly from thinking they're having a fun college experience to realizing they're stuck in a never ending, somewhat incapacitated mental state I wouldn't wish on anyone. Conversation with them is painful.
posted by xammerboy at 11:02 PM on October 10 [17 favorites]


Weed kind of makes me an asshole sometimes. It turns me into Judgy McJudgerson and someone who Will Not Suffer Fools. And not be chill about it. I hate it. So like I’ve started to only smoke when I know I will just be around certain close friends, or by myself listening to music in headphones which can be a transcendent experience.

Weed does bring out a weird mean streak in me sometimes which is so odd, I know. Not always. But enough to let me know that for me, i gotta only do it in a controlled environment.

I am not trying to be McJudgerson on this dude. I get where this stuff could come from, I guess.
posted by capnsue at 11:29 PM on October 10 [8 favorites]


Two women in my freshman dorm in college smoked weed so much that they flunked out. I nearly followed their example. As an adult self-control has gotten easier, but I can definitely see an alternative timeline where it didn't. I don't know whether to label it clinical addiction or something else, but yeah, the idea that weed is always benign is pretty ridiculous. Nothing is purely benign.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:15 AM on October 11 [9 favorites]


I recently read a more serious article about marijuana addiction, which concluded that there is evidence for a small but significant population whose brains, for whatever reason, really do become addicted to marijuana. I was going to post a link here ... but then I got high ...

I think one of the effects of legalization in California and Colorado has been that in those places, they've lost all interest in fighting against the Drug War, debunking Reefer Madness, and what the rest of the country is still stuck with when it comes to pro-sensible-marijuana activist propaganda. Smoking pot there is treated just as OK as driving a car -- and we're starting to think cars aren't all they were cracked up to be, either. People don't want to re-criminalize the practice but they do want to start focussing on what's problematic about potsmoking. (From the perspective of, like, Iowa, it feels like they're looking a gift unicorn in the mouth.)
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 2:08 AM on October 11 [2 favorites]


And every 43d marijuana plant sprouts puppies!

So, we now have home cultivation in my state and I can say from experience that this is actually true. It sounds great at first, but it's actually a big problem. Spay and neuter your plants, people.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:08 AM on October 11 [32 favorites]


In all seriousness though, cannabis is not for everyone. There are people for whom its effects are unpleasant, and there are people whose usage negatively affects their lives. I am a daily user and have no trouble acknowledging this.

I still feel that it's the most beneficial, least harmful, safest drug that there is. It's not literally perfect, but then what's perfect? It helps a lot of people, and it's harmless fun for lots more.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:22 AM on October 11 [12 favorites]


I'm glad Neal Pollack realized he had a problem and took steps to fix it. I have a friend who I wish would do the same thing.

This is a space where people say they have bad reactions to sugar, gluten, fragrances, pet dander, alcohol, nightshades, caffeine, nuts, etc and we believe them. This is a space where people say they have literal addictions to sugar, alcohol, social media, porn, caffeine, opioids, etc and we believe them. We don't tell them they're co-opting addiction language. We don't say, "Well I can have a coffee before bed without a problem so clearly you just have preexisting sleep issues and shouldn't blame caffeine for that." We point them toward resources.

Marijuana should not be held above that and I'm disappointed (but not surprised, really) that people are clinging to that notion.
posted by kimberussell at 3:59 AM on October 11 [53 favorites]


Oh I've known plenty of people with problematic relationships with weed. People who were clearly self-medicating with varying degrees of success, people who smoked too much and had psychological addictions and were probably ruining their lives. I also knew a lot of college-aged alcoholics of varying degrees of functionality, and people who drank themselves right out of school. Substance abuse is pernicious.

What I think is extremely rare (not impossible, just really rare) is not that someone developed an addiction to weed but this level of... adverse reaction? I don't live in a state with legalization so people here still consume their weed the old fashioned way. Maybe it's the newfangled products and strains? Is anyone producing for the legal market growing "throwback" strains because I bet there'd be a market for that. These turbo-potent strains and delivery devices sound...fraught.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:00 AM on October 11 [7 favorites]


I've always been of the opinion that pot is a mood enhancer. If you feel like shit, a lot of the time the smoke will just make you paranoid and that is not fun and can lead to all kinds of bad behaviour. It reveals what's happening under the facade.

Pot is all kinds of things but mostly it's an intoxicant and that can manifest in all kinds of ways. I know people who are debilitated by excess weed. This shouldn't be such a surprise. I know others who aren't. We have to believe personal experience, not just statistics.
posted by h00py at 4:12 AM on October 11 [9 favorites]


People are making a lot of categorical statements here that are not nearly so universally true as folks seem to think they are, as well as some that seem just sort of uninformed. Par for the course with all things cannabis, though. Cannabis is nothing if not complex, and there's a ton of misinformation out there of various kinds.

Unrelatedly, I doubt it's the concentrates. People don't use concentrates to get extra messed-up, they use them because they're more convenient and discreet, and generate less unhealthy smoke. You use a lot less concentrate than you would flower, because, well, it's concentrated.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:25 AM on October 11 [5 favorites]


This thread's a mess. There's a bunch of people attacking the strawman of "marijuana supporters attack any evidence that marijuana is bad." And there's a bunch of other people saying, "look, it isn't the marijuana, it's that this guy's an asshole."

I happen to fall into the latter category, and no, I don't think cannabis is some sort of miracle drug. I barely even use it myself, since it has a tendency to make me just sorta sleepy. I support its legalization mostly for practical reasons, not because I think it's a great boon to society.

But seriously, fuck this guy. He's written an op-ed to attempt to excuse his behavior. He's using marijuana as a scapegoat, but it's clear he was getting drunk and belligerent, too. There are probably plenty of other people who could make a better, more nuanced article about how it's far too easy to lean on cannabis as a coping mechanism, how it's still a drug and not a medicine, etc.

