With the evolution of drugs and other harmful activities, addiction has had to go through a very different definition than it used to 30 and 40 years ago.

In the early days of addiction, it was usually defined by physical symptoms such as withdrawals and cravings and irritability without  a drug or activity (these addictions included sex along with many drugs) for a period of time. Based on that definition, for years cocaine and marijuana were not considered addictive.

As the psychology of addiction has developed and evolved, it became clear that the addiction definition needed to be re-assessed, as even cocaine and marijuana users were showing signs of addiction even if they weren’t the classic physical signs.

Marijuana is addictive, though certainly to a milder extent in that withdrawal symptoms aren’t focused around bad moods, sweats, shaking and constant cravings. It has been realized now that addiction is more of a psychological concept than a physical one.

Addiction has to do with escaping from reality. The feelings that a drug user gets from using a certain drug – whether it’s marijuana, cocaine, meth, alcohol or most any other – is as if the user is escaping some reality that might be traumatic or problematic.

In other words, addiction isn’t so much about the drug itself. It is about the feelings the user gets from the drug. Everyone has a certain natural tendency to want to feel good and happy and not be aggravated or stressed. And for those who have issues in their life and feel like they need help to cope, they don’t go to a specific drug – they go to something that will help them get that happy feeling.

And addiction involving marijuana can help shed some light on how we battle the drug war. We have been spending so much money on trying to corral all of the supply on the streets and take the drugs away from people who have been using them. But what we have missed is why the users are using. We should be focusing not on cutting off supply, but the demand. in other words, we need to address the mental health of users to find a way to take away that trigger that compels users to cope with situations by escaping.

If you take away marijuana from an addict, that person might just find another drug that helps him escape from his perceived reality. Is this where the term “gateway drug” comes in? Perhaps, but the gate doeesn’t have to be opened, if we know how to address the underlying cause of the addiction. It’s not the chemical in the drug; it’s what the user believes the chemical does to his own mind. and his perception of the world around him.

If we can change that perspective into one that is more courageous and fearless, then the demand for any and all drugs will go down precipitously.

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