Some people who are in recovery for their addiction to alcohol or harder drugs such as heroin or methamphetamine’s mistakenly believe that they can still occasionally smoke marijuana without jeopardizing their sobriety. That is a dangerous misconception.
There are different reasons that people will give in an attempt to justify continuing to use marijuana –
“It helps me stay off of alcohol, heroin, meth, etc….”
This is referred to as the “marijuana maintenance plan”. Needless to say, this is a bad idea. Why? Invariably, one of two things usually happens.
One, sobriety and serenity are lost when they start experiencing problems associated with abusing marijuana.
In 2007, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation released statistics plainly showing that over 42 percent of parolees who had been convicted of some sort of marijuana-related offense were back in prison within two years.
According to a report released in 2013 by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an eight-year statistical arc shows that high-school dropouts are nearly twice as likely to have used marijuana within the past month as are their peers who were still in school, at a rate of 27.3% to 15.3%.
Two, they go back to their drug of choice.
Partially, this is because people tend to make extremely poor choices when they are under the influence of any mind-altering substance. When judgment is clouded and inhibitions are lowered, good intentions typically don’t matter.
Even more importantly, science seems to suggest that smoking marijuana can actually trigger relapses in drug addicts, according to research conducted by Dutch and American scientists at the Vrije University in Amsterdam and the US National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Cannabinoid receptors are closely tied to the brain’s dopamine systems, which play a major role in reward-motivated behavior. Blocking those receptors can assist people who are trying to give up smoking, alcohol, cocaine, or heroin.
During the studies, cocaine-addicted rats were deprived of that drug for two weeks. Then, they were re-exposed to environmental/behavioral cues that in the past would act as a trigger for their drug-taking.
This time, however, the drugs were also injected with a synthetic drug that blocked 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 concurs, 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 supposedly for the relief of pain, it is a reality that many people simply seeking a way to get high “game” the system.
According to research conducted at the University of Michigan at a medical marijuana clinic for the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, half of all patients are 40 years old or younger, 83% are Caucasian, and two-thirds are male. These numbers are suspiciously skewed, compared with the rest of the population.
But even if there was some sort of epidemic that caused 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. The main purpose of actually inhaling marijuana is to get high.
Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in a 2009 speech given at the International Conference of Chiefs of Police Annual Convention, “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.”
At the heart of it, this is the real reason why many recovering addicts and alcoholics want to continue to smoke marijuana, even if they are not fully aware of the deeper issues. That doesn’t make it any better of an idea.
Many people who struggle with addiction also have a co-diagnosis of other psychological disorders, such as depression, anxiety, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or low self-esteem.
Marijuana is often used to mitigate these problems and to escape any negative feelings they may be experiencing. However, when these issues are only masked, ignored, or evaded instead of treated, then the root 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 underlying psychological and emotional issues, and it takes even longer to successfully resolve them to the point that Lasting 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.