This article's just going to be fuel for opponents to say, "marijuana is as bad as alcohol," even though the worst of his excessive behavior was driven by alcohol and not cannabis. Even though he's ostensibly done with the drug, he's still dishonest, and that's why people are upset with him.
posted by explosion at 4:33 AM on October 11 [24 favorites]


mecran01's friend nailed it with It's him. Not the weed.
posted by sydnius at 4:47 AM on October 11 [3 favorites]


My brother flunked of college because of weed. Would he have flunked out without it? Possibly. But weed made it easier for him to put off addressing his mental health issues, and no one, least of all me, took it seriously until it was too late. How could he have anxiety? He was so chill (stoned) all the time!

I don’t think anyone really attacks all evidence that weed is bad, but I’ve certainly seen the potential side effects waved away. Legalization is my preferred outcome, but the idea of more assholes being openly stoned doesn’t thrill me. It’ll take some time for the social conventions to catch up, but I do hope it lands where cigarette smoking/alcohol is right now: legal, not for children, kind of a dick move in certain spaces.
posted by snickerdoodle at 4:48 AM on October 11 [11 favorites]


mecran01's friend nailed it with It's him. Not the weed.

He repeated a lazy and shallow received idea, he did not "nail it".
posted by thelonius at 5:05 AM on October 11 [6 favorites]


I am puzzled that no one here is simply saying "like alcohol, marijuana can foster a dependency in some, with negative effects on the user's personality and health." A majority of people who drink alcohol use it responsibly, while some have problems that are important to acknowledge and help them with. Why can't one say the same about marijuana without being accused of going all Carrie Nation?
posted by PhineasGage at 5:09 AM on October 11 [10 favorites]


Arguing the sincerity of somebody who’s figured out that substance abuse has negatively impacted his life

This particular somebody's entire career is based on being an insincere twit. I'm still not positive this article isn't supposed to be a joke, because it's exactly the kind of thing he'd write as a joke and just not deliver the punchline.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:15 AM on October 11 [6 favorites]


Is it also not possible his personality and image issues have stemmed from the fact he's been abusing drugs for years?

I'm tired of assuming the worst of people.
posted by something something at 5:20 AM on October 11 [7 favorites]


Soft, hard, placebo drugs, alcohol or stone cold, who among us has NOT dumped ice cold pitcher over the head of an Iraqi representative or equivalent. I'm here not to discuss addiction but to be a proponent of dumping, water, as icy as possible, on the stuffiest least expecting person. It's good for them. Wakes everyone up. Marijuana dependence is just an excuse, embrace your inner pourer. It's funny in the movies, funnier IRL. (hmmm could this be why all the invites to local meetups are being secretly filtered?)
posted by sammyo at 5:29 AM on October 11 [3 favorites]


I'm tired of assuming the worst of people.

Oh me too, it just works so often, especially with people connected even tangentially with Dave Eggers.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:30 AM on October 11 [9 favorites]


Nothing is purely benign.

I know plenty who’re addicted to doing nothing.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 5:40 AM on October 11 [13 favorites]


I can’t believe this was NYT worthy. Man smokes too much weed, suffers adverse results. Afroman already said it better: Because I Got High
posted by lyssabee at 5:44 AM on October 11 [5 favorites]


This is just this guy's story. It's not a referendum on anything. I enjoyed reading it.
posted by h00py at 6:13 AM on October 11 [2 favorites]


Funny parody though.
posted by iamck at 6:14 AM on October 11 [1 favorite]


Possibly, anyone who finds that marijuana triggers paranoia or panic or hypervigilance or anger or disinhibition and who becomes agressive when they feel those emotions.

Marijuana isn't this perfect and universally harmless sugarplum from heaven, much as certain parties want us to believe it is. It's a drug and it carries risk and can do harm.


This.

So, the whole “veterans should smoke pot for PTSD” thing has been amazingly fucking pernicious, to the point where when I left the Army, some beloved friends chased me down and harangued me until I agreed to try smoking pot once. And let me tell you, for some people, marijuana does indeed have an adverse reaction: for me, I found it increased rather than decreased paranoia, anxiety, and hyper vigilance, which had the effect of increasing aggression. People had to get me off the streets so I could shake and freak out safely in a hotel room. It lasted far too long and was horrible.

I don’t smoke pot now, even when people tell me I must have been wrong, pot doesn’t do that, I should just try it again, there are no ill effects of pot, because I found it didn’t work for me. I don’t usually talk about this, because the pot evangelists are so insistent that anyone saying such things is some sort of conspiracy. But like - just because something maybe shouldn’t be illegal doesn’t mean it can’t possibly cause harm. I believe him about his addiction and actions while on pot.
posted by corb at 6:30 AM on October 11 [50 favorites]


Whatever his drug-combination issues, history with employment adjacent to substances, (maybe) dubious epiphany, and underlying defects of character, I'm just glad that he has apparently found recovery. One may find issues throughout his share, but his closing, if the people who need to read it get that far, is correct: If you have a problem, you are not alone.
posted by achrise at 6:50 AM on October 11


THC makes me extremely paranoid and consequently unpleasant to be around. But it was obvious to me that it did and I stopped. To keep going, as Pollack did, says as much about him as it does about THC.
posted by tommasz at 6:51 AM on October 11 [7 favorites]


"I look forward to marijuana becoming a mental health concern as opposed to a legal problem."

It already is. I represented people applying for Social Security Disability (SSI and SSDI) for the first eight years of my career. A lot of the judges routinely turned down anyone who came in with a mental health disability and also substance use, saying that until they quit, it was impossible to tell whether their disability was substance-induced rather than genuine. A few were more reasonable. It was a huge relief when the DSM-5 came out and offered a much better interpretation of how substance use and abuse impacts people's mental health, and then a vital rule changed saying that only the treating provider could determine whether the condition was substance-induced. People still got turned down for seeking whatever relief was available to them, but we had better grounds for appeal.

