Addiction Treatment

What Marijuana Legalization Means for Addiction Treatment

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As more and more states legalize marijuana, both for medicinal reasons and for recreational use, people wonder if it will have an impact on the way marijuana is handled in drug and alcohol treatment centers.

While the legalities may be different if and when marijuana becomes legal nationwide, at this point, it should not have an impact on most addiction treatments. The legal status of a substance has no influence on how it impacts the body or the brain and the addiction that it creates.

Just ask any alcoholic or pain pill addict, both drugs that are legal, highly addictive, and fatal.

Although marijuana legalization doesn’t change the fact that you can become psychologically addicted to it, it does create its own unique barriers to other drug treatments and the beliefs that people have about drugs in general.

Lowering Biases

If recreational marijuana legalization goes mainstream, one of the major effects will be in regards to other drug biases. Because marijuana was categorized with strong narcotics, many people may begin to lower their biases against other, harder drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. The general public may not look at these drugs as severely and some may be more inclined to try them.

The Impact on Youth

Even if there is an age limit set for marijuana use, if and when the drug becomes legal there’s a large possibility that it will be more readily available than ever before. And because of that, there’s a significant chance that more teens will experiment with it.

This is where the danger lies. People who use marijuana before the age of 18 are 4 to 7 times more likely to develop a marijuana disorder. And of those that use, up to 30 percent end up being able to qualify for a marijuana dependence diagnosis.

Slippery Slope

When an addict or alcoholic is in recovery, especially the early stages, any drug use can set him or her back. And if marijuana were legalized, it may be used during this time period and put an individual’s recovery at risk.

Marijuana still activates the areas of addiction in the brain, and may increase the risk of relapse and other drug use. It also lowers inhibitions, making it more likely to engage in risk taking behaviors, including indulging in other drugs and alcohol.

The End of Criminalization

On a positive note, the criminalization of marijuana addicts will end if the drug becomes federally legal. Instead of serving time for petty, drug related crimes, those with marijuana addiction will be able to seek treatment that can help them overcome addiction.

Remember, the legality of a drug has nothing to do with its potential to be abused or the risk of becoming addicted to it.

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For more information on AAC’s commitment to ethical marketing and treatment practices, or to learn more about how to select a treatment provider, visit our About AAC page. If you wish to explore additional treatment options or connect with a specific rehab center, you can browse top-rated listings or visit SAMHSA.

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