Challenges in Marijuana Addiction Recovery

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Data gathered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2007 lists marijuana as the most widely used illegal substance within the U.S. and Europe. Easy accessibility combined with marijuana legalization efforts stand to further increase addiction rates among the young and old alike.

While marijuana addiction recovery programs can offer effective treatment options, for some people, certain challenges make it difficult to maintain abstinence on a long-term basis. Skepticism regarding marijuana’s actual ability to cause addiction no doubt have helped fuel the legalization efforts behind the drug. For someone predisposed to addiction, mixed messages surrounding the use of marijuana may be all the justification needed to, at the very least experiment with the drug. Marijuana’s role as a popular secondary drug opens up a whole other set of challenges for marijuana addiction recovery.

Treatment Effectiveness

Marijuana Addiction Recovery

Many marijuana users relapse because they don’t believe the drug is addictive.

For the most part, marijuana addiction recovery programs rely on behavioral treatment approaches to help recovering addicts remain drug-free. Unlike the medication-assisted therapies used to treat opiate addictions, as of yet, no medication treatments have been developed for use within the marijuana addiction recovery process. This means any behavioral approaches used must address the physical as well as the psychological factors that drive marijuana addictions.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, marijuana addiction recovery success rates ranged between nine and 29 percent depending on the types of behavioral treatment. The most effective and commonly used behavioral treatments include –

  • Motivational enhancement therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Contingency management

Even in cases where all three treatment approaches are used, studies show participants were only able to maintain abstinence for an average of two weeks before resuming drug use.

Also at issue is the increasing potency of marijuana as the use of “new and improved” chemical additives work to increase not only the strength but also the duration of marijuana’s high effects, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


Within the medical field, skepticism as to marijuana’s addiction potential questions whether marijuana actually causes physical dependency in users. After a decade and a half of research studies, certain key marijuana effects have become evident:

  • Like other addictive drugs, ongoing marijuana use creates a withdrawal syndrome in users who stop using or reduce their dosage amounts
  • Within marijuana addiction recovery, withdrawal syndrome symptoms follow a predicable course during the detox stage
  • Marijuana’s effects on the brain’s built-in cannabinoid system drive the addiction process

In spite of conclusive proof of marijuana’s addiction potential, skepticism still prevails within the medical community as well as for many recovering addicts considering marijuana addiction recovery.

Secondary Drug Use

Over the years, marijuana’s label as “a gateway drug” has rung true considering the large numbers of people who abuse marijuana along with other types of drugs. People entering marijuana addiction recovery with multiple addictions pose a difficult challenge for drug treatment facilities. As addiction behaviors stay the same no matter what types of drug is used, marijuana addiction recovery programs must address any and all addictions a person has in order for treatment to be effective and lasting.