I'd also like to note that having worked in the disability field for this long, the list of ailments marijuana helps with is much, much longer than I had thought, mental health, cancer, glaucoma, MS, various kinds of pain issues, hepatitis C.

To get back to the article, this guy reminds me of my ex-boyfriend from college: charismatic, narcissistic, abusive and covering it with "oh I'm a loveable asshole, and aren't I funny?", getting some kind of buzz and/or relief from the marijuana and then blaming it for his awful behavior when a reckoning finally comes. Psychological addiction is real, but so are horrible people who will do anything to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. I hope as part of whatever his recovery process is, that he gets some serious mental health care.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:03 AM on October 11 [8 favorites]


THC makes me extremely paranoid and consequently unpleasant to be around. But it was obvious to me that it did and I stopped. To keep going, as Pollack did, says as much about him as it does about THC.

Yeah, there's a vast difference between people who have a bad experience with a substance and realize that it's not for them, and those that have the same bad experience and continue to use, for whatever reason. You can call it addiction or whatever you want, but it's a substance abuse problem nonetheless, isn't it? It's possible for some people to have a problem using cannabis without cannabis itself being the problem, as with just about any substance. Whether this guy is just an asshole using intoxication as a cover for bad behavior isn't entirely relevant.

There are probably people who can be lifted all the time and function just fine. But those people are also probably not getting so high they can't remember where they parked. I know it's not for me -- cannabis seems to do good things for my brain when used infrequently, and increasing the frequency probably wouldn't provide any benefit -- but I tried a micro-dose edible recently that made me see the possibilities.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:11 AM on October 11 [4 favorites]


While I believe people can become addicted to marijuana, I find his tales hard to attribute to it and unlikely to be the source of why his behaviour is so shitty.
posted by GoblinHoney at 8:43 AM on October 11 [6 favorites]


Wow, I didn't realize pot was such a religious shibboleth to so many people. Some pretty sad performances in this thread, including a truly pathetic round of "it's just *psychological* so it's not a real addiction". Seriously?

Unsurprisingly, when you give psychoactive drugs to people they don't all react identically. I'm the opposite in this case; none of the compounds in pot make me high in the slightest. I don't go around telling potheads that they are making it all up when they appear high.
posted by tavella at 8:54 AM on October 11 [10 favorites]


I think there's often something to the idea that people who are assholes while drunk or high are really assholes while sober, but it's definitely not universal.

We universally recognize that prescription medication, which undergoes rigorous quality checking and clinical trials -- although I'm not going to delve into the profit-seeking of the pharmaceutical industry and their bad practices here -- can have adverse affects and doesn't work the same way for every person. Anti-depressants don't affect everyone the same way and it takes a few seconds of looking at any ask.mefi question about them to realize the same person can have completely different results given different medication. Sometimes they cause paradoxical effects.

So the idea that marijuana or alcohol can affect people differently, when they are or even result in behavior contrary to what we'd expect, isn't much of a reach. It even seems pretty obvious.
posted by mikeh at 8:55 AM on October 11 [5 favorites]


Corb: It's not just you. Lots of people get paranoid on pot. I know a few folks who've given it up because they started getting paranoid whenever they were high. I once had what I can only call the pot equivalent of a bad trip with lots of paranoia and bad thinking. I mean, I was also in crisis for a bunch of other stuff, so I'm sure that was a factor. Most of my pot experiences are not like that, though - people can have radically different experiences from not only the same general drug but even the same batch. Brains are weird.

I'm pretty sure there's a bit in one of Burroughs rambling books where he talks about being around a bunch of folks on pot and one of them stands up and yells "I GOT THE FEAR" and runs out of the room.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:07 AM on October 11 [4 favorites]


I'm almost sixty now, which means my marijuana "addiction" has been with me for over forty years. That is, I've probably been stoned at least once a day more days than I haven't for over four decades. Or close to it anyway. The last decade or so, things have been skewing more toward a couple times a week. But whatever. I've smoked a lot of dope in my time and, no great surprise, have known a lot of long term, committed stoners.

I put quotes around addiction above, because I don't believe myself an addict, because my marijuana abuse tends to self-correct. That is, if I'm truly overdoing it, I find the pleasure diminishes, gets replaced with anxiety etc. In its way, it forces me to address the underlying stuff. It seems to say to me in a tough love sort of voice, "If you want to get back to enjoying our time together, you're going to have to finally do your income tax, call your mom, finish that screenplay, get that kitchen floor fixed, reconcile that Easter brunch bullshit that went down with your brother last year ... " And so on. I put quotes around addiction above because I don't know any alcoholics, heroin junkies, coke or meth heads who seem to have a similar relationship with their particular monkey ...

And this isn't just me. I mentioned I've known a lot of long term committed stoners in my time. And yeah, we've shared notes. What I said above holds true for many of them. Yes, I could point to maybe one person who's got a long term mental health issue that he's been self-medicating with copious amounts of marijuana, but even so, it's sort of working for him. He's not a member of the chamber of commerce or whatever, but neither is he in jail, he's functioning, he's contributing, he's not disturbing the peace, frightening children. Would a long term commitment to therapy, perhaps pharmaceutical meds have served him and the greater community better over the decades? I don't think there's a clear cut answer to that question, and am suspicious of anyone who would insist that there is.

I don't think there's a clear cut answer to very many questions regarding marijuana use and/or abuse. Which is why I dropped that earlier comment:

"I look forward to marijuana becoming a mental health concern as opposed to a legal problem."

Though, looking at it now, it feels heavy handed. It gives too much weight to the mental health concerns -- not enough to everything else (ie: the myriad and subtle ways with which its use intertwines with our culture, for good, bad, other). For those who insist that we must remain fixed on the addiction concerns, I have a question (previously asked around here), which is based on something a friend said, who'd been to some Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

Most people don't ever even try heroin ... certainly not intentionally. It's a drug that carries with it all kinds of dire warning bells. So rather like base jumping (or whatever) most people never even think of trying. Of those who do try it at least once, 15-percent end up addicts.

