High on Marijuana Anonymous

As the world went into lockdown two years ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent New England college graduate — let’s call her Julie* — suddenly realized that her daily marijuana obsession had already prepared her for life in lockdown. “Weed is a drug that doesn’t make you want to date other people,” says Julia, who has just returned home to support her mother in her battle with stage four cancer. “This is a drug that makes you want to sit alone in your room. So when the pandemic hit, my first thought was, “Wow, now everyone is going to live like me.”

“It was a scary moment for me.” She admits, “when I realized that a global pandemic would not change my lifestyle.”

Julia decided it was time to ditch her best friend from college: dab pens, tiny electronic devices that release vapors of highly concentrated cannabis oil or wax far more potent than the clusters of buds, stems, and seeds. They were sold in sachets in the past day.

Marijuana Anonymous

Now she has joined the growing crowd of users with a new best friend: Marijuana Anonymous, an organization that uses the same 12-step program developed by Alcoholics Anonymous to help users cope with their favorite drug.“It not only sobers you up. They makes you a better person,” says Susan, 66,* a Hollywood executive who kicked the 40-year habit after joining MA 12 years ago.

“It helps you admit that you are powerless over this drug that has made your life unmanageable. I have seen participants in the program really grow up and grow up. Acquiring a certain amount of wisdom on how to deal with life’s challenges.”

MA has been around since 1989 but has long been overshadowed by the much larger and more famous AA and its affiliates, including Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and Alateen.

“MA is a small community with limited resources trying to get the word out to the whole world,” says Laurie, 45, a Los Angeles-based writer who attended her first gathering 16 years ago. “We are here to help a marijuana addict who is suffering while we work on our own sobriety and recovery.”

Surge of interest

MA is now accepting more users than ever before. The surge of interest coincided with the ongoing pandemic, with untold thousands of marijuana addicts sinking lower and lower, higher and higher. Other factors driving wider use almost certainly include the spread of cannabis legalization across the country and the widely sanctioned use of medical marijuana.

There is no hard data to support this theory. But there is little doubt that marijuana is no longer taboo in the United States. The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS) reports that 55 million Americans — 16.9 percent of the population — use marijuana in some form, from smoking old-school joints, bongs, and pipes to eating or vaping. Surprisingly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are far more such users than the 36.5 million Americans who smoke tobacco.

NCDAS Report

The NCDAS also reports that the public approval of medical marijuana, which is legal in 36 states, has significantly reduced the stigma associated with the drug. In fact, 56 percent of Americans now consider weed to be “socially acceptable,” while a much larger proportion of the population believes it poses less of a health risk than tobacco (76 percent), alcohol (72 percent), and prescription drugs (67). percent).

But medical experts warn that no one should dismiss pot as just a harmless herb. Studies show that 9 percent of marijuana users develop an addiction, says Marvin D. Seppala, MD, chief medical officer of the Betty Ford Haselden Foundation.

“Unfortunately, the truth is that the lack of serious early effects of marijuana addiction allows for a long and slow decline,” Seppala writes in the introduction to the MA bible. Living with Hope: Returning to Life Through 12 Steps and 12 Anonymous Marijuana Traditions. “A person can wake up for years with this chronic disease, not understanding why his life has come so far into a dead end. … However, isolation from friends and family, loss of interest and lack of participation in activities that used to bring joy, and the crushing weight of missed opportunities add up.”

Zoom – unexpected silver lining

Judging by the growth of MA since the pandemic, more users than ever are contemplating this hole in the soul. The good news is that their quest for recovery has been fueled by an unexpected silver lining in the age of COVID. The ability to attend Zoom meetings instead of going to traditional in-person meetings at church halls, community centers, and other assorted institutions that can be as bare as a trailer.

Five years ago, MA administered 17 districts around the world. Today there are 27, including the newest branches in Chicago and Iceland. Face-to-face meetings that used to attract 15 users are now hosting 30 to 50 on Zoom.

“The number of newcomers coming to meetings virtually is amazing,” Laurie says. “I also noticed a much more diverse set of addicts.”

The MA’s 2021 member survey found that almost exactly half of the respondents are over 40. With the other half evenly split between ages 31-40 (25.5 percent) and 21-30 (24.7 percent). There are slightly more women than men, but 8% consider themselves non-binary.

