What is the Blue Mind?22 August 2022
Addiction and dependence, why yesterday's beliefs do not hold up, changing the stories we tell.
Picture this, several young happy people are sedately sitting around a typical suburban living room, someone puts on some music, and a few people get up and dance. A young man in the corner places what looks like a cigarette between his lips, a lighter sparks to life he draws deeply, and smoke billows around his head. Suddenly he coughs, sputters then with a wild look in his eyes, he lunges across the room. Stumbling around, he hands the cigarette off to a young woman who also draws deeply, exhales a cloud of smoke then suddenly throws her head back, cackles wildly then proceeds to dance with wild abandon. A deep masculine authoritative voice overlays the scene on the screen. “Drugs, Refer, Weed, Crazy Cabbage, the Devil’s grass, remember kids just one ‘Marihuana cigarette” can ruin your life…”
Scenes such as those marked the beginning of the war on drugs, and in its heyday, Hollywood churned out scare movies to persuade young Americans to avoid the evil marijuana and embrace clean living, virginity, no touching dancing all, of course, to be enjoyed with a friendly drink and cigarette.
Shifts in mindsets, yesterday and today
Sounds crazy right? It was, and as hard as it is for us to believe, once upon a time people were encouraged to embrace tobacco and shun marijuana, today we see a different story being told. Gone are the days of the feared refer madness, today the war on drugs has shifted its aim to some seriously heavyweight dangerous drugs, Opioids, Heroin and Crack are today’s demonized drugs. However, perhaps because of what we learned from the grandiose failures of the war that was waged on marijuana the weapons of choice in fighting the opioid crisis are psychotherapy and naloxone kits.
Smoke this not that?
Thankfully tobacco is also on the “avoid at all costs” list. Tobacco is perhaps the most costly and dangerous substance that is accessible to most people. In an effort to help people to quit smoking researchers and entrepreneurs developed what was touted as a safer way to deliver that nicotine buzz, a pen that can vaporize fluids, creating a “smoke” substitute that carries a prescribed amount of nicotine. Originally conceived as a way to help smokers get free of nicotine vaping instead quickly became an indulgence in and of itself, with flavoured vape, concentrates you could get a shot of raspberry colada as your dose delivery.
More elaborate and deliciously scented flavours were developed to feed a growing insatiable user base, you still get your nicotine but without those carcinogens. What could possibly go wrong? What indeed! Human beings did what we usually do, we began to overconsume and with no clear understanding of the possible side effects, our teenagers also embraced this new odoriferous trend.
The good news? Tobacco use dropped considerably, and the “smoking section” has become the “social pariah section” of most school yards, restaurants, and bars today. The bad news? Many young adults and teens report vaping only, saying they had never smoked a cigarette before vaping. Vaping is on the rise in Canada, not a lot, but it is a number that health professionals are concerned about.
Another emerging trend that health officials watching closely is the increase in marijuana use.
Gone are the days of the “reefer madness” fear-mongering, Canada legalized Marijuana, thus making procurement and consumption not only legal but socially acceptable, so did we start to consume more as a result? While pollsters readily admit the data is not entirely clear on this one, since previously most of the adult Canadians polled prior to legalization would not openly admit to procuring or using pot, mindful of the legal and professional stigma attached to it. And using my youth as a comparative point I am pretty sure more young people and teens were indulging than would have admitted it to any authority, or medical professional!
But today “Millennials” and “Gen Z” were not raised with the same prejudice towards weed that was prevalent when I was, let’s just say “younger”, today it is not only acceptable it is completely normal to use marijuana, and with the legalization, we also have more knowledge than ever before. We are learning about strains, and which properties can be used to alleviate pain, which can be used to help one become more creative, energized, or relaxed.
We can grow plants to enhance some properties, and even extract those properties and provide alternate methods of consumption, CBD is even being used by Veterinarians. It comes as no surprise then, to learn that the pharmaceutical industry is also leveraging the benefits of some of marijuana’s properties to enhance medications and anti-inflammatory cremes.
One claim that authorities used to make back in the BAD old days was that using marijuana would inevitably lead you straight down the rabbit hole into using heroin! We now know that this is just not the case for most users of marijuana. However some people can become reliant on the effects of marijuana, though not technically an addiction, a strong reliance can develop.
Is there really an addictive personality type?
And what harm is there in that you may ask? To begin, let us shift the conversation away from harm and look instead at addictive behaviour. What for some could be a safe and occasional indulgence becomes a problem if the user has unresolved psychological issues. “Addictive personality is not an actual psychiatric diagnosis,” says Michael Weaver, MD, medical director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. “Personalities are very complex, and while there’s not one specific type that’s more prone to addiction than others, there are several factors that can combine to make you more likely to become addicted.”
One common factor underlying every addiction is the feeling of reward. A reward is experienced in the brain as a chemical release that creates a craving that fulfills and makes you feel satisfied.
Some signs of addiction are:
- Always wanting more
- Feeling as if you are constantly needing more
- Continuing to indulge despite the negative outcomes
- An inability to follow rules you have set for terms and times of use
- An overwhelming feeling of not being able to stop
- Obsessing about the drug, drink, item or activity
- Replacing relationships with the substance
- Secrecy around using
If your marijuana use has progressed past social or medical need usage then you might want to speak with a medical professional. People who demonstrate a strong tendency towards addiction to one thing, e-cigarettes or marijuana for example can also become drawn to and may become addicted to another.
“You can’t exhibit addictive behaviors to a substance unless you’re exposed to that substance,” says J. Wesley Boyd, MD, PhD, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.
Yes, if you have one addiction, you’re more likely to have another: Studies of college students confirm that if you’re addicted to one thing, say alcohol, you are more likely to have an additional addiction, like cigarettes. That may be partly because of genetics and partly because of what’s around you: “If you’ve been in a situation where there is alcohol or drugs available, there are probably also going to be cigarettes there, too,” Weaver says.
While currently, we do not have accurate medical tests to determine who may develop an addiction, we do know that there are certain personality traits that are more common among people who have addictions:
Dopamine, is the feel-good highway for your brain.
Dopamine, often referred to as the “pleasure chemical,” doesn’t actually produce pleasure. It does, however, reinforce feelings of pleasure by connecting sensations of pleasure to certain behaviours.
“It’s a feel-good chemical,” says Tanya J. Peterson, NCC, DAIS, a mental health educator. “It’s part of our reward center, and when our brain produces dopamine in response to what we do, we feel good and want to do more of whatever it is that’s making us feel so mentally healthy. That, in turn, leads to even more dopamine production.”
Addictive people crave that surge in dopamine more than others. The need for more to get the same thrill: “People who are prone to addiction say the best they ever felt in their life was the first time they tried heroin or had a drink,” Boyd says. As their addiction grows, they develop tolerance and need to consume larger quantities at a greater frequency to try to re-create that initial buzz.
Impulsivity: Studies that looked at the brains of addicts found they’re more likely to make snap decisions without considering the long-term consequences.
Inability to quit: A person continues to seek out the substance or behavior even when it gets in the way of family, job, education, and friends, Boyd says.
The important thing to remember is that your personality doesn’t determine your fate, Weaver says: “You can get help and lead a successful, productive life.” The first step, he adds, is acknowledging the potential problem — and just by asking yourself whether you have an addictive personality, you’re already on the right track.
What if you already are suffering from addiction or are fearful that addiction is taking over your life? Reach out today, call us at 1-888-777-9953 and speak with one of our intake councellors, we can help you sort through these questions and help you to take the right steps to put you on the path to recovery.
Part 2 coming up. We look into the suggestion that the increase in marijuana use is connected to the rise in the use of psychedelics.