So the question that perhaps needs to be asked isn't, Why is heroin so addictive? but what is it about that 15-percent of an already small minority that puts them so at risk of heroin addiction?


I think this speaks to all addictions.
posted by philip-random at 9:11 AM on October 11 [8 favorites]


Physical dependence refers to the need to use a substance in order to avoid withdraw symptoms. But this is emphatically not the primary driver of addiction. Firstly, not all addictive substances produce notable withdrawal syndromes (cocaine, for example). Secondly, physical dependence ends after detox, but addiction generally does not. The compulsive desire to use the drug continues long after withdrawal symptoms have passed, sometimes indefinitely. Psychological dependence is what makes users relapse over and over again, even after they’ve gotten clean.

A drug—or for that matter, any other compulsive behavior—does not need to cause physical dependence in order to qualify as an addiction. It just needs to be compulsive in spite of the evident harm it is causing. Or, my preferred definition of addiction: when someone uses a substance/behavior to treat the problems that the substance/behavior is causing.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:17 AM on October 11 [17 favorites]


I know and it is insulting to people whose lives are truly wrecked and have died from real addiction. Just stop it, you live in a bubble and you’re full of yourself.

Slarty, I understand why you're reacting strongly here but I think a quick perusal of my personal history that I've shared here on mefi would demonstrate that I certainly haven't lived in a bubble, dude. I would feel like an asshole pulling out my "street cred" to prove that but maybe don't assume that people who disagree with you are just stupid or sheltered.

Yeah, marijuana addiction isn't severe in the same way heroin addiction is. But that's not what anyone is suggesting. We're suggesting that it's a legitimate problem for some people that deserves to be taken seriously. Something doesn't have to be deadly to be troublesome.
posted by windykites at 9:25 AM on October 11 [8 favorites]


when I got to the end and saw who wrote it I assumed this was a prank on the NYT
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:48 AM on October 11 [4 favorites]


OK I hope my otherwise disparaging comments aren't getting me lumped in with the "pot dependence isn't real" crowd. Marijuana can be a crazy fucking drug depending on how your particular chemistry responds to it. My father, a hardcore addict to many things, was severely, devastatingly addicted to weed.

I think we can simultaneously take substance abuse seriously, while maintaining that Neal Pollack is an asshole who should be held accountable.

[and on preview I'm also not convinced it isn't a mean, not-funny prank]
posted by aspersioncast at 9:50 AM on October 11 [3 favorites]


"I haven't experienced this myself, and if you say you did, you must be lying" is pretty much the response all addicts get from non-addicts. I didn't have this guy's experience, nor did he have mine, but that doesn't change our experiences.

Some people who try alcohol hate it, some find it tolerable, some love the taste, and some find it changes the way they feel inside at such a profound level that they drink way too much and fuck up themselves and those around them. In MY experience, pot has similar results.
posted by corvikate at 10:00 AM on October 11 [9 favorites]


I guess everyone is different because I definitely had weird withdrawal symptoms from pot - when I was a daily smoker I used to have sudden-onset crying fit around 4pm every day (just walking back to my apartment from class, crying - it was a good look), and then when I stopped smoking every day, I had lingering visual hallucinations + mood issues for a week or so. I think we can recognize that pot is different from heroin or alcohol, and that it is a generally safe drug, without diminishing the physiological effects of weed. I think that one thing we are recognizing as society is that addiction is a combination of substance + user, and that both physical and mental dependence are factors that have to be addressed. Nobody dies from pot withdrawal, that doesn't mean pot can't be addictive to the right person.

On the other hand I also don't really find Pollack's essay particularly credible, mostly because of the source. It's really hard to be a jackass for decades and then ask to be taken seriously.
posted by muddgirl at 10:10 AM on October 11 [9 favorites]


I know someone who smoked so much weed he had to drop out of college...in the sixties. That must have taken effort.

Despite that, I am generally pro-legalization and don't care if people in my circle smoke up. But I've noticed before that any suggestion here that weed may have a negative impact on some people's quality of life (or their family's) tends to draw at least some surprisingly vehement response to the effect that people who think that way must be judgmental squares and/or totally uninformed about weed. It really seems to be part of some folks' identity in a way that from the outside is a bit worrying to me. (Obviously, if you rely on weed for pain relief or similar, it's understandable that you would be more invested; I'm talking about recreational use.)

In my experience, there are addicts whose asshole behavior is driven by the hijacking of their reward systems by the drug, and there are assholes who would be assholes anyway, and remain assholes after they stop use. This guy sounds like option b, and a performer to boot, which is probably why he's putting so many people off. But that doesn't mean he wasn't an addict.
posted by praemunire at 10:11 AM on October 11 [4 favorites]


I think the reason so many people are having a knee-jerk negative reaction to this story, is because this kind of anecdotal "I had a really bad time on weed" story tends to end with "and therefore it should be illegal forever"

It's 'sorta' legal in DC, and as a result, there are a number of privileged white people (even "hip" ones with sick ink and a fresh new Bad Brains tee for each one of their kids) who openly cheer on continuing the prison-industrial complex because they had to briefly smell weed on the street on their way to the food truck they like to frequent (I'm not exaggerating, this was an extended FB argument I found myself in once)

I don't know this person, or their work, and this may very well be his genuine, heartfelt confession about his addiction and coming to terms with it. However, a lot of people reacting to it here recognize a lot of what is being omitted from his story, and that the focus on marijuana as the sole blame for his issues with compulsion and anger feels extremely familiar, in a "Reefer Madness" sense.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:38 AM on October 11 [4 favorites]


Some of the knee-jerk defense of cannabis is that the War on Drugs propaganda up and up lied about what it does. There was a Saturday morning special in the USA (long enough ago that Saturday morning cartoons were still a thing) that showed a kid taking one toke off a cannabis cig and having a very bad trip that was a much better depiction of someone having an unusually bad reaction to a mild overdose of LSD or a similar hallucinogen. Later on, there were ads explaining that buying weed funds terrorism (yeah, so do our taxes) and even a small amount will ruin your life forever, FOREVER DO YOU HEAR ME?!?!?! This all maps poorly enough to most people's real live experience, that they tend to file all negative coverage under the same hysteria.

