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What Are the Different Types of Marijuana Addiction Treatment

A group go through marijuana addiction treatment

A common belief about marijuana is that it is not addictive and not habit-forming. With marijuana use obtaining legal status in states and countries around the world, understanding its addictive potential is important.

But is marijuana, or cannabis, really as safe as some people believe? Can someone use and not develop an addiction?

The Addiction Potential of Marijuana

Marijuana is certainly less addictive than substances like methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine, but evidence mounts every day showing just how addictive marijuana can be. The mental health community recognizes cannabis dependence and cannabis withdrawal syndrome as problems associated with the long-term use of marijuana.

The myth that cannabis is not addictive seems to stem from the fact that cannabis addiction is rare, so people often have friends who use the drug and never develop a problem. These observations lead to the mistaken belief that “since I know plenty of people that use marijuana and are not addicted to it, marijuana must not be addictive.”

Dependence and Withdrawal

Cannabis dependence means someone cannot quit using marijuana without feeling symptoms of cannabis withdrawal syndrome. Most withdrawal symptoms are psychological and can include:

  • Aggression
  • Cannabis craving
  • Depressed mood
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Increased anger
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Strange or vivid dreams

What about physical symptoms? Physical symptoms may not happen as often as mental symptoms, but they do. Examples include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Shakiness
  • Stomach pains
  • Sweating

Someone who uses marijuana regularly and tries to stop may experience withdrawal symptoms. 

Treatment for Marijuana Addiction

If someone is looking for treatment, this begins with a drug and alcohol assessment. A licensed addiction specialist will spend a few hours asking questions and trying to get a sense of the extent of marijuana abuse and dependence.

Inpatient treatment is used for the most severe cases of marijuana addiction. This type of treatment happens in a facility where the person lives for a short time. A treatment team is available which includes a psychiatrist, a counselor, a primary care team and group therapists.

Outpatient treatment starts in the community and can be incorporated into life’s normal schedule. People either start here, or this is the next step after inpatient treatment, depending on the person. Outpatient treatment includes a mixture of group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and group activities like art therapy, yoga or pet therapy.

Differences with Marijuana Addiction Treatment

Compared to other addiction treatment programs, treatment for marijuana addiction is more behavioral. Few medications exist to treat the physical symptoms of withdrawal except those for nausea and vomiting. Anti-anxiety medications may be useful for psychological symptoms like nervousness, mood swings and depression.

Treating marijuana addiction is about learning new and healthy activities to replace marijuana use.

Recovering from marijuana addiction is a good time to reconnect with friends, develop healthy eating and exercise habits and learn new skills or hobbies.

Sources:

Bonnet, Udo; Ulrich, Preuss. “The Cannabis Withdrawal Syndrome: Current Insights.” Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, 2017. Accessed July 13, 2019.

Zehra, Amna; et al. “Cannabis Addiction and the Brain: A Review.” Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology, 2018. Accessed July 13, 2019.

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