As far as controversy goes, hardly anything creates a wider stretch across opposing ends of the spectrum than a stoner’s image — the lazy, couch-bound, Cheetos-devouring zombie who wastes his life away versus the guy who just seems to have it all figured out, achieving goal after goal with one hand while rolling a spliff with the other.

People differ from one another as much as sativa and indica do, so there’s no real way to say who is and who won’t be a successful stoner. Though as compounding information suggests, it might be how you smoke weed that determines it the most.

Take Daniel, 26. He’s a married man working a high-end job he studied hard for. He recently bought his first house, which he currently fixes up every day after work for a few hours before going to sleep in the rented apartment he still lives in with his wife. He’s been smoking weed since his teenage years, and says he smokes now more regularly than before. But his relationship with it has had its ups and downs.

“When I went to university and started living on my own for the first time, it was the perfect chance to truly indulge [in weed],” he says. “I didn’t have to hide, I had gone in the university I wanted to; the first year didn’t even count in your diploma as long as you passed. I started smoking all the time. And it was awesome.”

But the first year rolled by and some real adult demands slowly put an end to the honeymoon period.

“I started finding it harder and harder to get motivated for a lot of things — actually studying, going out, looking out for cool events and activities around campus, chasing girls — because I always knew I could just smoke a joint, relax, watch something and basically enjoy my own company,” he adds. “I would always get pumped up to do something productive after work, but then by the time my shift finished, I would be dreaming to go smoke and relax. I would never really compare it to addiction or anything, but it was just so easy and always within reach that it was like, ‘Why bother?’ — I could do them next time.”

But that “next time” was coming more and more rarely for Daniel. Whether this was due to some kind of build-up of THC in his system over time (that some studies suggest is connected to an “amotivational syndrome”) is up for debate. However, a short-term effect that is being triggered over and over basically turns into a long-term one. It’s how the line between a strong enthusiasm for weed and a psychological dependence can sometimes become blurry, especially for long-term stoners.

As Christopher Bergland says in an article he penned for Psychology Today, “There is a strong link between dopamine and the CB-1 and CB-2 cannabinoid receptors of the brain.”

He says as the “exogenus” (or, non-naturally produced chemical) invades your internal machine, the brain has to produce its own dopamine less and less — a crucial component “long been linked to reward driven behavior like achieving any type of goal in life.”

Bergland is careful to add, however, that humans can increase or decrease the levels of dopamine even without using drugs. Something as simple as spending too much time on the couch does just the same. A long-term affinity for weed just so happens to speed up the process.

As with anything, it appears moderation is the key in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and still getting your life taken care of.

It’s not for everyone, though. George Michael even famously said once in 2006 that for him “it’s a great drug – but obviously it’s not very healthy. You can’t afford to smoke it if you’ve got anything else to do.”  

“It can be a terrible, terrible drug,” he continued. “You’ve got to be in the right position to take it. You’ve got to have achieved most of your ambitions because it chills you out to such a degree that you could lose your ambitions.”

Daniel agrees. And while he never had to quit or take drastic measures to up his productivity, he certainly reevaluated his passion for weed at various points in life to get to where he's at.

“I realized that the problem with me was that I wanted to prove weed makes everything better, and you can be high for everything and therefore enjoy it more,” he says. “But truth was it got in the way of many things. Eventually, I started enjoying it less and less because I was feeling guilty when I smoked. Now, I know before which things I can smoke and for which things I need to wait until after they’re done.”

It all seems to depend on each person, the task at hand, and where weed fits into the strange love triangle. For Daniel, herb helps him with some things and not for others.

“Weed helps me work on my house when I’m already tired from my job,” he admits. “I smoke one and just space out and power through it.”

Daniel has patched up his relationship with weed and is still currently imagining how sweet that first joint in his new house is going to be.

[cover photo: Don Hankins via Flickr]