Is Marijuana Use During Recovery Okay?
Some people currently in recovery for their addiction to alcohol or “harder” drugs such as methamphetamines or heroin erroneously believe that they can still casually smoke marijuana without endangering their worked-for sobriety. That is a dangerous misconception.
There are different excuses that people will give in an attempt to rationalize their use of marijuana –
“It helps me stay off of meth, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, etc….”
This is known as the “marijuana maintenance plan”. Obviously, this is a terrible idea. Why?
Almost without exception, one of two things typically occurs.
One, serenity and sobriety are lost when the user starts experiencing the typical problems tied to marijuana abuse.
In 2007, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation released statistics illustrating that over 42 % of parolees who had been convicted of a marijuana-related offense were back in prison within two years.
According to a 2013 report released by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an eight-year statistical arc indicates that high-school dropouts are nearly twice as likely to have used marijuana within the past 30 days as are their peers who were still in school, at a rate of 27.3% to 15.3%.
Two, they go back to using their previous drug of choice.
At least partly, this is because addicts tend to make terribly poor choices when they are influenced by any mind-altering substance. When judgment is impaired and inhibitions reduced, even the best of intentions typically don’t matter.
More to the point, science suggests that smoking marijuana can actually trigger a relapse in drug addicts, according to research conducted by American and Dutch scientists at the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Vrije University in Amsterdam.
Cannabinoid receptors are closely linked to the brain’s dopamine systems, which factor in reward-motivated behavior. Blocking those receptors can assist people who are trying to give up heroin, cocaine, alcohol, or smoking.
During the studies, cocaine-addicted rats were deprived of the drug for two weeks. They were then re-exposed to behavioral/environmental cues that in the past would trigger their drug use.
In this instance, however, the drugs were also infused with a synthetic drug that blocks their cannabinoid receptors. Taco de Vries, the lead scientist, said, “We found that in the rats exposed to environmental cues associated with cocaine injection in the past, or to cocaine itself, the likelihood of relapse was reduced by 50% to 60%.”
Danielle Piomelli of the University of California at Irvine’s agrees, saying, “The finding that blockade of cannabinoid receptors prevents cue-mediated relapses to cocaine seeking is an obvious therapeutic significance.”
“What about medical marijuana?”
Although medical marijuana is ostensibly for pain relief, it is a fact that many people who are simply seeking a way to get high “game” the system with bogus complaints.
According to research conducted at the University of Michigan at a medical marijuana clinic for the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 50% of all of the clinic’s patients are 40 years old or younger, 83% are Caucasian, and two-thirds are male.
These numbers are dubious and skewed, in comparison with the rest of the population.
Even if there was an epidemic causing a high percentage of young white males to be in chronic pain, it is possible to extract the necessary active ingredients and use them in pill form as a painkiller. The main purpose of marijuana inhalation is to get high.
In a 2009 speech given at the International Conference of Chiefs of Police Annual Convention, Gil Kerlikowske, The Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said, “We owe it to the people we serve to speak out about the unintended consequences legalization would have and told it would take on the health and safety of our communities.”
“It helps me chill out so I’m not stressed enough to use.”
Truth to be told, this is the actual reason why many addicts and alcoholics in recovery want to continue to use marijuana, even if they are not consciously aware of the deeper psychological issues. That doesn’t make it an idea with any merit.
Many people with addictive disorders also are co-diagnosed with other psychological disorders, such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Marijuana is often used to palliate these issues and to escape any negative feelings they may be experiencing. However, when these issues are only ignored or masked, instead of treated, then the underlying causes of the prevailing addiction continue and actually worsen over time, eventually triggering a full-blown relapse.
It takes time and counseling to get to those root emotional and psychological issues, and it takes even longer to successfully resolve them to the point that long-term recovery is an actuality.
Any use of marijuana is completely contrary to the goals of recovery and sobriety. Worse than simply just a bad idea that can slow down to recovery, it is a large step down a slippery slope that can actually tear down everything that has been built up.