If I'm in Recovery, Is Medical Use of Marijuana OK?

I’m in Recovery – Is Medical Use of Marijuana OK?

Marijuana has been legalized in multiple states for medical use. Those in favor cite evidence that medical marijuana can treat a wide range of conditions, from chemotherapy-related nausea to glaucoma. For people in recovery from addiction or alcoholism, it may be tempting to use marijuana, because in many states and places it’s considered a medicine and prescribed by doctors. However, much like other drugs which produce mind and mood-altering effects, medical use of marijuana can be dangerous for people in recovery and may lead to an even worse relapse over time.

Medical Use of Marijuana in the United States

As of 2017, medical marijuana is legal in twenty-eight states and in Washington, DC. The first state to legalize marijuana for medical use was California, which passed the law in 1996. Several states followed, and legal medical marijuana is gaining traction across the United States. In fact, multiple states (eight states total, plus Washington, DC) have legalized recreational use of marijuana. People in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical use argue that it can effectively treat a variety of conditions with less of a risk of physical damage than many prescription drugs carry. In fact, they are correct- medical use of marijuana can be effective in treating some conditions, such as:

  • Muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis
  • Nausea from chemotherapy treatments
  • Symptoms of chronic illnesses, such as weight loss or lack of appetite
  • Nerve pain
  • Seizure disorders such as epilepsy
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Anxiety or PTSD
  • Glaucoma
  • Arthritis
  • Symptoms of lupus
  • Tremors caused by Parkinson’s

For many people, medical use of marijuana is a relatively safe and effective treatment for conditions that are otherwise debilitating. However, the drug still does have several side effects, and for people in recovery, it can be extremely dangerous.

Why Medical Use of Marijuana is Dangerous for Recovering Individuals

Medical use of marijuana may help many people. However, for people who struggle with substance dependence, the THC in marijuana can produce a high that can become addictive. Psychological dependence on marijuana can lead to cravings, irritability, anxiety, and depression. For people who suffer from substance abuse issues, it can also lead to using more and more of the substance or even to switching back to the individual’s “drug of choice”, such as alcohol or heroin. Addicted brains respond to mood and mind-altering chemicals differently- rather than processing the experience and moving on, our brains become “hooked” and trigger cravings for more. For someone who is in recovery from addictive use of substances, this is a dangerous path to go down.

Impact of Marijuana on Addiction Recovery

When I left my first treatment center in 2012, I believed that marijuana (for recreational or medical use) wouldn’t do much harm to my recovery. It’s not what landed me in rehab, so it couldn’t have been that bad, right? Well, my use of marijuana while trying to recover from opiate addiction led to dependence on using some form of drugs or alcohol every day. I started with just smoking weed daily, but soon I began to have cravings for a stronger, more potent high. Because I believed I could control my use, I began using “harder” drugs, like cocaine and opiates. Before long, I was right back at rock bottom. I have found that in long-term recovery, marijuana doesn’t help me to make healthy choices- whether it’s for medical use or not.

Treating Addiction Alongside Physical Ailments

Recovery is different for everyone, and the medical use of marijuana is ultimately up to the individual patient and their doctor. For many people, it can be beneficial. However, for most people who are recovering from addiction or alcoholism, the use of a drug that produces a high is probably a dangerous idea that can lead to dependence and a return to the someone’s “drug of choice.” Addictive behavior can occur in response to any drug that produces a high, even if the intention of the drug was purely medical use. For people who want to avoid addictive behavior and who are recovering from substance dependence, medical use of marijuana is probably too great a risk, and it may be wise to look for alternative treatment methods.

If you suffer from chronic pain and addiction, there are options for treating both conditions without the use of drugs that you may become dependent on. At Wellness Retreat Recovery, our clinical staff treats addiction in patients without ignoring underlying issues that may have caused them to turn to drugs, such as chronic pain. If you need addiction treatment that still takes care of your physical health without the use of addictive drugs, contact Wellness today at 888-821-0238.