Cannabis is frequently in the news and hopefully the growing awareness of the benefits for medical purposes will lead to more sensible regulations and deeper research into why cannabis is so helpful in treating so many different conditions. Among the conditions that cannabis can treat is addiction, whether to drugs or alcohol.
As a recovery treatment, cannabis is controversial, not least because there is conflicting research about whether it is or is not, addictive. However, many studies have found cannabis is not addictive, or as harmful, as other drugs such as alcohol and opiates. Additionally, several studies have shown cannabis can be an effective treatment for recovery from other substances.
MEDICAL CANNABIS AS A RECOVERY TREATMENT
Since cannabis has earned an undeserved negative reputation in many quarters, it is often difficult to determine what is fact and what is politics when talking about cannabis. However, the following three studies pointed to definite possibilities of using cannabis to overcome dependence on more harmful drugs and alcoholism.
A 2009 study by the Laboratory for Physiopathology of Diseases of the Central Nervous System found that injections of THC, the primary active chemical in cannabis, helped eliminate dependence on opiates such as morphine and heroin in test animals.
A survey compiling self-reported addiction treatment and relapse rates among substance users, “Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol and Other Drugs” that was published in the Harm Reduction Journal, found respondents used cannabis to curb their alcohol cravings as an alternative to previous use of prescription drugs and even as a substitute for more potent drugs such as cocaine. 57.4% of respondents chose to use cannabis because it provided better symptom management as well.
Another study published in the Harm Reduction Journal, “Long term Cannabis users seeking medical marijuana in California” found that medical cannabis users were much less likely to use more potent drugs and even reported less tobacco use than non-cannabis users.
WHY USE CANNABIS AS A RECOVERY TREATMENT?
It’s clear that more effective addiction recovery treatment is needed. According to the United States (US) National Institute on Drug Abuse, depending on the addiction, up to half of individuals who begin an addiction treatment program relapse within six months. As more US states move to legalise cannabis for medical use, it is becoming easier for scientists, doctors and researchers to point to the benefits of and symptom management for many diseases.
Benefits now known to the scientific community include that medical cannabis patients;
- are able to function more fully in daily activities and work, unlike with many prescription opiates for symptom relief,
- report fewer unpleasant side effects with cannabis than with many traditional and stronger drug treatments,
- achieve more effective symptom relief using cannabis than with other alternatives.
Since withdrawal from alcohol and serious drug use often prompts the same symptoms as other medical conditions that cannabis is used to treat (anxiety, depression, pain, nausea and sleeplessness), it is logical that responsible use of cannabis could also help with addiction recovery.