Try telling people that marijuana smoke inhalation is just as bad for your lungs as any other smoke inhalation and see what kind of response you get.

In college there was a little comic book reading room in the rec center basement. At one point, someone pulled out a bag of weed and asked if I minded. When I said I did, I could tell he thought I was going to go all Nancy Reagan on him, until I clarified that there was very poor ventilation in there and I didn't want to deal with fire or smoke of any kind. I don't think the fact that smoke is smoke had occurred to him before that. I will note that, as far as I can tell as someone who does not, er, partake, water bongs and vaping do seem more popular now as a way of bypassing the smoke. (Though cannabis and most other smoke at least does not have tar in it...)

I will disclaim that my opinion based on reading what medical trials and actual research has been allowed to happen, and observation of friends and acquaintances, not personal experience. It seems to me that recreational cannabis use doesn't do any more damage than recreational alcohol use. It's pretty much impossible to ingest enough to be fatal, unlike alcohol but has the secondhand vapor/smoke/ability to be eaten accidentally that alcohol does not. And some people abuse it to the point that it messes up their lives. It seems to me a similar level of regulation to alcohol would be the sanest course. Among other things, this would allow people who abuse it to get help, and also know what they took.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:42 AM on October 11 [2 favorites]


I think it's important to keep in mind that for a lot of people, criminalization is a super touchy subject because it is a) such a massive, massive cog in the prison-industrial complex and driver of mass incarceration and b) for some of us actually personal? Hello, I have a criminal record because one time when I was 20 I got arrested for having a sandwich bag in my pocket that had previously contained some weed and still had enough residue for it to test positive for a controlled substance when taken to the lab. Now, I'm massively privileged in other ways and mostly escaped much lasting harm being done due to that experience but I came close enough to the system to get a first-hand look through the sliding doors, as it were. So, I don't think I've been someone in this thread who has been accusing anyone of wanting criminalization (I don't think anyone has, really?) but you may understand why it might be a very personal topic for some, in the same way that experience with addiction is for others.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:48 AM on October 11 [9 favorites]


explosion: But also, he's an asshole for coopting real addiction language to excuse his behavior

Psychological addictions ARE "real addictions". I've been dealing with a psychological addiction for a number of years now through therapy and 12-step, and we use "real addiction language" to describe the addiction, its effects on us and those around us, and the ways to treat it.

He's an asshole for using his addiction to excuse his behavior, not for the language he used to do that.

posted by hanov3r at 11:03 AM on October 11 [6 favorites]


I think the reason so many people are having a knee-jerk negative reaction to this story, is because this kind of anecdotal "I had a really bad time on weed" story tends to end with "and therefore it should be illegal forever"

Yes. This. The only thing necessary to turn this op ed into exactly that is to remove his totemic insistence he believes it should be legal. There’s no nuance in this article. It’s a bad article where he’s scapegoating Cannabis for his bad behavior. It’s a perfect article for anyone attempting to pushback against legalization.
posted by Caduceus at 11:14 AM on October 11 [6 favorites]


I hear a lot of "weed doesn't make you an asshole" arguments. Do folks feel the same way about other drugs? I know physical addiction part is very different, but I feel like a lot of alcoholics or what-have-you have a hard time telling there their shittiness begins and ends. Am I always just a monster with my inhibitions keeping me in check? Does my sober craving for a manic state cause me to be dishonest, or am I just dishonest? I'd think a lot of the same rules apply here.
posted by es_de_bah at 11:22 AM on October 11 [3 favorites]


My issue with the article is his conflation of self-medication and addiction, and the targeted audience implicit in publishing this in the NYT.

At the core, his story is about how he thought his depression wasn't bad enough to qualify for getting help. And marijuana helped mask the issue until it didn't. But instead of thinking that meant he needed more help, perhaps trained professional help, he used more and more marijuana until he could blame the marijuana and find some relief in stopping.

I don't really see public policy lesson here is "let's be mindful about abusing pot". I mean, people who find themselves abusing pot probably benefit from groups filled with other people who self-medicate with pot. But that environment helps because it's supportive, while this article is pretty shame fueled.

For me, the public policy issue is addressing the underlying issue that people self-medicate because they feel unable to get care. And sure, there are resource issues there. But for the readers of the times, the underlying hurdle is much more likely to be the stigma surrounding mental health. The minimization of symptoms, the fear of stigma, the unflappable belief that you can just bootstrap yourself out of it, and guilt that your attempt at self-medication failed.

The message shouldn't be that the readers of the times are too affluent and privileged to need help. It's that they're affluent and privileged. They have a responsibility to get help and deal with their issues so they don't put the responsibility of managing their issues on someone with less privilege. It's important for people with privilege (like myself on a number of axes) to take steps to be emotionally resilient enough to listen to the systemic wrongs and the understandable anger and not succumb to white fragility. And minimizing the mental health resources necessary to do that always frustrates me.
posted by politikitty at 11:39 AM on October 11 [7 favorites]


I barely remember, because I was stoned.

Wait what? Is this a thing? I feel like I would definitely be aware if this was a thing.


It very much IS a thing for some people. My husband, who loves weed and doesn't have negative behaviors or whatever on it, has serious effects on his memory from using it. Both short-term not remembering shit while high and long-term generally poor memory. During the decade or so he totally abstained from smoking it his memory improved a lot, and decreased when he started using again.

Personally, I hate THC because it makes me incredibly anxious and I feel on the verge of a panic attack. I have pre-existing anxiety issues but at nearly 40 I've finally had to decide to just totally avoid pot because I feel so freaking bad on it. It's taken this long because of how hard people try to convince you otherwise. No, just do more, that'll go away. Just do it more often, do it differently, etc.

