Image of a blonde haired woman smoking weed with smoke billowing around her

Are People Becoming Too Reliant on Weed During the Pandemic?

The boredom brought on by quarantine has caused many young people to increase their marijuana use. But is a fun pastime turning into reliance?

September 24, 2020
6 mins read

For many teenagers and young adults, the gurgle of bong water in the bottom of a rig is a familiar sound, almost as familiar as the herbal scent of the marijuana itself. According to a 2017 study, young adults around 21 years of age make up the largest chunk of all weed-smokers in the United States.

People turn to weed for all sorts of reasons. Most commonly, they seek the mind-numbing, calming effects it brings. These effects have become even more desirable over the last six to eight months, as Americans have endured the stress of political unrest and the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, many people’s weed consumption has increased.

For teens and people in their 20s, this trend is thoroughly recorded on social media sites such as Twitter and TikTok. If you scroll through Twitter, you are guaranteed to see at least a few posts mentioning weed, whether in the context of tolerance breaks or funny stoner stories.

The hashtag #Weedtok on TikTok is entirely dedicated to marijuana-related content. People share posts of their homemade rolling trays, pipe collections, smoking tips and tricks and trippy visuals.

There seems to be no shortage of testimonies regarding the fact that pandemic isolation has caused some to try pot for the first time, and others to increase their usage to the point of dependence.

Social media posts aside, studies and surveys have yet to officially document this trend. Yet there are some statistics pointing to a widespread increase in weed usage over the last few months. In late March, some states saw up to 20% spikes in marijuana sales. After weed shops were deemed essential businesses and therefore remained open as the pandemic gained momentum, sales continued booming.

Earlier in the month, as stay-at-home orders popped up all over the country, cannabis-infused edibles sales also skyrocketed. People knew they would be bored, and they were stocking up. Fast forward to late summer 2020, and neither the pandemic nor marijuana sales have shown any signs of slowing down.

Furthermore, there is evidence that it’s not just young adults who are indulging. New data from the journal Annals of Internal Medicine indicates that marijuana usage is also becoming popular with those aged 65 and up. It’s clear that everyone is feeling the boredom of prolonged isolation, and they’re looking for an escape.

Offering respite from the monotony of everyday pandemic life is just one benefit of using marijuana. It can also alleviate chronic pain, help people to lose weight and relieve nausea. There are also studies showing that it is effective in slowing the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and it can help those with diabetes to stabilize their blood sugars.

One of the most common purposes of weed among young adults is the treatment of mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. These are just a few of the ways cannabis is revolutionizing traditional medicine, but it’s also simply fun to relax and get high.

Nevertheless, there are some concerns on the part of medical experts in regards to the effects of marijuana on the lungs, especially as the world weathers a pandemic-level respiratory virus. Smoking as a form of consumption irritates the throat and lungs, and some studies have shown that it increases the lungs’ susceptibility to viruses and diseases. In some cases, vaping marijuana has also shown adverse health effects.

While these findings are concerning overall, they are extremely alarming in the face of the coronavirus. But weed usage can affect a lot more than just a person’s lungs. There is evidence that long-term pot smokers experience a decrease in IQ and memory function, especially if their drug habit began during adolescence. Finally, there is the rare but awful cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, in which long-term weed usage eventually results in uncontrollable vomiting and nausea.

All of these potential health problems posed by cannabis are certainly scary, but it’s important to remember that anything can be dangerous if consumed in excess. As with all things, moderation is key when using marijuana. Most of the drastic effects of smoking weed occur in serious, heavy users, who often report a decreased quality of life due to their reliance on the substance.

It is always unhealthy to rely on any one substance or item to get through life. Marijuana is not chemically addictive, but it is possible to develop a dependence upon it.

However, in many states, such as Colorado and California where marijuana is entirely legalized, doctors can and do prescribe marijuana as a medicinal treatment. Just north of the United States, there are many dispensaries that Canadians can use to buy weed online from. The rhetoric surrounding traditional medicine is drastically different from the one surrounding weed; it is accepted, even expected, that people develop a dependence on their pain medication or psychiatric prescriptions.

So long as that dependence does not become addiction, all is well. But it is widely believed that a dependence on marijuana is unhealthy. People are quick to criticize others for consistent use, citing the aforementioned health effects with a concerned eyebrow furrow. The issue is that the line between dependence and addiction is blurry for cannabis, because chemical addiction is impossible.

As adults young and old across the country increasingly consume marijuana, it is important to self-regulate. People are quick to judge, but the nature of marijuana dictates that only you can truly know if your usage is unhealthy. Some general rules of thumb to make sure that your weed habits are safe are to take regular, two-week tolerance breaks, clean your pipes and glassware often and develop coping mechanisms aside from pot.

It is understandable that weed smoking has increased; cannabis promises amusement and relaxation in a time where both of those things are hard to come by. But as long as you are healthy and careful, have fun!

McKenna Uzelac, Columbia University

Writer Profile

McKenna Uzelac

Columbia University
Psychology and Women & Gender Studies

McKenna Uzelac is a 21-year-old Columbia student who is passionate about social justice, pop music, and fantasy novels. In her free time, she can be found watching "New Girl" and hanging out with her dog, Jack.

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