The Role of Medical Marijuana in Addiction Treatment and Legal Issues
Last Updated on
Learn about the issues connected with medical marijuana and its use for addiction treatment. Get the answer to the question, “Is it right or wrong to get on medical marijuana as a recovery support” with explanation.
Is it legal for doctors to allow the use of medical marijuana as a recovery support for people with addiction?
According to the National Institute of Health marijuana or cannabis may effectively treat addiction from amphetamines, cocaine and other hard drugs. Their study shows that cannabinoids, a chemical found in marijuana can control the reward systems of the brain affected by addiction to stimulants.
The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 in California also approves the use of medical marijuana as a part of treatment for patients with addiction to heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, alcohol and other drugs. The U.S. Institute of Medicine also documented the therapeutic benefits of marijuana. At present, 23 States allow the use of Medical marijuana. Colorado and Washington also allows the recreational use of the drug.
Is it right or wrong to get on medical marijuana as a component of recovery support?
To answer this question, you have to understand the nature of addiction, the effects of marijuana on the brain and the possibility of cross addiction.
Issue number 1: Why the nature of addiction contradicts the use of marijuana in addiction treatment
First, let’s talk about addiction. You are addicted to drugs if you can’t stop taking it even if you really want to. You cannot control the very strong urge to use it even if you know that it is damaging you already.
At first, you just like how it feels to get high so you keep on using it. Others start using it out of medical necessity but they abuse it because it feels good. You also think that you can stop or lessen the dose anytime. But, the longer you use it, the harder it is to stop.
The addictive drugs start changing your brain, causing you to crave for it. Your tolerance also builds up. You want a higher dose and you feel the need to take it more often than the last time. Before you knew it, the addictive drugs start taking over your life.
Slowly, addiction becomes the only reason to get up each day. It becomes more important than going to work, eating, eating or sleeping. The addict does everything to get the drugs even if it means doing something illegal or hurting their loved ones in the process. Sometimes, they get involved in DUI or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Drugs change the way addicts think, feel and how their body works. Addiction is a serious illness that changes an independent, responsible and loving man into a drug dependent, irresponsible and selfish person even if they do not intend to.
It is true that cannabinoids from marijuana can help regulate the reward systems of the addict’s brain, but it is very risky. Marijuana is an addictive drug and using it can increase the risk of cross-addiction. That’s why Hawaii Island Recovery uses a holistic approach in addiction treatment to make sure that the reward systems of the brain without including potentially addictive drugs in the treatment.
Issue number 2: Can marijuana worsen addiction because of its effects on the brain?
There are several circuits in a person’s brain. One of them is the motivation circuit with built-in reward system. This circuit helps us decide to do or not to do something. Rewarding stimuli is something that your brain tells you to be positive. If you use marijuana for a long time, your reward circuits will change.
According to National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, “Your brain has an endocannabinoid. It is a complex brain system which facilitates healthy chain of communication within the brain circuits. It ensures that the wiring of this brain circuit is assembled correctly. It repairs damaged cells and strengthens the right connections of the brain circuit for future use. Scientists claim that the human brain naturally produces a chemical called, anandamide which is delicately regulated to achieve its role in the endocannabinoid system. If you use cannabis it causes the endocannabinoid system to be filled with cannabis chemicals.”
Describing how marijuana alters the brain’s reward system, the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre states, “It’s like plugging stadium speakers into your iPod. If you constantly destruct the endocannabinoid system with cannabis will alter your motivation, mood and ability to learn. You may have a hard time on keeping your focus, it will be more difficult for you to manage everyday frustrations, worries and stress.”
Issue number 3: Can marijuana-assisted addiction treatment cause cross addiction?
There are several stories of people who are in the recovery process to be finishing off with their drug of choice like opiates and moving to cannabis or other stimulants. While drug addicts who really want to quit don’t have that strong drive to use drugs anymore, but their brain’s reward system is screaming for a quick fix, which can include cannabis. It may sound safer for them because at least it’s not the drug that they are abusing and it may seem to be “less” harmful because of its medical uses, but marijuana is still an addictive drug.
The question is-why would addicts tend to get hooked on another drug like marijuana if they are in the recovery process, with a very high motivation to quit? When an addict stops using the addictive drug they have been using for a long time, a part of them becomes empty. To fill this emptiness, they may start using an alternative drug like marijuana. Although they may not eventually get addicted to it, they have the tendency to repeat the way they think and behave while still addicted to the drug of choice. This may eventually lead to cross addiction or the substitution addiction to marijuana as the addicts strive to recover from addiction.
What these former addicts-turned-inspirations to recovering addicts recommend
Amanda: Safe place, great team of therapists and fellow-recovering addicts working out their recovery
Amanda has been a drug addict since she was twelve years old. Ever since she had been to different types of therapies but all of those addiction treatment programs never worked. She also tried different methods, but none of them worked. When asked what she thinks helped her have a successful recovery, she says “I think what has helped me by coming to Hawaii Island Recovery in August 2011 to stay sober is being in a safe community with a team of therapists. And, I really live with people and learned how to work out the problems with those people in a safe environment”.
Abby: Private setting, personalized therapy and full focus on the client
Abby, a former addict who achieved and maintained her sobriety with the help of Hawaii Island Recovery says, “One positive thing about HIR is that it’s more of a private intimate setting.” Abby was referring to the relaxing setting of Hawaii Island Recovery- a premiere residential substance abuse rehabilitation facility for adults at Kona, Hawaii. Hawaii is also called the Healing Island because of its paradise setting, beautiful natural landscapes, lush mountainside, volcanoes, falls, snow-capped mountains and rain forests! Of course, it has pristine beaches and wild dolphins! HIR believes that the serene environment will promote healing of the physical and psychological wounds of addiction.
“You have more personalized individual therapy and they get to focus on you” Abby adds. HIR offers individualized therapy that would deal with issues related to your drug addiction. The therapists would conduct an in-depth assessment before they start with the treatment process.
No to marijuana as a recovery support drug
Instead of using marijuana which is an addictive drug to reduce the craving for the drugs, HIR promotes addiction treatment that promotes healing of the person as a whole. We offer a range of therapeutic services like individual, group and process counseling, wild dolphin therapy, equine therapy, medication management, experiential and recreational therapy, 12 Steps, family support and more!
Drug addiction is more than a dependence on the drugs. It is an illness that involves not only the physical body but the person’s mind and spirit. That’s why Hawaii Island Recovery offers a holistic approach to addiction treatment in a therapeutic, safe and private environment where you can have successful recovery from addiction. HIR also helps you cope up with the daily pressures of life in a healthy and positive way. We teach life skills so that you become stronger, wiser and happier and more at peace with yourself when you leave HIR.