Brains are complicated and substances affect different ones differently. Especially substances that are as non-standardized and variable as pot.
posted by threeturtles at 11:51 AM on October 11 [9 favorites]


I had some unfortunate encounters with this guy a decade ago, I don't think he was stoned at the time just drunk.

I do think it's possible to abuse weed, and weed addiction is definitely a thing, but his story doesn't ring true in terms of cannabis being his primary issue.
posted by chaz at 11:57 AM on October 11 [3 favorites]


Truly fascinating thread to me, and I genuinely have been trying to be nonjudgmental with reading every comment. Mainly because it’s obvious that cannabis is just a big mess of a subject with a ton of gray area and probably will be for many years to come.

I think it isn’t very useful to take a binary approach to whether or not weed itself is chemically addictive like opiates and such. What I think is more the case is that for a certain segment of people who could be said to have some form of addictive personality, it fills that slot satisfactorily enough that they don’t tend to look much further but then do become addicted. This requires a certain amount of, not privilege really, but more of the right circumstances where whatever generational addictive tendencies they may have inherited aren’t developed to the severity of thirsting after more damaging substances or elusive highs. There’s a lot to unpack from Pollack’s piece about his behavior but he also was combining with alcohol, which is usually an entirely different equation when you’re talking about disinhibition.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:58 AM on October 11 [2 favorites]


I hear a lot of "weed doesn't make you an asshole" arguments. Do folks feel the same way about other drugs?

If I understand you correctly, for me it's more like: If doing something makes you act like an asshole, and you keep doing it despite knowing this, the extent to which your behavior is caused by that thing is splitting hairs about intentionality.

I don't really give a shit that you wouldn't get in a fight while sober; if you keep getting in drunken brawls, you're an asshole because you keep drinking and fighting.

Being an addict doesn't automatically make you an asshole, but it's sure as shit not an excuse to be an asshole. Like driving a BMW, being an addict is often coincident with assholery.*

Regarding other drugs, as with alcohol and caffeine, particular ways particular people act when stoned make them seem like assholes to me, even if I would normally consider them delightful (shockingly enough some people just seem way dumber after a couple tokes/drinks, and I find dumb people annoying - with caffeine it's more that other people's anxiety can be contagious).

Conversely, I've had friends who are just as fun to be around after a couple tokes/drinks/espressos.

I have never been around anyone who was remotely fun on heroin, ketamine, or E, because for whatever reason I can't stand the way anyone acts on those drugs.

*I am an addict. My father was an addict. I have worked extensively with addicts. Don't @ me.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:22 PM on October 11


TIL that cannabis gummy bears are a thing.
posted by chavenet at 12:57 PM on October 11 [3 favorites]


I kind of wish I could get one of those cannabis bath bombs. They sound like they'd be great for cramps, as long as I'm not one of the people who gets the paranoia. (Best guess based on my reactions to legal drugs is that I'd be one of the people who gets sleepy high.) That's not an experiment I'm going to break the law for, though.
posted by Karmakaze at 1:17 PM on October 11


If doing something makes you act like an asshole, and you keep doing it despite knowing this, the extent to which your behavior is caused by that thing is splitting hairs about intentionality.

....this would imply that anyone not able to withstand addiction is a moral failure. I do not believe this is a fair charge.
posted by corb at 3:08 PM on October 11 [12 favorites]


Some of the knee-jerk defense of cannabis is that the War on Drugs propaganda up and up lied about what it does.

This. During a brief stint as a high school biology teacher, I had to throw out much of the material that I was supposed to teach because it simply wasn’t accurate (I mean, plus all the cringe-worthy attempts to identify substances by their street names, like your dad asking you about “wacky baccy”). I knew that at least some of my students were drug users and were interested enough in the topic that inaccuracies would render it untrustworthy to them, and that at least some proportion of those students probably wanted the excuse to preemtively dismiss any discussion of the disadvantages of drugs.

When young people have already decided that all negative messages about drug use are scare-mongering, it’s very hard to communicate important messages like “it wouldn’t be appropriate to do a few shots of vodka before class each lunchtime, how come it’s ok to smoke a joint” or “marijuana could well be harmful to adolescents who are predisposed to some mental illnesses” or “rightly or wrongly, society views these drugs negatively and one risk of using them is legal consequences”, all of which were arguments that they needed to think about.

(Though cannabis and most other smoke at least does not have tar in it...)

Here’s a good example of the problems caused by the misinformation spread by both sides. Marijuana smoke does contain tar, and drag-for-drag, a typical way of smoking (unfiltered cigarette with smoke held in the lungs) deposits a lot more tar than smoking an equivalent, filtered cigarette. On the other hand, “pack a day” marijuana smokers are very unusual compared to “pack a day” cigarette smokers and, so far, there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between heavy marijuana use and increased incidence of lung cancer. That’s a summary of this snopes article, but the general point is that drug use is one of those issues where it can be very difficult for laypeople to find reliable information because the science is so buried under political considerations. You end up wading through a lot of misleading framing and outright lies, and faced with he-said-she-said, human nature leads people to pick the more comfortable truth.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 5:29 PM on October 11 [7 favorites]


this would imply that anyone not able to withstand addiction is a moral failure

I don't believe in moral failure, so that implication is certainly not intentional - it's an entirely subjective positioning.

From a broadly utilitarian point of view, I think it's a very good and even ethical idea to try to figure out why people act like assholes. I think we could probably put a little more effort as a society into helping assholes not be that way, and worry less about addiction if it isn't making people act like assholes.

From a personal, transactional point of view, unless someone is a close friend of mine (which Neal Pollack is not), I don't care why they act like an asshole - I just don't want to be around assholes. Most people I know use some kind of drug, some of them are addicts, only a couple of them are assholes.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:52 PM on October 11 [2 favorites]


During a brief stint as a high school biology teacher,

But, I mean, we're not in high school here, right? This is not D.A.R.E. and I doubt anyone here believes in the demon weed. (Still have a surprising amount of moral panic around opiates, though.) I would think that grown folks could discuss whether marijuana use can be harmful for some people in some contexts without having to relitigate health class.

