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The Dangers of Marijuana Maintenance In Recovery

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With the legalization of marijuana in California and several other stages in recent years, one concept that has gained some attention is marijuana maintenance in recovery. Some proponents say it is a good idea, while others say it hinders addiction recovery. By learning the dangers of marijuana maintenance in recovery, a person can protect themselves and their loved ones from making a huge mistake.

What is Marijuana Maintenance?

Marijuana maintenance is allowing someone in recovery access to marijuana and excluding it from a list of substances that should be avoided when a person is in recovery for a substance use disorder. Instead, a person in recovery would be allowed to use marijuana in smokable or edible forms. 

Those that support marijuana maintenance in recovery believe using marijuana will not affect the person’s recovery, nor will it lead to marijuana addiction. Furthermore, they believe anyone in recovery should have access to marijuana since it can help make them more comfortable and relaxed while in treatment and afterward to help them maintain their sobriety regarding other substances. 

However, those against marijuana maintenance strongly oppose providing access to any substance, including marijuana, even though it is legal in many places. They believe that a person in recovery should abstain from using any substances. Additionally, they have serious concerns over the potential for marijuana misuse and dependence that could result in a new addiction or trigger a relapse.

How Marijuana Effects the Brain

When you smoke or consume edibles, the THC in marijuana binds to naturally occurring molecules called cannabinoid receptors found on various neurotransmitters in the brain. As the THC binds to the receptors, it disrupts normal functioning.

As a result, someone using marijuana can experience coordination, thinking, and reasoning problems and have much slower reaction times. In addition, THC causes impairment as alcohol does. 

In addition, it stimulates and activates the pleasure centers of the brain that control enjoyable experiences, like eating and having sex. It also causes an increase in dopamine levels, a “feel good” neurotransmitter. 
The brain remembers the increased stimulation and dopamine levels as rewarding behaviors. Therefore, the brain will encourage repeating the behavior, which lends to the potential for addiction to marijuana. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports about one in six people who start using marijuana as a teen and 25 to 50 percent of people who use it every day will become addicted to marijuana.

Why Marijuana Maintenance Can Be Dangerous

Those opposed to marijuana maintenance have serious concerns about the dangers of marijuana maintenance in recovery. For example, someone in rehab for alcohol use disorder (AUD), another legal substance, must abstain from any type of substance as part of their recovery treatment. Yet, they are not given a free pass to continue drinking to help them remain comfortable and relaxed. 

In addition, someone who already has substance use disorder is more likely to develop a marijuana addiction. Since they do not have access to their preferred substance, they can use marijuana as a substitute until they complete their treatment program. 

Not to mention, someone using marijuana to alleviate withdrawal symptoms from another substance and any related emotional or mental issues is not truly living sober and addressing their addiction. 

While marijuana maintenance in recovery can be a crutch to get through a treatment program, what happens to the person after completing treatment? Since the person is already relying on marijuana to keep from living sober, it is highly probable they will return to their preferred substance and relapse into their former addiction.  
Furthermore, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, some research suggests that marijuana is a gateway drug. Using it is likely to precede the use of other substances, including alcohol and other substances, and lead to addiction to those substances.

Better Approaches in Recovery

Each person’s addiction is personal, so a set treatment program is never the best approach. Nor is it beneficial to give an addict access to marijuana where they can continue to avoid facing sobriety and the consequences of their substance use disorder. Better approaches that avoid the dangers of marijuana maintenance in recovery include:

  • Personalized treatment programs that address the specific needs of the individual.
  • Medically supervised detox that includes the use of medication-assisted treatment when appropriate. 
  • Individual and family counseling and other behavioral therapies that best fit the needs of the person in recovery. 
  • Group counseling and therapy sessions to provide access to peer support and sponsors. 
  • The modification and adjustment of treatment plans as the individual’s needs change.
  • Assistance in developing an effective aftercare program to continue recovery after leaving rehab.  
  • The simultaneous treatment of co-occurring mental health issues.

Get Sober Without Marijuana Maintenance in Orange County, CA

You cannot get sober if you continue to remain high with marijuana maintenance. It will be impossible for you to achieve long-lasting results. Getting sober requires following a personalized recovery plan with the care and support you need to avoid using alcohol and drugs. 

At Pacific Sands Recovery Center in Orange County, CA, we understand getting sober is not an easy process and requires dedication, commitment, and hard work. Therefore, we are with you from the moment you take the first steps towards a new sober life. 
We are also for you after you complete treatment with our aftercare support to maintain your newly found sobriety. Then, when you are ready to get sober without marijuana maintenance, we are here to help. Visit our admissions page today, and take the first steps in your journey to lasting recovery.


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