Weeding out your significant other? The effect of marijuana on relationships

contributing co-author: Gacia Tachejian

Michael Phelps smoking weed

Being young involves quite a bit of exciting change. There’s the end of high-school, the start of college and some measure of independence, and a whole slew of new experiences.

A recent study conducted by Judith Brooks at NYU School of Medicine has revealed that one of those experiences, smoking marijuana (weed) may be associated with more relationship conflict later in life. What’s amazing about this study is that the drug use here occurred earlier in life for most of the 534 participants, while the relationship trouble was assessed around their mid- to late-twenties.

Could other factors explain this finding?!

Now you may be thinking to yourself that there are a whole lot of other aspects of a person’s life that can affect their relationship quality and their probability of smoking weed in adolescence. You’d be right, but here’s what the researchers in this study ruled out as possible confounds (the scientific name for variables that obscure findings):

  • Relationship with parents
  • Aggressive tendencies
  • adjustment difficulty
  • gender
  • education

Even after controlling for all of these things, smoking marijuana as a teen still predicted having less harmonious relationships later on in life.

Limitations

All humor aside, this research is not saying that if you smoke weed you will definitely have a lower quality relationship later. What it does point out is that, on average, given a person with similar social skills, aggressive personality, and education, the one who smoked marijuana around their mid-teens is likely to have a less satisfying relationship.

UPDATE: Before you leave another angry comment about how wrong this article is to suggest that marijuana can cause any problems ever, please read my article on the difference between causality and association; this article is talking about an association, not causality.

Citation:

Brook, J. S., Pahl, K., and Cohen, P. (2008). Associations between marijuana use during emerging adulthood and aspects of significant other relationship in young adulthood. Journal of Child and Family Studies, Vol 17, pg. 1-12.

Know before you speak – Why etiquette is important

You know, I try to write this blog from a completely objective point of you, but guess what – I’m a person, so things take on a personal tone once in a while.

There’s nothing I hate more than readers who come to this site, read a single post, and then decide they know who I am, or what I’m about. It’s taken me more than 13 years to get to this point in terms of my knowledge, experience, and viewpoint on drugs, addiction, and policy issues. It all started with 8 years of some personal “experimentation” with the behaviors I’m talking about. I’d love to say I was doing it for science, but the last three years were far from enjoyable for many around me. Since then I’ve studied statistics, neuroscience, public-health, and psychology. And I’m not done. Staying in the academic world, I keep educating myself on issues related to addiction from every field I have access to.

So please, if you have opinions, share them, but if you want to insult me, make sure you know what you’re talking about, because I’ll tell you if you don’t. Personal attacks are easy to make through an internet connection, but being stupid will leave an obvious stain and will cause me to either remove your comment or just reveal how ridiculous it is. I don’t like making personal attacks on people – not in posts, not in comments, and not in real life. Don’t tell me how you do, or don’t, want me to die because I probably don’t care how you go and I certainly don’t want the experience to be bad.

I know blogs are a little loose, but let’s keep this at least somewhat professional, okay?

NY Times and Dr. McLellan – Two giants, great story about addiction

When the NY Times picked a focus for their most recent story on addiction policy and research, they couldn’t have asked for a better representative than Dr. McLellan who after decades of addiction research is now helping to form U.S. drug policy.

The man is one of my personal idols and believes, like I do, that addiction is a mental health issue and not a moral one. He is married to a cocaine addict and has recently lost one of his sons to a suicide by pills and alcohol.

Please check out the rest of this story for a glimpse into the man who is now our #2 Drug Czar! Finally there is someone at the helm that truly understands the nature of addiction.

Cravings – The all consuming experience of wanting something

In my studies of addiction, the concept of cravings comes up often. Researchers talk of “wanting” versus “liking” of drugs and of the idea that cravings are a programmed response to environmental signals that have been connected to drug use through experience.

What are cravings?

