Is All Cannabis Use Self-Medication?

By Susan Boskey

Recently I was invited to be on a panel about cannabis use for seniors. In an email exchange with one of the organizers I asked, “Are you referring to recreational or medicinal use?” The response I received back was unexpected. She said, “I see no reason to treat medical and recreational differently. Everyone is using cannabis for medicine whether they realize it or not.”

Really? I have been pondering her response ever since. Seems like this concept has gained traction as a cannabis-culture meme.

First of all, I think her response has something to do with the fact of living in Washington State where both adult-use and medical are legal. What I mean is . . . probably in the 10 states and DC that have legality for both, more people use cannabis than in medical-only states. That’s pretty obvious.

But what’s not so obvious, to me, anyway, is the thought that ALL of these users are using cannabis in an attempt to get better in their own way. That would include those using cannabis products containing an extremely high percentage of THC, say 15+ percent and smoking/using it several times a day and others who go ‘blotto’ to the extent of becoming non-functional on a regular basis.

Self-medicating? Interesting but I’m not so sure it’s true.

I guess it depends on how you define self-medicating. The online Cambridge Dictionary defines it as: “to take medicine or drugs to help you with a condition without asking a doctor”

If someone determines to help a condition they experience by using cannabis, wouldn’t they also want to learn the best ways to use it to accomplish that?

If they don’t have a conscious intent to use cannabis to help their health and wellbeing and consistently use more than necessary to do so, is that an act of medication or potential self-destruction?

Do we give unconscious use of cannabis a high-five pass because it’s cannabis whereas we might not if it were alcohol?

Where do addictive personality traits enter the conversation?

Is the blank-check assertion of self-medication instead cover for denial? Here are some indicators of possible cannabis addiction:

  1. Tolerance and withdrawal
  2. Using more than intended
  3. Unable to cut down or stop use
  4. Lots of time spent getting high
  5. Reduced activities
  6. Continuing to get high despite the problems it causes
  7. Using it to escape from problems
  8. Depending on it to be creative or to relax or enjoy yourself
  9. Choosing relationships and activities based on whether or not you will be able to get high
  10. An inability to attend to daily responsibilities [1]

I have more questions than answers at this point. But what I know for certain is that cannabis is an amazing and beneficial plant and that I am committed to learning and sharing its whole story. In my world every story has at least two sides. Methinks those who paint something as being all one way, may possibly have something to gain by doing so.


Susan is a Certified Cannabis Practitioner and graduate of the Holistic Cannabis Academy with over 45 years of personal involvement in the spectrum of wellness modalities. Her mission today is to intervene in the noise of modern life and help her clients identify and remove stressors that trigger their dis-ease. She personalizes care plans regarding the best cannabis strain, dose and delivery system to address her client’s issue. As a non-physician coach Susan enjoys the added flexibility of also providing protocols for simple lifestyle changes to accelerate the healing process. Visit her website: LifestyleWellnessRx.com 

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