Is Medical Marijuana a Relapse?

Restore Center

As a drug treatment center, we hear this question many times: is medical marijuana a relapse? Let’s start with the fact that marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that 9% of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it, and that number jumps to 17% when use begins at younger ages. Marijuana contains more than 60 related psychoactive chemicals, called cannabinoids. The most prominent cannabinoid is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol).

While recovery from any substance including marijuana requires a great deal of discipline, a controversial topic in today’s day and age is the topic of medical marijuana. Should people in recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction use medical marijuana? And more importantly, is it considered a relapse? Can medical cannabis provide alcoholics and drug addicts in recovery needed pain relief, or is it a threat to their recovery – and their lives? Is medical marijuana a relapse, or is it appropriate to consume if taken as prescribed?

Medical Marijuana

Marijuana and Addiction

In 1996, California became the first state in the U.S. to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, however in recent years that number has shockingly increased. While more states approve its use, more people in recovery are confronted with the question of whether it is safe for people in recovery to use. While alcoholism and addiction can be arrested and not cured, medical marijuana is used for a variety of conditions including chronic pain, anxiety, and nausea from chemotherapy. However, unlike other patients who seek out medical marijuana, those in recovery who have suffered from substance abuse could potentially enter dangerous territory when they seek out the substance.

An article from US News & World Report drives this point home by quoting Anne Lewis, a clinical psychologist and addiction counselor: “People are more likely to seek their primary drug of choice when they are intoxicated or high. It lowers your inhibition, so you don’t care. We don’t make good decisions when we’re drunk or high.” In short: No matter how ‘casual’ marijuana use can be, it can be an extremely dangerous trigger for those already working towards recovery from the effects of another drug.

In short, medical marijuana can be considered a relapse. Beth Kane-Davidson, director of the Addiction Treatment Center at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland states, “For the addict, one drink [or dose of a drug] is never enough.” She also warns that marijuana is addictive. Alcoholism and addiction are progressive, so that means an alcoholic or addict who relapses will not resume using the amounts of alcohol or drugs they were consuming when they stopped but will take larger amounts as if they never stopped. Medical marijuana and addiction could go hand-in-hand if the marijuana use gets out of control and turns into abuse.

While there are those in recovery who do consider using medical marijuana, there are multiple factors before deciding to try it to help treat a serious condition. Here are a couple tips to consider:

  • Tell your doctor you are an alcoholic or addict in recovery – Consider researching cannabis use disorder and know the symptoms of marijuana dependence.
  • Talk to an addiction therapist before you try it – don’t hesitate to ask questions. Clinicians are trained to know the facts.
  • If you try medical marijuana, beef up your recovery program – Continue going to support meetings and be open and honest about your choice to partake in medical marijuana.

Whether it’s marijuana or synthetic marijuana addiction, at Restore Drug Rehab we specialize in treating the underlying causes of all substance abuse disorders. We believe that marijuana can be addictive and considered a relapse if you’re using it to get “high”, and chronic use can make your life unmanageable.

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