Therapy is the cornerstone of treatment for marijuana addiction. The goal of therapy is to provide people with the ability to avoid or cope with marijuana triggers, so they won’t relapse to use when put in tempting situations.
How long has it been since the last hit? Where can I get more? What happens if I get caught? Why doesn’t this stuff work as well as it once did?
These are the sorts of thoughts that can consume every waking minute of the day for people with a marijuana addiction issue. Rather than focusing on the good things in life, they’re exclusively focused on the drug and what it can (or can’t) do for them.
Life like this is hard, but everything can change in an instant. As soon as people agree to get help for a marijuana addiction, they can see everything about their lives change for the better.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests that about 9 percent of people who abuse marijuana will develop an addiction to the drug in time. And that risk rises to 17 percent if users start a marijuana habit during the teen years, and it rises to 25-50 percent in those who use the drug every day.
These statistics clearly demonstrate that marijuana has the capacity to trigger an addiction. That risk comes, for the most part, from changes inside the brain.
The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, latches to receptors in the brain and triggers chemical reactions associated with bliss and relaxation. It’s a chemical manipulation, and the brain resists that process by turning off or shutting down receptors. The brain is, in other words, altered by marijuana. In time, the brain will function at an optimal level only when there’s marijuana available.
When people develop an addiction, they can experience irritability and restlessness when they try to stop marijuana use. They can develop deep cravings for marijuana that can interrupt their sleep, their work, and their hobbies. This is another hallmark of addiction, and it’s a known risk with marijuana use.
Marijuana can also be psychologically addictive, as people who have a habit tend to use it in party situations.
They can struggle to meet friends, interact with family, or otherwise have social interactions unless they’ve used the drug first. They feel, at a deep level, that they need marijuana in order to handle day-to-day life, and that psychological addiction can be hard to overcome.
People who use marijuana may claim that the substance is harmless, and in some states, it’s legal to use the drug. That means it can be, in some cases, difficult to know when to intervene in the face of marijuana use. According to Mayo Clinic, these symptoms indicate that a drug addiction is in play:
It’s important to note that people with marijuana addictions aren’t weak, bad, or wrong. They have a medical condition that responds to treatment, and they need help in order to recover. Approaching them in a calm and caring manner is a good approach, and that’s easier to do when families remember to think of this as an illness.
It might be harder, in some cases, to get people with marijuana addictions into treatment programs that can help. That’s because some states are moving to legalize marijuana, and proponents of legalization are shifting the conversation on addiction.
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, proponents of marijuana perpetuate the notion that marijuana is harmless, and that’s a message picked up by the mainstream press. Users may think their families just don’t understand the benefits of marijuana, and they may feel validated by the legalization effort.
But legalization doesn’t change the underlying chemistry of marijuana and the very real addictions the drug can cause. Legalization also can’t stop the cycle of addiction.
As previously stated, young people who start using weed have a higher risk of developing an addiction than adults who start the habit.
This means states with legal pot could be growing huge crops of young people who use, and those young people might grow into adults with addictions and a need for recovery. Thankfully, there are treatment programs that can help.
Those therapy sessions might be augmented with support group work, so people with marijuana addictions can meet others in recovery.
Exercise sessions, massage sessions, art-therapy sessions, and other alternative therapies can help people learn how to cope with life gracefully, without the use of drugs.
In an inpatient program, the days are structured in such a way that there’s just no time to either think about or get drugs. A sample schedule might look like this:
Following this daily schedule for several months could help a person with a marijuana addiction to understand how to pack the day with benefits and support. A modified version of this schedule, in which work replaces some of the midday tasks, could be a great one for a person in recovery to follow for lasting sobriety.
There’s no right time or wrong time to fight back against a marijuana addiction.