I agree with these descriptions and the idea that cravings are strong memories that are linked to the effect of drugs on the brain’s neurochemistry. The immense neurotransmitter release that is often brought on by the ingestion of drugs is responsible both for the experience and the lasting effects on learning. When it comes down to it, memories are really the brain re-experiencing an event, so it makes sense that reliving a drug, sex, or other past-compulsive experience would cause a serious emotional reaction.

But aside from all the research, I know very well what cravings feel like. I know the intoxication you feel the moment that memory hits you and your entire body tingles with anticipation. It’s as if your whole being is crying out saying “This is what we’ve been waiting for. Give it to me!!!” I never know to expect it, but when they hit, there’s no questioning – I know that a craving has just taken over me. It’s no wonder that people go out over these things, especially early on in recovery.

How to deal with cravings

I’m now at the point where no matter how strong the craving, I’m not about to throw everything I’ve worked for out the window for another hit. But still, it’s just so damn tempting.

When you have a craving, recognize it for what it is. You might as well enjoy the rush, it’s like a freebie you don’t get to control. By being scared of the feeling, you induce more anxiety and shame that may lead you to act out. Instead, recognize your lack of control over the craving, let the experience happen, and go on with your life.

If the experience is overwhelming, make sure there’s someone you can talk to about it (a therapist, partner, parent, or 12 step sponsor). As time passes your cravings will become less and less frequent, though without specific treatment, their intensity will likely not go away.

Cravings are a part os the reality of addiction – knowing what to do with them is a key to success.

About addiction: Genetics, sugar, drinking, and more.

These are some useful articles about addiction I’ve found online. While they cover some topics we’ve discussed on here, I think it’s always better to be more educated!

From Addiction Recovery Basics – Personality Vs. Genetics

From Beating Addictions – A little Q & A about sugar addiction

From Breaking the Cycles – A new online tool to assess drinking problems

From Addiction Inbox – A nice review of 2008 research findings having to do with addiction.

More links to come next week!!!

Marijuana addiction – Literature search results on marijuana facts

My recent post on marijuana’s addictive potential received some scathing comments from readers who seem to think that the scientists have already agreed that marijuana addiction (called marijuana dependence in the field) does not exist. So, I’ve compiled this little list of research articles. I’ve made certain to only use articles that have been cited often (in other work), meaning that their content has made an impact. Each of these papers has been cited at least 50 times (except for the very recent last review with about 40). Once again, I find it odd that only marijuana users are so insistent about their drug having no negative aspects whatsoever.

1. Laura Jean Bierut, MD; Stephen H. Dinwiddie, MD; Henri Begleiter, MD; Raymond R. Crowe, MD; Victor Hesselbrock, PhD; John I. Nurnberger, Jr, MD, PhD; Bernice Porjesz, PhD; Marc A. Schuckit, MD; Theodore Reich, MD (1998). Familial Transmission of Substance Dependence: Alcohol, Marijuana, Cocaine, and Habitual Smoking. Archives of General Psychiatry, 55, pp. 982-988.

2. Budney A. J.; Novy P. L.; Hughes J. R (1999). Marijuana withdrawal among adults seeking treatment for marijuana dependence. Addiction, 94, pp. 1311-1322.

3. AJ Budney, ST Higgins, KJ Radonovich, PL Novy (2000). Adding voucher-based incentives to coping skills and motivational enhancement improves outcomes during treatment for marijuana dependence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 1051-1061.

4. William R. True, Andrew C. Heath, Jeffrey F. Scherrer, Hong Xian, Nong Lin, Seth A. Eisen, Michael J. Lyons, Jack Goldberg, Ming T. Tsuang (1999). Interrelationship of genetic and environmental influences on conduct disorder and alcohol and marijuana dependence symptoms. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B: Neuropsychiatric Genetics, 8, 391-397.

5. Aimee L. McRae, Pharm.D., Alan J. Budney, Ph.D., Kathleen T. Brady, M.D., Ph.D. (2003). Treatment of marijuana dependence: a review of the literature. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 24, 369-376.