According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Marijuana is the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the United States; 48.2 million people, or about 18% of Americans, used it at least once in 2019.” Further, nearly three of every ten people who engage in marijuana use develop a marijuana use disorder, which can cause devastating physical and mental health consequences.
Compared to the general population, marijuana use is even more common among veterans of the armed forces. Recent research from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has found that over 20% of veterans aged 18 to 44 engage in marijuana use. Professional treatment programs in Hawaii are necessary to address problematic marijuana use in the veteran community, as well as the many unique factors that continue to inform its use.
Dispelling Myths About Marijuana Use
As rules and regulations regarding marijuana continue to change at the state level, many misconceptions have surfaced about the drug and its effects. While marijuana is becoming increasingly legal at a state level across individual states, that does not mean that it is in any way a “safe” substance. Rather, its use still carries intense emotional effects.
Likewise, the potential of developing a marijuana addiction exists even when it is used in moderation. Even if marijuana is legal in a particular state, it still remains federally illegal across the country. As so, marijuana use can lead to a number of legal complications. In Hawaii, specifically, marijuana remains illegal on both federal and state levels.
Likewise, the use of medical marijuana to cope with unique and personal circumstances also comes with its risks. Any legalization of marijuana still does not affect the drug’s potential dangers. Further, its use can further exacerbate feelings of anxiety, panic, guilt, shame, and more as chemical dependency and addiction develops. Addressing each veteran’s relationship with the drug and identifying signs and symptoms of marijuana addiction among veterans is necessary to pursue treatment and recovery from marijuana addiction.
Factors Behind Veteran Marijuana Use
The use of marijuana may be common for a myriad of reasons, but no level of marijuana use is ever completely safe. While some may engage with marijuana recreationally, others may use the drug to self-medicate.
From the stresses of transitioning from military culture to civilian life to navigating trauma, PTSD, moral injury, survivor’s guilt, chronic pain, and much more, marijuana can ingratiate itself in the lives of many veterans. Addressing the underlying factors involved with each veteran’s use of marijuana is essential for effective treatment and recovery from marijuana use.
Identifying the Signs of Marijuana Addiction
Whether veterans are engaging with marijuana under a legal prescription or illicitly, it is always important to identify the signs of marijuana addiction and address when a veteran’s use may be impeding other aspects of their life. Some of the signs of marijuana addiction include:
- Increased anxiety
- Difficulty functioning without the use of marijuana
- Feelings of depression
- Difficulty regulating mood
- Increased feelings of agitation, frustration, or anger
- Memory problems
- Compromised critical thinking and decision-making skills
- Difficulty focusing
- Compromised dieting habits
Those who engage with marijuana may also feel the need to use the drug regularly in order to feel “normal.” While many veterans may use marijuana to address other personal challenges, such as pain or trauma, using marijuana to self-medicate can be exceptionally dangerous.
Veterans may use the drug to calm stresses that have yet to manifest or “expect” to engage with the drug on a regular basis. However, these expectations can inform their mental health, behaviors, routines, and more, which all factor into the development of marijuana addiction.
Marijuana addiction can also impact other areas of each veteran’s life. As persistent use of marijuana affects a veteran’s mood, ability to tend to personal responsibilities, workplace performance or attendance, employment status, or even impedes upon personal relationships, and social outlets, professional treatment to address marijuana and the underlying feelings of trauma, stress, anxiety, guilt, and more becomes increasingly necessary.
Overcoming Marijuana Use
There is no easy path to addressing marijuana addiction and the many ways in which it affects each veteran’s life. Addressing its use is complicated and involves exploring not only the effect that the substance has on an individual and their mental and physical health but also demands that each individual confront the challenges that inform its use. Trauma-informed therapy is essential for veterans to overcome marijuana while navigating the unique challenges veterans face each and every day.
Marijuana can also dictate entire routines and lifestyles, and entire structures in each person’s life could have been built around the availability and opportunity to engage with marijuana. Committing to an entire transformation of each veteran’s daily routine, effective spiritual healing, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment, and more are all tenants of effective treatment and recovery.
Overcoming marijuana use doesn’t mean that traumas or intense stresses will vanish. However, comprehensive, veteran-focused treatment programs in Hawaii can foster confidence in veterans’ ability to achieve lasting recovery. Dedicated veteran programs can also empower veterans to work alongside veteran peers overcoming their own journey with marijuana and its effects on trauma, PTSD, chronic pains, and more.
Marijuana use is common among veterans. If you or your veteran loved one is overcoming an addiction to marijuana and any accompanying traumas, pains, and more, we at Hawaii Island Recovery are here to help. Our comprehensive approach to sobriety in our Hawaii drug treatment programs, coupled with our personal, social, and spiritual healing, can be personalized to address your needs and goals for overcoming marijuana use. From individual and group therapy to nature and ocean-based experiential therapies, we empower each veteran to create their own best practices for comprehensive healing. For more information on how we can help you address and overcome your use of marijuana and the stresses or traumas that may inform it, call (866) 390-5070.