 Youth Nonprofit In Northern California

“Right now, one of our committees is on representativeness and accessibility,” says Audrey, 39, a curriculum developer for youth nonprofit in northern California who hasn’t been drinking in 20 years. “We are not experts in who struggles or does not struggle with marijuana addiction in relation to ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation. So there is a lot of work to be done to make sure we can reach everyone.”

This outreach is already showing signs that it is paying off at the grassroots level. In Oakland, for example, before the pandemic hit. A long-running Friday night meeting for women identifying as queer or transgender typically attracted 6 to 10 users. But since the meetings went online. Post-COVID attendance has more than tripled to 20-30 people.

However, the Massachusetts government emphasizes that there is – and always will be – only one requirement for membership: the desire to quit weed. The organization stays away from politics. Doesn’t speak out on sensitive issues like legalization and medical marijuana and has no interest in lecturing users.

“We don’t demonize marijuana or addiction,” says Lindsey, 29, who works for a nonprofit agency in the San Francisco Bay Area and began her recovery five years ago. “I was born into a family with alcoholism and a dysfunctional family. Marijuana was one of the many tools that helped me survive. I thought of it as a friend. But it was a coping mechanism that no longer worked when I became an adult.

“My life has only gotten better because I now have much more clarity,” she adds. “I’m not in a literal or metaphorical fog or haze.”

The misconception that marijuana is not addictive

As MA guides users towards recovery. One of the most pressing challenges is to dispel the long-held belief that marijuana is not addictive. There are many stories of users claiming to be marijuana addicts at NA meetings only to be rolled their eyes at.

“A lot of people I know have been laughed at,” says Ann-Catherine, 56, a Los Angeles psychiatrist who joined MA more than five years ago. “Maybe it wasn’t meant to be so mean. But it was like, ‘Look, I’m on heroin and meth.’ I wish I was addicted to marijuana. Sounds like child’s play.”

By no means. The CDC estimates that 3 out of 10 cannabis users have a marijuana use disorder. The risk of developing a psychiatric addiction increases significantly for those who start using before age 18.

Long-term or frequent

“Long-term or frequent” use has also been associated with an increased risk of psychosis, hallucinations, and schizophrenia in some users, as well as serious physical illness. “You might want to google ‘cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome,'” Ann-Catherine suggests. “That’s when the receptors in the lining of your gut become so saturated with cannabinoids”—the various chemical compounds in marijuana, including THC. The main source of marijuana’s infamous buzz—“that you can’t stop vomiting. It has become such a problem that one MA meeting is dedicated to it.”

No marijuana-related issue falls outside the scope of the MA. Veteran members swear that the support they have received from meeting after meeting has been a solid foundation for their sobriety.

Marijuana-Related Issue

“This is a group of people who completely understand you,” says Robin*, 56, a behavior coach who started smoking weed. When she was 12 and didn’t stop until she joined MA nine years ago. “I lived with this addiction for decades that I had no idea there was a solution to. The minute I found MA, it was a spiritual experience. I just knew my place was there.”

“When I go to an MA meeting, I’m at home,” agrees Kate*, 47. A real estate agent who found MA after years of attending AA meetings. “This is the most valuable part of my life. Without him, I wouldn’t have anything.”

Julia, a college graduate whose marijuana use led her into isolation long before COVID, is now 23. She moved south last fall after her mom passed away, got a new job in retail. Continues to attend four or five MA Zoom meetings every week. She hasn’t touched a pen since October 2020.

My year of sobriety

“My year of sobriety was not the easiest year of my life, but I am doing well,” she says. “I have a much broader support system. I live my life in a more real and fulfilling way. Now I’m much, much better friends with the person than I used to be.”

Indeed, Julia has no doubt that her epiphany moment. Equates isolation from the pandemic with her self-imposed solitary confinement with a vape pen. It was a crucial turning point that quelled her desire to get high and propelled her to MA. A clear head, and a sense of purpose better life.

“Recognizing the reality of my addiction was really an inside thing, you know?” she said. “I know how I felt at the bottom and I know I never want to feel like that again.”

For more information about Marijuana Anonymous, include an updated list of meetings around the world and links to brochures and literature detailing the program. Visit marijuana-anonymous.org or call (800) 766-6779.

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