If you looked into my eyes right now, you would see how worn out I am. For the past month, my days have gone something like this: I wake up by 6 AM, do my best imitation of an Olympic race-walker as I head eight blocks across the city to my office, dash from one meeting to the next, and answer my 300 new emails by noon.
In today's society, so many of us, myself included, work like dogs, get too little sleep--and, when it comes to winding down, we want instant gratification. So, I wasn't surprised when I read the article "Stiletto Stoners" in this month's issue of Marie Claire--a story about the growing number of career women who end a hectic day with a few hits of pot.
What did surprise me was the disappointing coverage of the story on the Today Show. Matt Lauer posed no real challenge when his two guests, Marie Claire's editor-in-chief and an NYU psychiatrist, voiced the opinion that we need to normalize these behaviors.
As a clinician and researcher in the field of substance abuse and as a person in long-term recovery, I think the trend should give us a reason to stop and consider the implications. Why are we so stressed that coming home, putting our feet up, and relaxing with family or friends isn't enough? Why can't we seem to find comfort in things that aren't illegal? Most importantly, do we appreciate or even consider the consequences?
The ladies in the story do not appear to have a life-ruling addiction. But are they at greater risk for developing one? Absolutely. According to the most recent data from the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health, 947,000 people reported receiving treatment for marijuana use in the past year. This estimate was higher than the estimates for cocaine, heroin, and painkillers--and second only to that of alcohol, for which 2.7 million reported receiving treatment. Based on the latest Treatment Episode Data Sets (TEDS), the proportion of drug treatment admissions listing marijuana as the primary drug of abuse was 16% in 2003 through 2007, up from 12% in 1997; strikingly, more than a quarter of those treated with marijuana as their primary problem were women.
Forget the theory of marijuana as a "gateway" drug. These figures show us that pot, like many other substances, can be abused, even without progression to other drugs, and cause significant detrimental effects on the user.
For those of us who are in recovery, the stakes are especially high. Recently, a friend told me that she occasionally smokes a joint to relax. Even though we both got sober almost twenty-five years ago, I couldn't take her words lightly. Having watched other close friends and family members relapse after years of sobriety, I know all too well that addiction, like any other chronic health condition, requires continued attention and dedication. So why would my friend, who has spent so long managing her condition, take such an enormous risk?
The current administration is making tremendous strides in terms of the way we view, treat, measure, and fund substance abuse. But, I can tell you that legalization is not in their vocabulary. My friend wouldn't risk arrest or put her career or family on the line for a great piece of chocolate, so why does she do it for a few hits of pot?
Is it really that--just as we're determined to get rich quickly or make a gourmet meal in 15 minutes--we crave a quick and easy way to relax, as well? I don't have the answer. And, I'm not the type to suggest that the "Stiletto Stoners" could chill out just as well with a yoga class or a hot bath. I, of course, wish I had a quick fix to get through those relentless days. But, as I told my friend, when we make choices that are potentially self-destructive, it's time to step back--and, for a moment, push pause.