Why Do Recovering Addicts Struggle with their Ability to Give up Marijuana Despite Giving up Other Substances?

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Giving up marijuana can be very difficult for many individuals, and marijuana relapse rates for addicts are some of the highest of any drug of abuse. Recovering addicts seem to struggle with giving up marijuana, even when they have been able to stop abusing other substances, and the reasons are varied and numerous.

Our Perception of Marijuana Abuse

In the United States, marijuana is more commonly abused than any other illicit drug. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, more people “met the diagnostic criteria for abuse of or dependence on this drug… than pain relievers, cocaine, tranquilizers, hallucinogens, and heroin combined.” This high level of abuse and of dependence, coupled with the fact that many individuals do not view the drug as a dangerous or even an addictive substance, make it less likely that even someone who has stopped abusing other substances will stop abusing marijuana.

In addition, many individuals often use marijuana socially, in the presence of friends and in order to feel more relaxed in social situations. The specific beliefs surrounding the drug, as well as the way that it is used, minimize the chance that many addicts will actually quit smoking or otherwise using the drug, even when they know they have a problem with substance abuse.

The Low Efficacy of Treatment

Unfortunately, the treatment protocol for marijuana addiction and dependence seems, in many ways, to be failing marijuana addicts. This may be occurring for a number of reasons, some of which may just boil down to lack of knowledge about the drug. According to the journal of Addiction Science & Clinical Practices, “Many adults show no evidence of progress” after marijuana addiction and dependence treatment, and adolescents show similar outcomes. Treatment also, in many cases, focuses on other drugs the individual abuses, and since so many addicts abuse marijuana in addition to other substances, the treatment for this disorder may sometimes fall through the cracks.

The current state of marijuana use disorder treatment is problematic, and research is slowly progressing in finding a pharmacological treatment for marijuana addiction, something that has been found to very helpful for substances like heroin, alcohol, and nicotine. But until these changes occur, the treatment for marijuana addiction shows less promise in many cases than the treatment of other substance use disorders.

Is Giving Up Marijuana Hard?

Most individuals who seek marijuana use disorder treatment, according to the AS&CP, “perceive themselves as unable to stop,” which could help lead to many of these cases where they are able to recover from other substance abuse syndromes but not from marijuana dependence. Giving up marijuana is difficult, as the societal perception of the drug, the availability of it, and the lack of efficient treatment for addicts push many users toward relapse or continued abuse.

It is impossible to be certain, though, why addicts on a group level experience this issue because addiction is personal, as is its treatment. Therefore, it may also be helpful to take each addict’s struggle to give up marijuana on a case-by-case basis and to help them work through their issues individually.