From a personal, transactional point of view, unless someone is a close friend of mine (which Neal Pollack is not), I don't care why they act like an asshole - I just don't want to be around assholes.

I just wonder if you'd feel comfortable using that framing around, say, a schizophrenic whose delusions caused him to behave in a highly antisocial way.
posted by praemunire at 5:57 PM on October 11 [4 favorites]


But, I mean, we're not in high school here, right? This is not D.A.R.E. and I doubt anyone here believes in the demon weed.

Mm, but my point wasn’t that “drugs are bad” or that anyone here was being that reductive (?), so apologies if my example of teaching mislead you. My point was that the WoD rhetoric that surrounds the issue polarises the debate, so people who otherwise might have a nuanced view of the positive and negative effects of, say, weed end up reflexively defending something that isn’t uniformly good.

(Or in the case of opiates, attacking something that isn’t uniformly bad.)
posted by chappell, ambrose at 9:48 PM on October 11 [1 favorite]


*puts on white coat*

This is the stupidest thread. I spend a large part of each and every day treating and attending to the needs of people with chemical dependence. [Full disclosure: I have not met an intoxicating substance I didn't think was a rollicking good time. I was also born into privilege and have never had to use a chemical to deal with my shitty life or function "normally." I am currently completely sober.] I have personally been with hundreds (thousands?) of people who have continued to use various drugs in spite of obvious permanent disability or impending death and have watched them die, as recently as this week.

From the American Society of Addiction Medicine:

Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.

From the article:

It wasn’t so hard to go cold turkey. I had a couple of twitchy nights, and that was it. But it’s easier to stay off the stuff because I don’t live in a state where it’s legal. I can get weed, but it requires a few steps. Addicts in legal states aren’t so fortunate.

No, an "addict" in a state where it is not legal will continue to find it, travel to a legal state, grow their own despite previous jail sentences and will require physical removal of access to the drug of choice for a period of time to achieve long term abstinence.

The DSM V gets away from using the term "addiction" and instead favors the diagnosis "Substance Use Disorder" and subcategorizes it into mild, moderate, severe with or without "[substance X] mood disorder" -- "a diagnosis of substance use disorder is based on evidence of impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological criteria." What this author is describing, and what various people in this thread are describing, would generously be called a "Mild Substance use Disorder." The DSM V differentiates between each specific [substance x] disorder because the quality of impairment, ease in stopping, changes in behavior and mood upon stopping, and specific treatment necessary in stopping vary by substance. Discontinuing cannabis causes relatively mild and temporary changes in behavior and mood upon stopping and there is no specific treatment that has been shown to be helpful or even necessary in stopping aside from perhaps treating the underlying mental illness that someone might have been using cannabis to medicate and even so, most clinicians believe in helping people achieve abstinence first and then attempting to diagnose and treat the underlying mood disorder. I.E., treating the mood disorder is not a necessary step in achieving sobriety.

What is problematic about the language of this linked essay is that "addiction" is an antiquated term that is ambiguous and has changed meaning over time
and it is not particularly useful. Most people using that term imply some amount of compulsion to use the drug in order to avoid unpleasant effects. The definition also implies some degree of tolerance to the drug that develops over time, requiring increasing amounts of the drug to achieve the same effect. Finally, the traditional notion of addiction implies some degree of somatic discomfort that causes a person to continue to use a drug despite a desire to stop. Yet, relapse is not well predicted by the degree of somatic discomfort produced by withdrawal of the drug. With cannabis, the idea of using to avoid unpleasant effects is highly subjective and value-laden. Simply put, it is fun to be high and it is less fun to not be high. Does tolerance develop with cannabis? Absolutely. Does physical discomfort occur upon stopping cannabis, and is the discomfort enough to cause someone to continue to use it to avoid the physical discomfort? I would argue no, but there is some room for debate.

Prior to the DSM V, the most common useful term was "Chemical Dependency" which was typically described as "continued use of an intoxicant despite clear evidence of the adverse effects of continued use." Again, this is ambiguous and the question of which adverse effects should make a reasonable person stop are hard to define and occur on a gradient, depending on a host of social expectations and norms. We might all agree that continuing to use after a string of DUIs and car accidents or continuing to use despite being fired from multiple jobs because you were too high to do your job would fit the definition, but what about "some people think I'm a dick when I'm high" or not being able to do calculus? What the author of the article offers us is:

I got stoned the day my son came home from the hospital and stayed that way, with few breaks, for a decade and a half. Of course I put him in danger because I couldn’t stop getting high.

and

In many ways, I’m lucky my addiction didn’t have more consequences. I never got arrested. My family stayed together, somehow. But I have lost a ton of dignity and integrity, intangibles that I may never reclaim.

Does this rise to the level of "clear evidence of the adverse effects of continued use"? I'm not so sure.

No, I am sure. It doesn't.

Does this mean there aren't people who would be better off without using cannabis? No of course not. Does it mean that there aren't some people who stop who experience some amount of discomfort and adjustment? No. Do some people who stop marijuana benefit from a little extra support, medical or otherwise? Of course.

What I like about the DSM V and the Substance Use Disorder system is that it differentiates between different substance and degree of severity.

I have seen people endure some pretty horrific things to maintain their substance use. Personally, I don't find this author's story all that interesting or heroic.

