The Myth of Marijuana Maintenance

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Marijuana maintenance is a practice used by individuals who are addicted to more dangerous drugs like heroin, cocaine, or even alcohol in order to calm their cravings and help keep them off said “hard” drugs. Many addicted persons are convinced that this works. Unfortunately, numerous reports and scientific studies have shown that the effectiveness of marijuana maintenance is, in fact, a myth. Taking another drug to replace one that you’re addicted to is never a good idea as you’re very likely to just trade one addiction for another.

Why Do People Try Marijuana Maintenance?

There are a lot of reasons people give themselves to try marijuana maintenance rather than being abstinent from drugs. These can include:

  • Marijuana is not addictive.
  • Marijuana reduces anxiety and stress related to quitting an addictive substance.
  • Marijuana’s effects will satisfy cravings for other drugs.
  • Marijuana’s effects will reduce withdrawal symptoms.
  • Marijuana is part of a comforting routine for them.
  • It’s too hard to give up two drugs at once.

Some of these are true and some are not. Marijuana is considered to be addictive, though it may not technically be “physically” addictive in the way that many other drugs are. Marijuana can also reduce stress and help with certain withdrawal symptoms, but other, nonaddictive and non-intoxicating medications can do the same.

One of the biggest reasons for attempts at marijuana maintenance is that the addicted individual has already been using marijuana in addition to another drug for a long time, often before starting the more dangerous and addictive drug. Marijuana use tends to start young, with one in three high school students in one study reporting having used the drug in the past year. They may feel a significant attachment to the effects of marijuana and simply not want to give it up while they’re already dealing with recovery from another addiction.

Why It Doesn’t Work

The idea of marijuana maintenance has been widely rejected by recovery specialists and individuals in recovery as being not only ineffective, but also potentially harmful to the recovery process. Marijuana is associated with certain effects that can actually make addiction treatment more difficult rather than easier.

In particular, this drug has a negative effect on motivation for many people. Motivation is very important in addiction recovery. Not only do recovering individuals need to be motivated to stay away from the drug they’re addicted to, they need motivation to get to support group meetings, attend addiction therapy, call sponsors when they need to, and do any other work required by their treatment program.

At the same time, marijuana can actually make certain withdrawal symptoms or underlying mental health issues worse for some people. Side effects for this drug include depression, anxiety, and paranoia, all of which can make addiction recovery more difficult. In fact, it’s been found that marijuana is often used to self-medicate pre-existing psychological disorders. This means that marijuana maintenance can interfere with a therapist’s or addiction specialist’s ability to accurately diagnose and treat issues that can contribute to substance abuse and addiction.

There are better ways to address addiction than simply taking another substance. The positive effects of marijuana can often be replicated by simple lifestyle improvements, such as better diet, exercise, and beneficial activities, such as yoga, massage, and meditation.

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