Casual, social uses of alcohol and sometimes of other substances (marijuana, etc.) are accepted behaviors in may segments of modern society. Alcohol is, of course, a legally obtainable substance by adults and marijuana, currently available for prescribed medicinal purposes in some states, comes closer and closer to becoming fully legalized by individual states while it may remain Federally illegal.
Given the long-term acceptance of alcohol (with the parenthetical exception in the last century of Prohibition) and the increasing acceptance of marijuana, it would be easy to infer that these substances were safe to use and without negative consequences if used in moderation.
Well, in the words of the old Broadway show tune, “It ain’t necessarily so.”
In fact, much attention has been given to promote the idea that occasional use of either is harmless. The truth is: For some people, this is true. For many, however, it is not. Many people are unable to use substances only rarely and be unimpacted by them or tempted to use them more often.
Variables of both biogenetic (family history, etc.) and psychological natures are too varied to detail here. Suffice it to say without fear of inaccuracy that some people can use substances occasionally and some simply cannot.
From a mental health point of view, the problem with both of these substances is that they seem to work in the short run. That is to say, for many people a drink or two will relax them and for many folks, smoking an occasional ‘˜blunt’ (as the young people refer to what we once new as a ‘˜joint’ will indeed reduce or temporarily relieve anxiety.
Concurrently, of course, alcohol lowers inhibitions and can lead some people to do things they may wish they had not done. Marijuana also has multiple effects including compromising motivation and short-term memory.
Many of the most serious consequences arise in that the desired effects are short lived and can lead to addictive dependence and may well leave people worse off than they were before using them. The long range effects often differ rather dramatically from the short range ones.
Both grain alcohol (ETOH in medical shorthand) and the active ingredient is marijuana (THC Delta 9) are metabolized as central nervous system depressants. This means that after the initial relief they seem to provide, your body breaks down and absorbs their components as substances which actually have a depressive impact.
This is, perhaps, why some people who feel that these things help them feel better, wind up using them with increasing frequency and quantity. If they don’t, they may start to feel really bad. The argument about whether or not marijuana is physically addictive or not as is the case with opiates and alcohol or is better understood as being somehow psychologically addictive is moot. The important thing is that the need tends to increase as the use increases.
The risk of alcohol dependency is well researched and established. There are recovery programs for people who feel that their use of alcohol, marijuana or other substances or behaviors, have become disruptive forces in their wish to lead a satisfying life. That is, in fact, the truest measure of when using something to help you feel better has become a problem.
If it has begun to cause problems with your life ‘” At work, at home, with your relationships ‘” The answer is probably an emphatic Yes.
Depressions can actually be made worse and anxiety can wind up escalating by using these substances to try to feel better. Your mental health is at risk and the substances are, in a rather striking way, deceiving you into believing that they are making things OK. This is why many helping professionals and recovery experts regard them as ‘˜lying substances.’
If you suspect that this may be happening to you, there is help readily available in most communities. 12-Step programs, modeled after AA exist for problems ranging from drugs (NA) to food (OA) to sexual issues (SAA.) If these groups don’t seem like the right thing, a single personal consultation with a mental health or recovery professional can turn out to be one of the best investments you ever will make for yourself.
Intoxication, whether frequent or occasional, does not make people more mentally resilient or healthy, but may actually undermine our ability to achieve and maintain that state.