The journey towards sobriety from drugs and alcohol most often involves complete abstinence, refraining from all mind-altering substances. As the discussion around the legalization of marijuana for recreational and medical use continues in the United States, those in recovery may question, “Can weed cause relapse?” This concern is particularly relevant for individuals recovering from substances like cocaine, opioids, or alcohol who wish to avoid returning to old habits.
At MAT Care Clinics, we pay close attention to substance relationships and how they can prove troublesome to clients looking for complete sobriety. Let’s explore marijuana’s role in relapse and why you should think twice during your recovery process.
Can Weed Cause Relapse?
Historically, marijuana has been labeled a “gateway drug,” often associated with progressing to more challenging substances like cocaine or psychedelics. Studies suggest that marijuana may act as a gateway drug leading to relapse, primarily due to its effects on the brain and decision-making. While some of the more positive benefits of marijuana have reached the spotlight over the last few years, there’s no doubt that the substance alters how you consider options and your ability to resist impulses.
Marijuana, like many other drugs, can modify brain function and significantly impact mood. Regardless of its legal status, its effects on sobriety remain unchanged. For some individuals, using weed in combination with other substances can lead to a relapse, as they may be unable to separate one from the other. Additionally, marijuana’s tendency to lower inhibitions may make it more attractive for individuals to use other drugs, potentially leading to relapse after completing treatment for cocaine and alcohol dependency.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
A common misconception regarding marijuana is that the substance is not addictive, but research shows this may not be true. Some studies suggest that 30% of people who use marijuana may have some degree of marijuana use disorder or ‘marijuana dependence.’ This dependence occurs when the brain adapts to large amounts of the substance by reducing sensitivity to and production of the body’s endocannabinoid transmitters, contributing to withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. Common symptoms of marijuana dependence withdrawal include:
- Mood changes
- Various forms of physical discomfort
- Difficulties sleeping
- Decreased appetite
- Increased cravings
These symptoms often peak within the first week after quitting and last up to 2 weeks. When someone cannot stop using marijuana even when it interferes with multiple aspects of their life, this marijuana use disorder can enter the realm of addiction, just like the more intense drugs such as cocaine or opioids. What’s important to note is that epidemiological studies of cannabis consider dependence as a proxy for addiction, even though it’s possible to be dependent but not addicted to the substance. Statistically, nearly 10% of people who use marijuana may become dependent, rising to almost 20% in those who started using marijuana as a teen.
Why is Marijuana Dependence Dangerous for Recovery?
Whether someone is addicted to or dependent on marijuana, continuous and frequent use bodes troublesome for anyone struggling against other substance use disorders. When someone develops a marijuana dependence, they’ll most likely use it multiple times a week. While the effects of marijuana are less troubling than those from more intense substances, replacing one dependence with another is counterintuitive when attempting to recover fully. In turn, individuals may make jeopardizing decisions, making them more susceptible to relapse.
This notion rings especially true for those with a predisposition to addiction. In these cases, developing a marijuana dependence can more easily lead to marijuana use disorder and give way to more potent substances getting thrown into the mix. Again, sobriety requires complete abstinence from all drugs, and marijuana is no different.
How Can Weed Cause Relapse?
The best way to answer, “How can weed cause relapse?” is to consider a simple situation. An individual is recovering from an opioid use disorder and finds that smoking marijuana helps them calm down at night before bed. Soon, they reach a point where they smoke every night to help them sleep. Things are going well until the individual feels the need to smoke earlier in the day to help prepare for a nap after a stressful week at work.
Within a few days, they now desire to smoke around the same time during the day since they enjoy doing so. Naturally, as their tolerance increases, they require more marijuana to achieve and prolong these desirable effects. What began as a simple bowl pack has now evolved into an entire joint since the latter results are more potent and longer-lasting.
During a two-day business trip where they did not have marijuana, they experienced an intense desire to smoke and became restless. When they returned home, they doubled the number of times they smoked to compensate for lost ground. Now, they smoke multiple times a day in large quantities to achieve effects that originally were significantly easier to attain. Without realizing it, they’ve developed a dependence that doesn’t appear dangerous since marijuana’s impacts are not entirely adverse. However, this dependence soon activates cravings for opioids as tolerance rises.
These situations significantly differ by case, but this specific example shows how even though marijuana may seem harmless, it alters the way we think and feel about substance use. Increasing intake may seem fine since there are few negative consequences, but without realizing it, the impulsive nature of the brain that comes with addiction kickstarts once again.
Can CBD Cause a Relapse?
When answering the question, “Can weed cause relapse?” it’s important to distinguish between marijuana and cannabidiol (CBD). Unlike marijuana, CBD is non-psychoactive and does not induce addiction or mind-altering effects. Research indicates that CBD may even reduce the risk of relapse with other drugs and alcohol, presenting a potential tool for relapse prevention strategies.
Various studies have explored the potential benefits of CBD, including its role in reducing cravings during opioid addiction recovery and attenuating alcohol-induced neurodegeneration. CBD has shown promise in supporting impulse control and stress management, both crucial factors in preventing relapse. While research must continue, CBD’s non-sedative properties make it an appealing consideration for relapse prevention.
What’s the Best Way to Avoid Relapse?
During the recovery journey, it is crucial to have access to effective treatment options backed by scientific evidence. Comprehensive programs that equip individuals with tools to manage cravings and stress effectively can significantly reduce the risk of relapse. Post-treatment support is also vital, as it helps individuals stay on track and maintain connections formed during their recovery journey.
Relapse can be challenging to avoid, leading to setbacks, financial strain, and health issues. However, individuals can achieve lasting sobriety with proper support and guidance. Seeking help from experienced counselors and professionals can be invaluable in identifying triggers and developing strategies to prevent relapse.
Ultimately, individuals in recovery need to be well informed and make decisions that align with their unique needs and circumstances. While CBD shows promise in relapse prevention, consulting with healthcare professionals and counselors is crucial in tailoring an effective recovery plan. Embracing sobriety is a journey that requires dedication, support, and a commitment to a healthier, drug-free life.
Achieve Sobriety with MAT Care Clinics
MAT Care Clinics is here to help individuals complete and sustainably recover from substance use disorders. Our line of addiction recovery and mental health services can help you prioritize sobriety while avoiding jeopardizing factors such as marijuana use.
Medication-assisted treatment is among our most popular services, a scientifically proven method to help achieve long-term recovery. MAT provides many real-world benefits, such as:
- Increasing chances for long-term recovery
- Reducing overdose deaths
- Increasing employment rates
- Decreasing illegal opioid use and nefarious activity often accompanying substance use disorders
We understand that typical drug or alcohol rehabilitations can last months and aren’t for everyone. Our MAT services exist to offer you a reliable and effective method toward sobriety that keeps your unique situation and needs a priority.
Call (833) 622-0628 or visit our website to schedule an appointment or for any additional information regarding our addiction recovery services.