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"Smoking pot doesn't make you cool"

No, true, smoking pot won't make you cool. Nothing can ever make you cool, so there's no point in trying. Trying makes you less cool, no matter what you're trying to do. It's the trying that keeps you from being cool. But that's beside the point.

In some cases, if you are cool, weed / pot / ganga / marijuana / herb / hash / blim / dope / skunk / hydro / puff / smoke / reefer / the holy herb / shit / soapy / flatty / slate / bob / green / textured air / spliff will make you less so. Or more so. It depends. It makes you feel good. Or not so good. Sometimes outright nauseous, or paranoid and panicky, sometimes it even does nothing at all.

In the glossary at the back of most editions of William Burroughs' "The Naked Lunch" he mentions pot in relation to heroin withdrawal. He says that it enhances the emotional state you're already experiencing, so while trying to cold turkey it from the dreaded "H" it's not regarded, by him, as being the best form of relief. Not unless you really want to freak out some more... Some would disagree though.

Pot is about the most ambiguous of all drugs in terms of the state it puts you in. I disagree somewhat with Burroughs; if you are mildly stressed it can be a major relief for some users. But for others its just a way of facilitating the nightmare.

I should know a little about it, I've been smoking it for the best part of twelve years, and sometimes it's been the best part of those years. I've loved the social aspect, the fact that your stash is mostly for sharing with other users, that half the fun of using it is the sharing, the passing of the spliff / joint / doobie / hogleg / reefer, the pipe / bong / fountain / lung (ironically)/ [can pipe / bucket bong / vaporizer / bowl / hot-knife.

However, much of those years are lost to me now. I think that the years I remember would add up to a few hour's worth of actual memory. It's a fun, if not recommended, way to spend your youth, and also a sad way to lose the memories of the best years of your life.

Of course, it's not addictive, and smoking the stuff is in no way a cause of cancer. So some of the less than thoughtful smokers would like to tell us. Denial is a powerful thing. Cocaine is also said to be non-addictive. Physically...

As you can see, there's an awful lot of bullshit attached to the substance and the inhalation of its smoke. Here's the lowdown, as far as I can see it, or indeed, remember it.

It's more bad than good, that's for sure; unless you have a terminal illness and use it to combat the pain and awful muscular spasms and lack of bladder/bowel control associated with multiple sclerosis, the agonizing symptoms of cancer and it's treatment not to mention those of many other diseases it's genuinely handy for. That can be covered elsewhere as a worthwhile subject in its own right however, I'm sticking to recreational use here.

I love the stuff, but I'm not blind. Recent studies, (which I'll happily point you too if there's a need), have suggested that the smoking the straight herb is several times more carcinogenic that smoking tobacco, and that the hashish (solid resin) form of the drug is something like ten times as bad. Well go figure! The oilier the gear, the higher you get; burning oily substances and inhaling the resulting smoke can only be, well, not so good for the old lungs. It doesn't take years of research to come to that conclusion.

There's also some evidence to suggest that long term use can cause a softening of the brain, (yes I know that's the whole point, but this is of the permanent variety). Like BSE (Mad Cow Disease) only less terminal but it can, it's said, lead to slight insanity or at least permanent paranoia and various other psychoses, not to mention permanent damage to the short term memory. Not the, "Oh good grief, I forgot what you just said/did/played on the stereo" amusing kind, but semi-serious, permanent slack-headedness. Again, no research is needed as far as I'm concerned since I've met many of these souls, old smokers who've long since given it up though it's hard enough to tell.

There's a saying amongst "tokers" in the UK, "Once a stoner, always a stoner" no matter how many years you've abstained. It's true. I give it up on regular occasions but still, I act like a slightly sharper stoner. How much of this is due to constant socializing with other stoned folk, the socialization of the drug user if you like, and how much is due to physical damage is a basis for an interesting debate, but I'll draw my own conclusions, I've met enough others like this to convince me.

As for it's non-addictive quality, well, it's the most often "grown out of" drug in use today, bar perhaps ecstasy in the UK, but 100% non-addictive it ain't. You try denying a hardcore all-day user of their diet of weed and see what happens. Ok, it's not heroin, it's not anything as hard to quit as smoking, but the addiction is insidious. The moment a regular user runs out of it a call to the local purveyor of illegal herbal remedies is more than likely to occur. If that call yields no success, prepare to be in the presence of one moody son of a bitch.

The withdrawal symptoms vary greatly depending, I think, on the strength of the mind, will and self-confidence. Some can take it or leave it, it's true, but there'll be a mood change all right for Mr. Full-Timer, especially if it's been used in large quantities. They can manifest as a slight moodiness, perhaps a shorter temper but without a direct craving for the stuff itself. Some might not even realise that they're being a bit more of a pain in the ass to be around. But I've also seen people kicking furniture around, punching walls and exploding with rage at the slightest provocation, bursting into tears over nothing, acting like a severe case of PMS frankly. Sitting, staring and rocking, with eyes fixed upon the phone in anticipation of a call from "the man". Not addictive? Think some more. If at all.

This is reckoned to be as a result of the fact that dope smulates the brain's release serotonin, the "feel good" hormone. The more you use pot, the less the brain is capable of producing its own. For days after giving up/running out your poor brain has to remember how to make you feel good about yourself. This eventually (in two to seven days in my experience) leads to a "positive withdrawal symptom" that I've never seen documented anywhere (I'm sure it has been, I just haven't seen it): As the brain figures out how to produce serotonin under it's own steam again, one can experience distinct euphoria. One may giggle uncontrollably, become arrogant in your dealings with others as one regains self confidence (not so positive really, but an improvement on feelings of worthlessness); in short you feel too elated! This is a fine experience, but can become very annoying socially.

It's easy, really, to quit. I've little respect for those that "need my smoke" (unless they're ill in some way and truly need it to control pain, genuine emotional instability, etc.) But that in itself can become a bit of a trap. If it's so easy, if it's just a case of feeling a tad uncomfortable for a little while, it can be done later, tomorrow, next week. Specially if one is laboring under the misapprehension that it not doing the body any harm.

I'm a smoker. I feel that it won't cause society any harm as and when it becomes legal, it beats drinking for not causing severe mental illness and death by a long, long shot. But my brain is softer than it was for sure and I'm a constant source of amusement for my inability to remember the conversation of the last five minutes, as and when that occurs, (more frequently these days). I wheeze and cough and I am going to give it up one of these days. Perhaps. When the time is right, say, when there's no stress left in my life anymore, ever...

I'm bullshiting myself, and I know I shouldn't.

And neither should you.

Take care, and "don't believe the hype".

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