Marijuana Addiction in the LGBT Community

Marijuana Addiction in the LGBT Community

Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in the United States. There is a widespread popular belief that marijuana is a harmless, “soft” drug that is not addictive. Many believe that marijuana users do not face the same risks as users of harder, more addictive drugs. It is true that marijuana will not cause fatal overdose, nor will it induce severe physical withdrawal symptoms when users try to quit. Nonetheless, marijuana can be addictive, and users face many of the same indirect adverse consequences of addiction as with addiction to any drug.

Is Marijuana Really Addictive?

The belief that marijuana is not addictive stems from confusion between the term “addiction” and the term “dependence.” Although they are often used interchangeably, the two terms represent distinct though often inter-related phenomena.

Addiction is a psychological phenomenon that involves compulsive behavior; this can involve use of a drug or compulsively engaging in a behavior, such as gambling or sex. Even normal and harmless behavior, such as shopping, can become an addiction if it reaches a point at which it becomes compulsive and uncontrollable and results in negative consequences. A tremendous amount of evidence exists that psychological addiction of this sort produces measurable changes in the brain independent of the presence of any addictive substance. In other words, although drugs such as alcohol and cocaine produce changes in the brain, addiction itself also produces changes in the brain that are similar among virtually all addicts, whether the addiction involves an addictive drug or simply a compulsive behavior.

Drug dependence, by contrast, is a physical phenomenon that results when the body becomes dependent on having a substance in its system and suffers withdrawal symptoms if the substance is absent. Physical dependence can occur independently of psychological addiction. For example, a person can become dependent on painkillers following injury even though that person does not have a compulsive need to use painkillers to get high or to escape from stress. Naturally, however, psychological addiction and physical dependence can occur simultaneously when a person compulsively uses a drug that produces physical dependence.

Factors that Contribute to Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana use and addiction are rampant among many subgroups in American society, and the LGBT community is no exception. Many people begin using marijuana recreationally, often as part of a group. Some people can limit their marijuana use to occasional episodes in the context of socialization; however, people who have a genetic predisposition to addiction are at risk of becoming addicted to marijuana as a result of seemingly casual recreational use.

Another factor that often contributes to addiction to any drug or behavior is the presence of stress in a person’s life. In addition to the normal stress of everyday life, LGBT individuals often experience stress due to the prejudice, intolerance and hostility of others and as a result may seek escape through use of marijuana.

Treatment for Marijuana Addiction

LGBT individuals are welcome in any addiction treatment program or facility that meets their needs. However, there are programs that cater specifically to LGBT clientele, and some patients may feel more comfortable beginning recovery in the company of others who have shared similar experiences.

If you would like help finding treatment for marijuana addiction or you simply have questions about marijuana addiction, treatment and recovery, please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline.