Can We Stop Treating Addiction Like an Insult?

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The cannabis community is comprised of many disparate groups, forced together by their mutual interest in this incredible plant. There are people who enjoy social smoking and use cannabis recreationally. There are people with serious medical conditions that rely on cannabis medicines to reduce their symptoms, stimulate appetite, control pain or get some sleep. There are also passionate activists, business people and countless others involved in this increasingly mainstream community.

Unfortunately, human relationships are difficult at best. Communication issues happen, and there are some people who will happily take advantage of others. It’s only natural that people in the cannabis community would gain and lose friends, enter into and then end romantic partnerships and otherwise experience interpersonal issues like members of any community do. It’s also perfectly understandable that people want to secure the support of their extended social network during the dissolution of a friendship or relationship.

Publicly impugning the other person for his or her drug use, however, is never the right approach to use. Some people who use cannabis rely on prescribed medication for symptom control and treatment. Others may require stronger pain relief than cannabis alone can provide. Some people are simply addicted to other substances.

Are You Reinforcing the Rhetoric of the War on Drugs?

Image of a bottle of pain pills tipped over with pills out of the bottleNo one deserves to be called a “pill popper,” “crack head” or “meth head.” Those terms reduce a person down to one serious issue that you disagree with instead of a complex being with issues and struggles. These insults are dehumanizing. When you refer to someone as a “druggie” or a similar name, you are denying that person’s worth based on his or her use of a substance, which is a form of social discrimination cannabis users have long endured. All you’re doing is reinforcing the indoctrination from the War on Drugs and encouraging others to do the same.

Why choose to reinforce social stigma about drug use and the cannabis community? By calling someone a crackhead, you are strengthening the cultural concept that people who struggle with addiction are worth less than those who do not. While you may feel like you’re above reproach in that regard, many who don’t view cannabis in a positive manner would disagree. Every time you use an addiction as an insult, you empower those who would dismiss you and our entire community as nothing but a bunch of potheads and stoners.

Stop Using Addiction Like a Weapon Against People

In a perfect world, no one would struggle with addiction. It’s easy to see that we don’t live in a perfect world. Children experience horrendous abuses, heaped on them by those who should love and protect them above all others. Young adults and teens sustain severe injuries playing sports, while adults can end up hurt due to work accidents or just repetitive motion. Some people are born with conditions, like endometriosis, that cause lifelong pain.

Regardless of why someone uses drugs that you, personally, would not, that person should not be shamed for seeking comfort. Instead of hurling insults aimed at that addiction to publicly castigate someone you disagree with or are falling out with, maybe you can acknowledge the end of the relationship without publicly exploring why it happened. Try to find some compassion, and remind yourself that those who act out in socially unacceptable ways are often covering up a deep wound of some kind. Shaming someone for his or her drug use will only isolate and hurt that person more, making it harder to push back against that addiction.

If you truly must air your grievances, sharing specific behaviors or issues is a better approach than simply branding the other person as less than because of drug use. If a person stole from you to support an unhealthy habit, it is the theft, not the addiction, that is the issue. Yes, addiction contributes to many questionable behaviors, but heaping additional stigma on someone who is likely self-medicating to numb out from the pain of existence will do nothing to help. All it will do is reinforce the cultural idea that any form of substance use, including cannabis use, makes someone worth less, and that is the exact stigma we’re trying to fight.