Total abstinence from alcohol and other drugs has long been a fundamental principle of addiction recovery. In recent years, though, an alternative approach has begun to grow in popularity. This is often referred to as “California sober” or “marijuana maintenance.” Anyone who is thinking about this approach should first educate themselves about potential dangers of marijuana maintenance in recovery.
What is Marijuana Maintenance?
Marijuana maintenance is based on the belief that cannabis (marijuana) is not as dangerous as alcohol, opioids, stimulants, and other addictive substances. People who follow the marijuana maintenance approach allow themselves to use cannabis as a substitute for other drugs.
Maintenance may be a familiar concept to many people in the recovery community. For decades, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) has effectively helped people with an addiction to heroin, prescription painkillers, and other opioids. MAT programs that prescribe methadone are sometimes described as methadone maintenance programs.
Of course, there are many differences between methadone maintenance and marijuana maintenance. For example, methadone maintenance involves the carefully controlled use of a prescription medication under the supervision of a qualified healthcare provider. Methadone maintenance and other MAT programs also provide therapy as well as medication to help people achieve and maintain recovery. However, one of the dangers of marijuana maintenance in recovery is that this is almost always a self-directed approach with no professional guidance or oversight.
Why Marijuana Maintenance Can Be Dangerous
Lack of medical supervision is just one of many potential dangers of marijuana maintenance in recovery. Although cannabis is now legal in many states, this doesn’t mean that marijuana poses no risk to people with a history of addiction. For instance, marijuana is a mind-altering substance that can affect how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. People who follow an abstinence-based approach to recovery retain greater control of their thoughts and actions.
When a person uses marijuana, they may experience pleasurable effects such as euphoria, lowered inhibition, and heightened perception of sounds and colors. These effects may make the person more susceptible to invitations or urges to abuse other substances.
Marijuana use can also have unpleasant effects. Some people who use marijuana experience paranoia, anxiety, or a sense of panic. These sensations can undermine or overwhelm a person’s desire to avoid other recreational substances. In such situations, a person might use alcohol or another drug to counteract the distressing effects of marijuana.
Another danger of marijuana maintenance in recovery is that people may use marijuana as an unhealthy coping mechanism. Instead of effectively dealing with stress, pressure, or other difficult emotions, they may rely on cannabis to numb themselves. The ability to deal with challenges in a healthy and productive manner is an essential recovery skill. Failing to develop and use conflict-resolution and problem-solving strategies can lead to an array of additional difficulties, including an increased risk of relapse.
Better Approaches to Recovery
Marijuana maintenance for recovery is a relatively recent concept. Thankfully, addiction experts have many decades of research and anecdotal information about better approaches to recovery.
The 12-Step recovery model is probably the most widely known approach. Bill Wilson established the fundamental principles of this model in the late 1930s. Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, both of whom struggled with alcohol addiction, are the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
Through the years, AA grew from a small group into a global phenomenon. Along the way, the 12-Step model applied to other forms of addiction recovery and support. Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and Alateen are among the groups that have incorporated the 12-Step recovery model.
In the 1990s, an alternative recovery approach called SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) Recovery was established. Unlike the 12-Step model, which has a strong spiritual component, SMART Recovery takes a more secular, science-based view of addiction and recovery.
Both the 12-Step model and the SMART Recovery approach provide guidelines and support services that people can use throughout their lives. For many people, though, the path to recovery begins with professional treatment.
Treatment and Detox Programs
Treatment can help people end their substance use. It can also teach them essential strategies for protecting their recovery. If withdrawal symptoms have kept a person trapped in active substance abuse, detoxification may be an ideal starting point for treatment.
When a person is in a detox program, they will be under the care of a team of experienced caregivers. These dedicated experts can help the person get through withdrawal safely and as comfortably as possible. Depending on the needs of the individual and the parameters of the program, detox may include both medical and therapeutic support.
After detox, with their bodies free of addictive substances, people can participate in therapy, counseling, and other activities that will help them gain a solid foothold in early recovery. If a person’s struggles with addiction have been accompanied by a co-occurring mental health disorder, effective treatment will include mental healthcare as well as recovery support services.
Get Addiction Treatment in Nashville, TN
Untreated addiction can feel like a prison. Effective professional care can be the key to a healthier and much more satisfying life. If you have been struggling with an addiction to alcohol or another drug, Brentwood Springs Detox in Nashville, Tennessee, may be the ideal place for you to begin your recovery journey. Contact us today to learn how we can help.