In a word, Yes.
That’s probably not how he sees it, though. No doubt he’ll tell you that smoking weed is safe, harms no one, and is not addictive. And he would be in good company. In a recent study of more than 5,000 adults published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that many respondents (44%) believed smoking cannabis daily (or being subjected to second-hand smoke) was much safer than smoking tobacco.
Thanks to brilliant marketing campaigns and lobbying efforts, we see marijuana as a relatively low-risk recreational substance, like alcohol. It makes sense to regulate and normalize its use, right?
At least, that’s what we have been led to believe.
The truth, on the other hand, points to something far more sinister. Marijuana may be safer than harder drugs like heroin, opioids, or meth, but it carries significant physical and mental health risks. Contrary to popular opinion, weed is addictive, and the number of marijuana use disorder sufferers grows daily. Finally, legalizing recreational cannabis for adults has made it available to underage users, especially when parents and grandparents lead the way by toking up in the home.
By the Numbers
Let’s first look at the explosive growth of marijuana use, courtesy of multiple years of the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports from 2002 to 2021. In researching this article, we wanted to make apples-to-apples comparisons, so all the data in the bulleted section refers to people 12 years and older who reported using marijuana within the past month.
- In 2002, 14.5 million people said they recently used marijuana. That number grew to 36.3 million in 2021.
- Beginning in 2013, the number of marijuana users jumped by a yearly average of more than 200,000 people. Until then, the number of users was relatively stable or only grew by increments of 100,000 or fewer.
- Washington and Colorado were the first to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. In the succeeding years, 21 other states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have likewise legalized cannabis for recreational use.
- In 2002, 32.6% of all those who used marijuana within the past month reported “daily or almost daily” use, averaging 12 days a month. In 2017, the percentage increased to 41.7%, and average days of use grew to 14 per month. By 2021, 48% of all those who used weed in the last month reached an average usage of 16 days a month. Where it took 15 years to move the average from 12 to 14 days, the increase to 16 days happened in a third of the time (only four years).
Other statistics from the 2014 and 2021 NSDUH show that marijuana use disorder is quickly becoming a public health issue. In 2014, 4.2 million people aged 12 and over had a marijuana use disorder within the past year. By 2021, that number had quadrupled to 16.3 million.
A joint Boston University and Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research study recently analyzed just under 20 years of Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) crash statistics. They found that cannabis-involved crash deaths rose 12.5% from 2000 to 2018, and fatal accidents involving cannabis and alcohol almost doubled, from 4.8% to 10.3%, during that same time frame.
The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine also reported that postal workers who tested positive for marijuana in pre-employment screenings experienced 85% more injuries, 55% more industrial accidents, and a 75% higher rate of absenteeism than their peers who tested negative.
Finally, emerging research has linked marijuana use to numerous health issues, including an increased risk of stroke and rising rates of emergency room visits for psychosis. Cannabis is turning out to be way more dangerous than many initially thought, and the lack of universal concern is troubling.
What You Can Do
Like any addiction, marijuana use disorder is treatable. However, the most significant hurdle you’ll likely face in talking with your spouse about his habit is the conventional wisdom that there’s nothing really wrong with it.
Here are some ideas on how to let him know that he’s in more danger than he realizes:
- Get Educated: Arm yourself with information like that presented above. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, learn about addiction and how it can affect your loved one. Research the addiction recovery centers in your area and ask lots of questions about their available treatment methods, whether or not they deal with marijuana use disorder, and if they take your insurance.
- Approach with Love: Nobody ever felt the need to change their lifestyle significantly because they were bullied into it. Let your spouse know you’re worried about him and his health. Make suggestions, not demands. Talk with him about how his habit affects his relationship with you and the rest of the family. Faith-based drug rehabs and organizations like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) often provide spousal and family groups, classes, and other forms of support.
- Stand Your Ground with Natural Consequences: If his smoking leads to a car accident or troubles with the law, he must answer for that and accept the consequences of his actions. Don’t let yourself be pressured into making excuses for him with his job or family obligations. As difficult as it may be for you and your family, he must experience the pain and loss associated with reckless drug use.
- Never Give Up: Keep encouraging him to get help. You have so many resources available, such as extended family, your faith leaders and community, and professional organizations like NA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and local substance abuse centers. The road to recovery is difficult, but the alternative is tragic.
If you feel your spouse is in trouble with his marijuana use, call us at 855-736-7262. Our staff can help.