Portland Therapy Blog

Portland Therapy Blog

Local experts share the latest information and resources on all things mental health.

Marijuana, Medicine, and Meaning in Your Life

Posted: March 15, 2017 by Patrick D Harvey

Marijuana as an industry, a culture, a habit, a lifestyle, a coping mechanism, and all the other things that its legalization has propelled it to become an issue mired in debate. The long-term effects of marijuana becoming more readily accessed and explored in all its variant forms (flower, extract, oils, edibles, ointments, etc.) remains to be seen and effectively studied by both scientists and many users. What has become clear is that there is great attention and normalization of its place in our community. What is your relationship with it and how is that relationship playing itself out in your life?

This article is far from a broad condemnation of medications, marijuana, or alcohol and their place in the world. It is however intended to give people a chance to reflect on their habits, their consumption, their preoccupation, their reliance, and their relationship with a substance that has the potential to hijack their life and shelve their other available coping mechanisms and sources of meaning.

Regarded by many as the source of so many things; calm, inspiration, enjoyment, relaxation, sleep aid, medicine, and numerous other virtuous remedies, it is not surprising that people guard their relationship with marijuana closely and fiercely. It makes sense. Traditional medicine and the western world's response to most of these ailments, that marijuana seems to resolve, has left a bad taste in the mouths of some patients.

As human beings we naturally have positive associations with things that are pleasurable and return to them for that positive sensation when triggered to do so, regardless of what the trigger may be; stress, fatigue, joy, boredom, etc. We can thank (or blame) the reward center of our brains for this response. Perhaps we can also find value in seeing where and when we crave reward in the face of adversity and/or pain?

Pain is information. It exists to let us know that something or some things are not as we need them to be in our lives. Sadly much of society and the traditional medical approach first seeks to eradicate the pain sensation rather than the pain source. You can't blame someone for wanting to do so. After all who enjoys pain? Would resolving the source of pain be more effective and less costly? Indeed it would and similarly it would require greater effort, more insight, and for some period of time, likely more discomfort.

The reliance upon and mass consumption of pain relievers from Oxycodone to alcohol to marijuana is ample evidence of our hurting humanity. Over-use of any of these substances is never beneficial to the consumer. The past year (2016) is evidence of the immediate and long-term effects of substance abuse, mental health challenges, and the failure to cope with life's challenges with the unfortunate loss of musical legends like Prince, George Michael, Glenn Frye, Butch Trucks, and others.

On the other side of the coin, one can point to other instances of people using prescription medication, alcohol, marijuana, etc. while leading healthy and productive lives. It is no doubt possible to be a responsible consumer of certain substances and still be a functional, productive, respectable, positive individual leading a meaningful life. The legalization of marijuana in Oregon has allowed many previously closeted consumers to step into the light and demonstrate that reality.

Does marijuana serve to calm you in times of stress, motivate you in times where that is lacking, help you sleep better, reduce your pain, clarify your thoughts, or increase your pleasure in mundane activities? All of these are reasonable and desirable outcomes, so who can blame anyone for seeking them? Yet the better question may be, why are those challenges in the first place?

Excessive stress suggests deficits in managing life to reduce sources of stress such as relationship issues, dissatisfaction with work, the state of the world at large, financial hardship, etc. Paying proper attention and putting in the required effort to resolve any of these challenges can eradicate the reliance on something outside of yourself (marijuana, alcohol, pills). What is often needed is a reconnection with meaningful activities and a reconnection with purpose in one's life.

The counseling process with a therapist that understands both the dynamics of life's challenges and the reasonable yet not fully effective strategies tried already to fix them can lead to a more complete life. Should you be reconsidering how things might be better in your life and the place that marijuana and other substances has in your life, know that counseling support exists to walk with you as you strive to be the best you. Must better living and marijuana/substance use always be mutually exclusive? Engage with effective and knowledgeable counseling support and find out for yourself.

Tags: addiction and behavior

Patrick D Harvey

Licensed Professional Counselor

My goal and passion is helping people gain insight into the choices they make so they can decide if there are different and more functional choices to be made in the present. I find that people benefit significantly from the counseling process and making more conscious choices in their lives.

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Client Status
not accepting clients
Neighborhood
Concordia
Specialties
Anxiety, Anger Management, Drug Dependence / Abuse / Addiction, Men's Issues, Depression
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