Yes, if you are using cannabis and it's not working for you and their are some barriers to stopping, get help if you can. But if that help isn't available, you still have a reasonable shot at doing it on your own. People with Alcohol Use Disorder or Opioid Use Disorder can get all the medical and social support in the world and still have a very high morbidity and mortality. When this particular guy calls himself a "drug addict" and describes an out of control life style saying "I would rather have given up breathing" that marijuana "wastes millions of lives" that "around 9% of users become addicted" (note the article he links to uses the term "Marijuana Use Disorder" and not "addiction") he's using highly inaccurate and misleading language that enormously inflates the seriousness and difficulty of the problems he struggled with and indicates a glaring ignorance of drug use outside his small perspective.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 12:51 AM on October 12 [15 favorites]


If I had a nickel for every person who has literally told me that they believe they're more charming/entertaining to other people when they're drunk/stoned/high/under the influence of whatever, I'd have enough nickels to fill up a sock and hit them over the head when they're drunk/stoned/high/under the influence of whatever and so obnoxious they're not fit company for man nor beast. With a few exceptions, people's charm when inebriated has an inverse relationship to their belief in their charm when inebriated.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:09 AM on October 12 [3 favorites]


I don't know how anybody can think they're more charming when high. A low dose makes me pretty conversational (which I am generally not), but then I lose track of time while I'm talking and wonder just how long I've been going on for and quickly wind it up so I don't monopolize the conversation (in reality it's probably a totally normal conversational chunk).

So I do not feel charming while high.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:53 AM on October 12 [2 favorites]


When this particular guy calls himself a "drug addict" and describes an out of control life style saying "I would rather have given up breathing" that marijuana "wastes millions of lives" that "around 9% of users become addicted" (note the article he links to uses the term "Marijuana Use Disorder" and not "addiction") he's using highly inaccurate and misleading language that enormously inflates the seriousness and difficulty of the problems he struggled with...

That's Neal Pollack for you, especially the last part. He wanted to get published in the New York Times and to do that-- except maybe in the Modern Love section-- you need to make your experience sound like a trend. As soon as I saw it was him, I knew it was going to be bullshit.

I think he can get away with this because alcoholism is so often talked about as a self-diagnosed disease. If you're a stay-at-home parent who drinks too much and you go to an AA meeting you will be encouraged to use the label. If someone says they're an addict, you say, "Good for you for admitting it!" They pretty openly admit, thought, that they don't care about objective standards. Pollack has been to a Marijuana Anonymous meeting, and he's using that model. If it helps him, well bully for him I guess. If you use drugs every day, it's probably better to at least consider that you may have a problem.
posted by BibiRose at 7:10 AM on October 12 [3 favorites]


Late to this thread, but just wanted to say that yes, aggressive behavior on marijuana is a real thing. I don't get that way, I haven't seen my friends get that way, you might be unfamiliar with it, etc. - but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. There are a wide variety of responses that people can have to marijuana, which is, after all, a psychoactive substance. While I haven't felt aggressive, I have had paranoia and bad feelings that really pushed me to a "fight or flight" mode, on the verge of a panic attack. That's not uncommon. I choose to flee, others may choose to fight.

Also yeah, glad to see pushback, because the majority response to downplay this as "he's just an asshole" is super disappointing. Where I come from and the mental health professionals I've talked with come from, you're an addict if the thing you're addicted to starts having a detrimental effect on your life and the people around you and you can't control that effect. Your brain gets stuck in stimulation-reward loops that take over your life. It can be alcohol, porn, video games, gambling, marijuana. I'd highly recommend not downplaying or dismissing other people saying they are/were addicts, especially not to serve your personal agenda ("he's really doing a disservice to the legalization movement", paraphrasing).
posted by naju at 10:34 AM on October 14 [7 favorites]


I just wonder if you'd feel comfortable using that framing around, say, a schizophrenic whose delusions caused him to behave in a highly antisocial way.

Again from a purely subjective POV? Yes. Because that's not some kind of macro-level analysis, it's a statement of what I, personally, am able to be around for any length of time.

I'm sure it's horribly callous and intolerant, but being around highly antisocial people--especially those who get violent--is both incredibly taxing and potentially dangerous for me. I am not well enough myself to actually handle it for any sort of sustained period, as a brief stint in the periphery of social work quickly made clear.

I was a shivering mess after every night I waited tables fer Chrissakes - dealing with serious mental illness, including severe addiction, for any sustained period is apparently not something I'm cut out for. My response to violence is to become violent, and my response to rudeness is extracting myself from the rude person's company. Being around assholes on drugs made me an asshole on drugs.

I am extremely grateful that there are people who are able to deal empathetically and sympathetically with other people who are acting like assholes, but I learned the hard way that I am not one of them.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:32 PM on October 14 [2 favorites]


Thankfully my son, whose schizophrenia is treatment-resistant, stopped smoking weed about 1.5 years ago. He learned the hard way that, although weed didn't make him violent or volatile, it did cause him to suffer wildly dissociative symptoms that invariably landed him in the hospital for being a danger to himself and others. Weed took his already-tangled thought-processing problems and put a multiplier on them. Without weed, he is an affable, chatty kid with a lot of zany ideas. On weed, he is the same person but traveling at light-speed through some cosmic soup I couldn't imagine. He doesn't turn into an asshole.

(Alcohol—that's what turns my son into an asshole! I hear it works that way for a lot of people, neurotypical or otherwise. Alcohol plus weed even more so.)

But if weed alone is sending you into outer space or making you super-angry or sending you on other routes that your baseline, socially-normative psyche doesn't bring you on a daily basis, then it's probably exacerbating other latent, neural misfiring-type symptoms, so that your brain cannot block their presentation anymore, in spite of best efforts.

(E.g. My son, even at his least delusional, gets psychic messages from people, or can see beyond their physical presence into what they "really are". When sober, he could concede maybe perceived zombies weren't real, or at least were representative of something else or a misinterpretation of incoming stimuli—like the sound of the bathtub draining, or the neighbors in the next apartment talking. But on weed: real zombies roam our streets, and it's as obvious as the sky is blue. When my son smoked weed, he couldn't think the zombies away. So to me, it's not a matter of "Weed takes assholes and makes them assholes-in-public," it's more like, "Weed takes the stimuli and distorts your perception and reaction to it.")
posted by not_on_display at 2:49 PM on October 15 [4 favorites]


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