Is Medical Marijuana Off Limits For Recovering Addicts?

Since California approved the use of medical marijuana in 1996, the country has taken sides on the issue. In the years since, 28 different states have legalized cannabis for medical use and more are sure to be on the way. Doctors seem to feel that medical marijuana is best for patients who suffer from chronic pain, anxiety, nausea and muscle spasms– all of which are present in recovering addicts. But should an addict be given a substance that can be potentially addictive? That’s a question that the medical world is currently contemplating.

The Threat of Relapse
The obvious sticking point on this debate is that if a patient is currently in recovery from addiction, how can you justify giving them marijuana? While a relapse is possible, some doctors believe that taking away the everyday pains of recovery will help motivate the patient to stay away from more dangerous substances. For example, a recovering alcoholic will experience cold sweats, headaches, tremors and other ailments. So could soothing that pain help keep them from reverting back to old habits for comfort? There still isn’t enough data to be sure.

Potential Alternative to Opioids
Recovery from opioid addiction is a long and painful process that unfortunately doesn’t get completed by enough people. In the first three months of recovery, an astounding 70% of heroin addicts will relapse. And the unfortunate thing is that the mortality rates for users that relapse is also far too high. So doctors and addiction experts are looking for an alternative and some believe they have found it in medical marijuana.

The Abstinence Model
Most drug counselors and doctors still feel that abstinence is the best decision for a recovering addict. Studies show that when under the influence, the brain is more likely to revert back to old habits then when it is clearly functioning. For example, if a heroin addict is sober for a year and starts to feel he/she can handle drinking again, they might be wrong. When intoxicated, judgment is impaired and in a recovering addict, this is amplified. The studies also show that the recovery programs we have in place are not necessarily effective, so what changes do we need to make moving forward? That is the most important question we can ask ourselves.

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Is Medical Marijuana Off Limits For Recovering Addicts?
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