‘How I realised that I am a smoking addict’

Cannabis alters how the mind works, it can even make you see or hear your own things

In Summary

• When her emotions get too heavy, Omulaba resorts to smoking to calm her nerves 

• She is not ready to let go of the habit as it helps her process her emotions

A girl smokes
A girl smokes

One possibility most weed smokers will deny is that they can be addicted to the herb. 

Many believe one can stop anytime if they wish to. But 24-year-old Whitney Omulaba has started to think one could actually get hooked to the habit. 

She started smoking eight years ago, when she was in high school, and she never thought of stopping until recently. 

However, the idea of stopping did not come from her. 

Omulaba recently met an admirer who wanted her to stop smoking for them to get into a relationship. 

"He doesn't use any drug, not even alcohol. Not that he is religious, he said it is just his choice," Omulaba said. 

When she found out he does not use any substance, Omulabu told him she is a smoker, hoping it would make him reconsider wanting to date her. 

"Honestly, I have always had a policy of dating fellow smokers so I don't have to explain myself to my partner eti mi ni msichana wa bangi. I like smoking with the person I am dating," she said. 

While there are claims that smoking weed makes one sexually aroused, Omulaba, on the other hand, said she prefers smoking with her boyfriend during pillow talk.  

Though her admirer wanted to hear none of that, it was not enough to push him away. 

"He said he still wants me in spite of my smoking habit. That he will walk with me as I try to stop smoking," she said. 

However, Omulaba said when her admirer urged her to stop, she realised she had never really thought of quitting smoking. 

The idea of living without the herb scared her. Omulaba has smoked for eight years, to the point she has to get a joint daily else or she struggles to sleep. 

Omulaba went ahead and tried to avoid her supplier for her not to buy more joints. 

"When I tried to stop, I realised habit has its own compulsion," she said.

"The first day was challenging. It felt like I could not do anything without smoking. Even washing the dishes became impossible." 

Omulaba ended up seeking her supplier again. She confessed that she is not ready to let go of the habit as it helps her process her emotions. 

When her emotions get too heavy, Omulaba resorts to smoking to calm her nerves. 

Thus, she decided to simply lie to her admirer that she will work on the habit. 

In her opinion, it is easier to continue smoking than to battle sleepless nights and restless moments.

"I don't know what he will do or say when he finds out I never stopped smoking," she said. 

"All I know for now is I am not ready to quit. And I don't want to quit for him. I will quit when I want to, when I will be ready."


Lokoye Atwoli, deputy director of the Brain and Mind Institute at the Aga Khan University, describes addiction as the compulsion to use a substance, failing which one suffers withdrawal symptoms.

Addicts continue to use the substance regardless of any harm it might cause them, he said. And they struggle to stop even when they are willing to. 

"For cannabis, addiction is not as common as tobacco or alcohol because many people who use cannabis use it periodically, not daily," Atwoli said. 

"But is is possible for someone to get to a point where they get the compulsion to use it daily."

He said physical withdrawal symptoms are rare with cannabis. 

"If there is addiction, it will mostly be a psychological thing, where one just feels the need to use even when they don't want to," Atwoli said. 

He said one's reality is created by the mind, and for an addict, the mind creates a reality that includes the use of that substance. 

"So when you do not use that substance, the reality is not complete. Your experience of life does not feel complete until you use the substance," he said. 

Atwoli said many people who get dependent on substances might have other mental or psychological issues.

He said the psychological issues and mental illnesses are probably responsible for most of their symptoms, adding that the use of the substance is an attempt at self-medication. 

Atwoli said when the underlying psychological issue is treated, one won't feel the need to use substances any more. 

"Sleep disturbance is one of the commonest features of mental illnesses," he said. 

"A person with difficulty sleeping unless they use substances would benefit from an assessment for a mental disorder that is responsible for the sleep disturbance."

He said since cannabis alters the way the mind works, it can induce psychosis in people who are vulnerable. 

In psychosis, one breaks away from reality and might start reporting hearing voices or seeing things others don't see. 

Atwoli warned against smoking anything, saying it has health consequences. 

"Anything you smoke messes up your lungs, so I would not advise anyone to smoke as it increases the risk of lung diseases and lung cancer," he said.

"Don't throw any smoke into your lungs of any kind of substance. If you have not started using a psychoactive substance, my advice is don't start."

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