Q: I recently had a bad breakup which triggered some latent depression, anxiety, and nausea, which are all pretty severe. A few months later I discovered weed, and it is the perfect cure for all three. I’ve tried lots of other drugs, but if they had any effect at all, it was subtle and unsatisfying.

Trees make everything better for me. It’s not just the fact that I feel happy, calm, worry-free, and my stomach settles when I’m high, but just knowing that I have my special herb to go to whenever I’m feeling like shit helps so much.

I’ve been fighting with my parents, who are completely anti-drug. When I first told them about it, they treated it like meth. After months of work, I’ve gotten them down to treating it like alcohol. Still a bullshit comparison, but I’m making progress. They’ve cut off my allowance (an agreement we had so I could focus on school and not have to get a job), my driving privileges, etc. until I can get a medical marijuana card and use it legally. So until I get a card, I’ve stopped smoking.

I’m completely miserable most of the time without my herb. Stress through the roof, sick as a dog, low self-esteem, low hope. I crave it every day, I miss it. Everything just seems devoid of interest to me. My question is, am I addicted, or is this just me going untreated?

A: It really pisses me off when people find a safe, effective, natural medicine that works against life-threatening illnesses and then ignorant “authority figures” tell them they’re bad for using it. You’re not “addicted”, you’re self-medicating. And that’s not a bad thing. You’re not even using it recreationally (although that’s not a bad thing either). But you can’t actually become physically addicted to marijuana.

It seems to make sense that “you’re getting high, so now you feel happy, but you’re still depressed”, but that’s not how anti-depressants work, and that’s not how cannabis works against depression either.

If you feel depressed, especially due to events that happened in your life, sometimes talking to a therapist (or using cannabis!) will let you see things differently, and then the feeling of depression goes away. If so, that’s great, and if it stays away we’d probably all agree it’s cured.

If you still feel depressed after therapy and time (several months), such that you’re in a mental fog and can’t seem to get out of it, I would consider that to be an actual change in body chemistry, or a chemical imbalance. At that point, prescribed anti-depressants or cannabis may work to clear this feeling. You may have the feeling come back when the drug wears off, so perhaps it’s not permanently cured, but it’s not just masking the symptoms, it’s actually making them go away. I think of it as similar to Type 1 diabetes…maybe you’re not “cured” by taking insulin, but it keeps you from the problems you’d have if you weren’t taking it. And nobody sane would consider diabetics to be “addicted” to insulin just because they “feel the need to use it every day”.

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