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Pot is the Only Thing that Helps My Anxiety, Doc

Pot is the Only Thing that Helps My Anxiety, Doc

I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God. Exodus 29:45-46

Pot is the only thing that helps my anxiety, Doc. This is something I hear not infrequently from my patients who believe they’ve exhausted all other possible treatments and that nothing else can possibly help their anxiety. I know however, that while pot does have an immediate calming effect, studies show that those who smoke pot for anxiety eventually have worse anxiety than when they started. Like consuming alcohol for its sedative effect, pot works now, but exacerbates symptoms later. This is true with almost any behavior that provides immediate gratification. It feels good now but makes things worse in the end. The appropriate treatment for anxiety is to engage in counseling and consider medications that don’t produce a euphoric effect but do decrease anxiety symptoms over several weeks or months. That, however, requires a lot of time and effort, and so, many of my patients smoke pot, blind to the fact that they’re making their symptoms worse.

If you don’t use marijuana for anxiety, this may seem absurd to you, but most of us have engaged in some similarly futile behavior. Hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, most of us have some pacifier for which we reach when stressed. We may know that thing isn’t good for us, but that thing provides escape right now, which is why we do it. Maybe it’s food, or shopping, or maybe it’s porn. Like alcohol to the alcoholic though, that temporary relief feels good now, but it only makes things worse tomorrow. Still, it’s the accessible, albeit temporary, fix.

If pot or porn isn’t the answer to hungry, angry, lonely, and tired, then what is? What is the healthy alternative? Through my addiction and recovery, God has taught me that he is the answer to my life’s greatest needs. Today’s passage explains that God is constantly present in my life. He is the one companion that will never leave me. In knowing God, I’m never alone. The problem is that I don’t always feel this presence. God’s presence in my life is something I must put in a lot of time and effort to recognize. Like any relationship, I must invest in it. That’s a lot of work though, so when stressed, I’m tempted to reach for immediate gratification.

I’m not suggesting that those struggling with anxiety shouldn’t take medications or that they should just pray more. I am suggesting that we should always take our angst to God, asking him what to do with it. Part of the answer may lie in counseling or medications. In going to God though, we grow our spiritual receptivity, learning to practice and recognize his presence in our lives, which is always the healthy answer. God never asks us to do that which helps temporarily while making things worse in the end.

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