Saturday July 30, 2016

By Abby Hutmacher

How Marijuana Can Treat Addiction Health/Science

Those who oppose marijuana reform often cite its addictive tendencies as reason enough to avoid legalization. These arguments often assert that Americans struggle too much with addiction already; introducing another addictive substance to the mainstream seems counterproductive and dangerous. But marijuana -- even with slight addictive tendencies -- could actually help save Americans from dangerous addictions.

How Addictive is Marijuana?

Addiction is characterized by an inability to cease an activity despite conflicts between the activity and other aspects of life. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, only nine percent of marijuana users will become addicted to cannabis, though the number raises to 17 percent for users who start young. To put that into perspective, 32 percent of tobacco users, 23 percent of heroin users, 27 percent of cocaine users and 15 percent of alcohol users become addicted.

Symptoms of Marijuana Withdrawal Are Mild Compared to Other Drugs

Drug withdrawal occurs when someone with a physical or mental dependence on a substance ceases or drastically reduces use of the substance. Withdrawal symptoms may be exacerbated if the substance was used to mask underlying conditions like chronic pain or depression, and may even be fatal if stopped too abruptly. Miscarriage may also occur when a mother stops “cold turkey” due to fetal withdrawal, especially in cases of opioid addiction.

Though there are many similarities in the withdrawal symptoms of all drugs that lead to dependence (specifically, irritability and sleep disturbances) some drugs come with their own, unique set of withdrawal symptoms, as well. For example, alcohol withdrawal can also include seizures, hallucinations and, in some cases, delirium tremens. Benzodiazepine (a.k.a “Benzos”) is often used to treat alcohol withdrawal as well as anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks and seizures, but it, too, can produce unfavorable withdrawal symptoms including tremors, sweating, confusion, heart palpitations, seizures, hallucinations, psychosis and suicidal thoughts. Opioid withdrawal symptoms include abdominal pain, hot and cold sweats, irritability, lethargy and muscle pain.

Marijuana withdrawal is comparatively much safer and can include sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, irritability, vivid dreams and headaches. Marijuana withdrawal symptoms usually last for about a week with a peak in symptoms after the first day or two. Some report vivid dreams up to a month or more after cessation.

Using Cannabis to Treat Addiction

Though still controversial, the idea of using marijuana to treat other addictions seems to be catching on. United Patients Group, a medical marijuana resource group, has outlined three studies in which marijuana was used to treat addiction to harder drugs like morphine and heroin. The site also notes that medical marijuana users are less likely to use more potent drugs and were more likely to abstain from tobacco use, as well.

Aside from making withdrawal symptoms more tolerable, marijuana can help treat underlying conditions that may have led to drug dependence in the first place. Marijuana has known therapeutic qualities including pain management, appetite stimulation, seizure mitigation, anxiety control and anti-depressant. This can help users wean themselves off of dangerous narcotics without compromising personal comfort (which is a common reason for relapse).

What do you think about treating addictions with cannabis? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo Credit: PicJumbo

Abby Hutmacher Abby Hutmacher

Abby is a freelance writer and founder of Cannabis Content, a marketplace where marijuana enthusiasts can create and sell digital content to businesses in the cannabis industry. Follow Cannabis Content on Facebook and Twitter, or visit to learn more.

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