Do you think it's wrong for my spouse to smoke marijuana? He's been a fairly regular user for most of our married life, and I've never seen it as a big problem since many people have assured me that pot isn't addictive. But he's been using it more often lately, and sometimes he even smokes in front of the children. So I've begun to have my doubts. Do you think this is a serious issue? What should I do about it?
It's not easy to be married to someone who is addicted to a substance of any kind, marijuana included. "Lonely," "painful," "isolating" – these are just a few of the words we might use to describe your situation. God has promised to be your strength and hope. He will stand beside you and support you through these difficult circumstances if you put your trust in Him. But that doesn't change the fact that even the simplest everyday tasks can become painful trials when your partner is in the habit of tuning out and living in a drug-induced world of his own. Add children to the mix, and a whole new set of concerns emerge.
Is this a serious issue? Our answer is a definite yes. As we see it, there are at least four reasons why you should be thinking very carefully about coming up with some direct and deliberate ways to confront your spouse about his marijuana habit.
- In the first place, while the political agenda to standardize marijuana as a medical treatment has been successful in some states, it's still illegal to purchase or use pot in most communities. Your husband's habit could land him in jail. I'm sure you'll agree that this wouldn't be good for the family as a whole.
- Second is the question of what pot does to the person who uses it. Marijuana smoke is actually more irritating to the mouth, throat, air passages, and lungs than tobacco smoke. What's more, it contains 50 to 70 percent more cancer-provoking hydrocarbons. And pot-smokers tend to inhale deeply and hold their breath while smoking. As a result, long-term marijuana users, like their tobacco-puffing counterparts, are at higher risk than the general population not only for chronic lung disease but also for cancer of the upper respiratory tract and lungs.
To this list of marijuana's physical effects it's crucial to add a word about its impact on motor skills and intellectual functions. This may be its greatest drawback. Frequent marijuana use can derail normal thought processes. It can impair concentration, learning, memory, and judgment. Short-term fallout can include injuries and death from motor-vehicle accidents or other trauma. Users may also experience a loss of inhibition and rational thinking. To make matters worse, a number of studies have demonstrated that these problems can continue for days or weeks after the immediate effects of the drug have worn off. Long-term marijuana users are also known for developing a marked lack of motivation. Their personal goals and self-discipline literally go up in smoke. Other research has linked marijuana use with poor overall job performance. This includes increased tardiness, absenteeism, accidents, and workers' compensation claims.
- Third, the notion that marijuana is non-addictive is a myth. It's true that marijuana-dependence expresses itself differently than alcohol dependence. Unfortunately, the dependence is every bit as real. There's a reason it's called "the drug of apathy." It impairs an individual's ability to make deep and meaningful attachments. It robs him of the ability to be intimate with other people. This promotes isolation, which feeds the need to smoke pot, which strains more relationships, which causes increased conflict in marriage or with co-workers and friends. You get the picture. It's a vicious cycle. Heavy, long-term use of marijuana stunts emotional and social development. It kills motivation and prevents people from moving forward in their lives.
- Fourth, it has been demonstrated that the two most prevalent gateway drugs are pot and alcohol. A gateway drug creates pathways in the brain that invite experimentation with harder street drugs or prescription medications. Studies have shown that 90 percent of those currently using hard addictive drugs like heroin started with marijuana.
These, then, are the facts. They deserve careful consideration. Naturally, no one can tell you exactly what to do about your marijuana-addicted spouse. That's something you'll have to work out for yourself. It would be best to do so with the help of a pastor, some sensible friends, and possibly even a trained professional counselor.
Meanwhile, you need to ask yourself some serious questions. Is it best for you or your children to remain in this unacceptable situation? If you don't set boundaries with your husband, what kind of message does that convey to the kids? Will your husband's continued use of a mind-altering substance become a spiritual stumbling block for you or other members of the family? These are just a few issues to ponder as you look toward the future.
We'd encourage you to find a healthy support group where you can gain perspective on your situation and perhaps find answers about your marriage. To that end, we highly recommend a program called Thriving: Recover Your Life. Information about this program can be accessed via their website; click on the "Restarting" module for a video overview. This approach, which is based on Christian principles, promotes recovery by inviting participants into fellowship and deeper relationships with others.
If you'd like to discuss these ideas at greater length with a member of our staff, feel free to call Focus on the Family's Counseling department.
Substance Abuse (resource list)
Thriving: Recover Your Life