Although it is an illegal drug in the US, more than 22 million people use it each month. It can also become addictive, with around 10% of users becoming hooked.
While many Americans use marijuana socially, at parties and at home, the reality is that it can have serious effects. When it is consumed, marijuana carries a substance called THC into the lungs. From there, THC disperses throughout the body’s organs and into the brain. How quickly this happens depends on how the marijuana is consumed. Smoking marijuana is the quickest form of getting high – the process is slower when it is consumed in solid or liquid form. Treating marijuana addiction is not easy.
The downsides of marijuana
However it is consumed, marijuana can have several negative effects on users both mentally and physically. Mentally it causes an over-activation of the endocannabinoid system which in turn can lead to mood swings and distorted perception. It can also inhibit coordination, and make it difficult to think clearly. The feeling of ‘low’ can also make learning difficult as well as making memory recall much harder.
On a physical level, marijuana can contribute to reduced appetite, low energy levels and a lack of desire to physically exercise or exert oneself. These factors can combine to severely impact a user’s daily life from work, relationships, education or in other ways.
Many health risks are also associated with marijuana. This can range from relatively simple coughs and breathing difficulties to much more severe conditions such as immune or nervous system damage, high blood pressure and infertility. It is also linked with mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety.
How addictive is marijuana?
Marijuana is known to be an addictive substance, with around 9-10% of users becoming reliant on it. Recognizing the symptoms of addiction is the first step to designing an effective treatment plan.
These can include feeling irritable, restless, or anxious. Marijuana addicts can also find it difficult to sleep, and hunger is often suppressed.
Effective marijuana addiction treatments
Although there have been some recent breakthroughs in research about the endocannabinoid system, there are currently no drugs available to treat marijuana addiction. However, a range of alternative therapies can be utilized to ease addiction and avoid relapse.
Behavioural interventions are an effective tool. These can be used to influence cognitive behaviours associated with marijuana use. Tools such as voucher incentives for previous addicts that maintain abstinence are known to work. This is a simple but effective form of motivational incentive that gives a direct reward.
Rehabilitation can also be administered in the form of counselling and addiction programs. Guided treatment plans such as Twelve Step can be deployed to ease addicts from their predicament. There are also a range of cognitive behavioural tactics and motivational schemes that can use scientific-based approaches to help.
The most effective marijuana addiction treatment involves understanding every aspect of the care, and the requirements of all parties. Well-reputed care clinics provide approaches that cover all aspects of rehabilitation. This includes therapy for the physical and mental effects of marijuana addiction.
Holistic treatment centres have specialists for every aspect of a patient’s rehab program. These include mental health experts, dependency counsellors, physical wellness consultants. As the effects of marijuana addiction are physical as well as mental, counsellors will also assist in spiritual wellbeing, and emotional issues. This can be a vital aspect of a patient’s recovery period as they fight off feelings of desperation and guilt.
Effective marijuana treatment plans also include support activities for close family members of the patient. This aspect of the program aims to assist those people with their recovery from the impacts their loved one’s addiction may have had on them. It also prepares and educates them for providing the right support to the patient during and after their recovery.
Managing a chronic disease
Progressing through marijuana treatment programs is designed to help patients manage this chronic condition. The ultimate goal of effective marijuana treatments is to empower patients to take control of their own destiny, starting with their sobriety.
This journey progresses from the most acute levels of care in an inpatient facility. As improvements are made this moves to a more informal outpatient treatment program. If the treatment is successful, the patient’s interactions with outpatient programs can be gradually reduced. After that they may only require participation in a support network or regular check-ins.
Tools such as the use of animals as a positive distraction can also be deployed, as can emotional coaching and stress-reduction therapies. Training in key life skills such as communication can also be a positive focal point for patients to avoid relapse, while giving them positive life skills at the same time.
Going with the evidence
These approaches rely on evidence, data and science to treat marijuana addiction. Depending on the individual in question and the severity of a marijuana addiction, there are several evidence-based approaches to treating them.
These include behavioural change-oriented plans such as Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). This seeks to achieve changes in behaviour and build problem solving skills to reduce the temptation to relapse back into marijuana use. Other techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) aim to get patients thinking in a different way. By doing so the goal is that they focus on more positive energy rather than resorting to self-destructive habits such as cannabis dependency.
Some treatment plans can also include complimentary therapies such as Pilates, yoga, stretching routines, massage, or other forms of relaxation.
While there are no approved drugs to alleviate cannabis addiction, a range of evidence-based treatments can be used to wean users off the drug. Effective treatment programs are evidence-based, and are holistic so as to include all aspects of a patient’s recovery. This takes in physical and mental health aspects, as well as inclusion of friends and family in order to limit the chances or relapse.
From the most urgent treatment stages to outpatient care and eventual discharge, effective marijuana addiction treatment is achievable even without the use of drugs.