The goal of recovery from a substance use disorder is not to rely on drugs or alcohol as part of a person’s life. Most people in recovery agree that this means all potentially addictive substances such as heroin, cocaine, prescription drugs, and alcohol. Yet there is a growing movement of people who believe that something called marijuana maintenance recovery can be part of how they claim to be living a sober life.
What Is Marijuana Maintenance Recovery?
Marijuana maintenance recovery is the theory that even if a person is in recovery for addiction to alcohol or drugs, marijuana can be an exception to the drug part. People who engage in this practice believe that they can safely smoke pot without it leading to other use or abuse of substances and that this drug does not belong in the same category of other potentially addictive drugs.
Recreational marijuana is now legal in about one-third of the U.S., which helped create a wide and varying discussion about any possible dangers related to its usage. Many people believe that when pot is used lawfully, it should be exempt from inclusion as a dangerous narcotic. The definition of lawful in this case means use by adults age 21 and over who obtain it through licensed sellers in states where it is legal. Many extend this to include all states, since it may be just a matter of time before recreational marijuana use is legal nationwide. This idea is at the heart of the marijuana maintenance recovery philosophy.
The Argument Against Marijuana Maintenance Recovery
Many people believe that thinking a person can count themselves as in recovery from drug addiction when they actively use marijuana isn’t a realistic viewpoint. A person engaging in smoking marijuana might cite its ability to relieve stress, depressive symptoms, and similar issues, yet an addict can say the same thing about enjoying using other drugs for those same effects. Similarly, individuals addicted to alcohol often feel that drinking helps alleviate some of the tougher emotions in life, making it difficult to see the difference between that excuse and using the same one to justify using pot.
A development that contributes to the idea that marijuana is somehow a healthier drug involves its availability in forms other than smokable ones. Edibles have become quite popular, particularly in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, making it easy for some people to feel it’s not a serious drug if it’s something tasty they can eat. Popular edibles include cookies, candy bars, and gummy bears. These appeal not only to adults but also curious underage individuals who may not understand the difference between regular snack treats and THC-infused edibles.
Regardless of legal status, marijuana alters a person’s mind and consciousness, which is part of what classifies it as a drug like many others that can disrupt a person’s life and become addictive. For this reason, medical professionals warn against adopting a false sense of security that marijuana is harmless.
Some who practice marijuana maintenance recovery will admit they used to use excessive amounts of the drug but now believe they can smoke it sporadically without damage. Many experts point out this defense is in the same vein as arguing that an alcoholic can cut way back on their drinking and still consider themselves as living a sober life. Either a person is abstinent from using a substance and fully in recovery or they are still using it, even if only occasionally or at a greatly reduced rate.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main active ingredient in marijuana and is a psycho-stimulating substance. It affects a person physically and emotionally, with a real risk of becoming reliant on it. Like with other narcotics with the potential for addiction, consistent usage of marijuana in large amounts trains the brain to rely on its effects. When a person reduces the amount of pot they smoke or otherwise ingest or stops taking it completely, withdrawal symptoms will occur.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one out of ten people who smoke marijuana end up with an addiction to it. When the person starts smoking before they reach adulthood, that number climbs to one in six. The National Institute on Drug Abuse cites a report that 3 out of 10 people who engage in pot smoking, even casually, wind up with a diagnosable marijuana use disorder.
Many people may not experience the physical symptoms of addiction and withdrawal, similar to the symptoms related to what are considered more hardcore drugs or alcohol. However, once they are addicted to using marijuana, an emotional reliance develops, which can be a difficult part of withdrawal symptoms. They may experience anxiety, panic, depression, irritability, or mood swings.
These individuals may try to stop using marijuana but find that they cannot combat the negative impact it has on their moods, and they quickly return to usage. Marijuana maintenance recovery can be used as a way to prevent experiencing those withdrawal symptoms, which negates the argument that it’s just an alternative way to experience recovery.
Marijuana Addiction Treatment in California
Riviera Recovery offers gender-specific sober living in modern housing in Southern California. We provide young adults with a pet-friendly living environment that helps teach them to stay focused on recovery and manage any co-occurring mental health conditions. We provide 24/7 supervision and access to several therapeutic programs. Please contact Riviera Recovery today to discuss how we can help you stop using marijuana and embrace full recovery.