Medical marijuana is frequently in the news, and hopefully the growing awareness of the benefits of medical marijuana will lead to more sensible regulations and deeper research into why cannabis is so helpful in treating so many different conditions. Among the conditions that medical marijuana can treatis addiction, whether to drugs or alcohol.
Marijuana as a recovery treatment is controversial, not least because there is conflicting research about whether medical marijuana is or is not addictive. However, many studies have found that medical marijuana is not addictive, or as harmful, as other drugs such as alcohol and opiates. Additionally, several studies have shown that marijuana can be an effective treatment for recovery from other substances.
Medical Marijuana as a Recovery Treatment
Since marijuana has earned an undeserved negative reputation in many quarters, it is often difficult to determine what is fact and what is politics when talking about medical marijuana. However, the following three studies pointed to definite possibilities of using cannabis to overcome dependence on more harmful drugs and alcoholism:
- A 2009 study performed by the Laboratory for Physiopathology of Diseases of the Central Nervous System found that injections of THC, the primary active chemical in cannabis, helped eliminate dependence on opiates such as morphine and heroin in test animals.
- A survey compiling self-reported addiction treatment and relapse rates among substance users, “Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol and Other Drugs” that was published in the Harm Reduction Journal, found that respondents used cannabis to curb their alcohol cravings, as an alternative to previous use of prescription drugs, and even as a substitute for more potent drugs such as cocaine. Tellingly, 57.4% of respondents chose to use cannabis because it provided better symptom management as well.
- Another study published in the Harm Reduction Journal, “Long term cannabis users seeking medical cannabis in California,” found that medical cannabis users were much less likely to use more potent drugs, and even reported less tobacco use than non-cannabis users.
Why Use Marijuana as a Recovery Treatment?
It’s clear that more effective addiction recovery treatment is needed in our country. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, depending on the addiction, up to half of individuals who begin an addiction treatment program relapse within six months. As more states move to legalize medical marijuana, it is becoming easier for scientists, doctors, and researchers to point to the benefits of marijuana as a treatment for pain relief and symptom management for many diseases. Benefits now known to the scientific community include:
- Medical marijuana patients are able to function more fully in daily activities and work, unlike with many prescription opiates for symptom relief.
- Medical marijuana patients report fewer unpleasant side effects with marijuana than with many traditional and stronger drug treatments.
- Medical marijuana patients achieve more effective symptom relief using marijuana than with other alternatives.
Since withdrawal from alcohol and serious drug use often prompts the same symptoms as other medical conditions that marijuana is used to treat (anxiety, depression, pain, nausea, and sleeplessness,) it is logical that responsible use of marijuana could also help with addiction recovery.
At the same time, medical marijuana as an addiction recovery treatment is a sensitive topic. Do your research to separate marijuana fact from marijuana fiction to decide whether this might be a treatment option for you, and remember that like any other healthcare decision, this should be discussed with your doctor or other trusted medical professional.