CHICAGO — In the basement of the Mustard Seed, a red brick building in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood that hosts dozens of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings each week, a handful of people gathered on a recent night to discuss a different addiction.
They were members of Marijuana Anonymous, a rapidly expanding 12-step organization that serves those struggling with a drug that is now legal in Illinois and 10 other states, and that many people view as innocuous.
That perception, some meeting attendees said, even extends to fellow drug users.
“When you’re in rehab for weed, you don’t say you’re in rehab for weed,” said Robb, a 30-year-old who lives in Chicago. “Half the people will laugh you out of the room.”
But treatment specialists say marijuana’s addictive potential is well-established. About 1 in 10 people who use the drug end up with the condition known as cannabis use disorder, meaning they continue to use compulsively even when it messes up their lives.
“It’s a lot like the other addictions,” said Michael Mahoney of Hazelden Betty Ford, a treatment center on Chicago’s Near North Side. “People want to stop using and can’t. They have to use in greater quantities to get the same effect or just have a feeling of normalcy. Along the way, problems emerge.”