cannabis and addiction

A Guide to Cannabis and CBD for Treating Addictions

When we talk about cannabis and addiction many people in the cannabis industry talk about cannabis being non-addictive. Or they state that cannabis may only be psychologically addictive (mental/situational) in comparison with physically addictive (physical need/dependence). This isn’t strictly true. There are some cases where cannabis has been addictive, for some people. Research is being conducted to determine what factors contribute to individuals becoming addicted to cannabis.

Though it is important to note that an addiction to cannabis is not the same as an addiction to alcohol, opiates or other substances. This is because one cannot overdose from cannabis and they are not going to die from the detox process. Overall, cannabis is a safer and healthier alternative for most individuals. 

In this article we discuss how cannabis can be used to treat addictions to other substances. The following articles will further discuss the specific use of cannabis and CBD for Alcohol and Opiate Addictions. 

What is addiction? 

Addiction is defined by continued substance use despite harmful consequences. People with addictions have an intense focus on using substance(s) to the point that it takes over their life. They keep using even when they know it will cause problems. 

People with a substance use disorder have distorted thinking, behaviour and body functions. Changes in the brain’s wiring are what cause people to have intense cravings for the drug. This also is what makes it hard to stop using. Brain imaging studies show changes in the areas of the brain that relate to judgement, decision making, learning, memory and behaviour control.

Over time, people with addictions build up a tolerance, meaning they need larger amounts to feel the effects.

Symptoms of substance use disorder: 

  • Impaired control: a craving or strong urge to use the substance; desire or failed attempts to cut down or control substance use.
  • Social problems: substance use causes failure to complete major tasks at work, school or home; leisure activities are given up or cut back because of substance use.
  • Risky use: substance is used in risky settings; continued use despite being aware of problems.
  • Drug effects: tolerance (need for larger amounts to get the same effect); withdrawal symptoms.

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Traditional Treatments for Addictions

Addiction affects many aspects of a person’s life, therefore, multiple types of treatment are often required. For most people a combination of medication and therapy is most effective.

Medication is used to control drug cravings and relieve severe symptoms of withdrawal. While therapy helps addicted individuals understand their behaviour and motivations, develop higher self-esteem, cope with stress and address other mental health problems.

Treatment may also include:

    • Hospitalization
    • Recovery facilities 
    • Outpatient programs

Many people also find self-help groups for themselves (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous) as well as their family members (Al-Anon or Nar-Anon Family Groups) useful.

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Cannabis and Addiction: Cannabis as Treatment 

One of the main reasons we are looking at cannabis as an alternative treatment method for alcohol and other addictions is that the treatment methods mentioned previously are proving to not be effect. Treatment centres have a statistically poor success rate, as approximately 50% “of individuals who begin an addiction treatment program relapse within six months”.  And often doctors are prescribing powerful and addictive benzodiazepines to aid in alcohol withdrawal.

Cannabis helps individuals reduce or eliminate the use of other problematic substances including but not limited to alcohol, opiates and prescription medications, especially pain killers. 

Amanda Reiman, PhD, policy manager for the California office of the Drug Policy Alliance shed light on this trend. A 2009 study she conducted on medical marijuana users revealed that:

  • 40 percent had substituted marijuana for alcohol
  • 26 percent for other illicit drugs
  • 66 percent for prescription drugs

Reasons they gave included:

  • marijuana had fewer unwanted side effects
  • it managed their symptoms better
  • it presented fewer problems with withdrawal

The drug’s pain-relieving properties make it a potential replacement for pain medication. In 2014, states that had legalized medical marijuana reported a 25 percent drop in deaths resulting from an overdose of pain medication.

Benefits of Cannabis use for Addition Treatment

Benefits now known to the scientific community include:

  • Medical marijuana patients are able to function more fully in daily activities and work, unlike with many prescription opiates for symptom relief.
  • Cannabis users report fewer unpleasant side effects with marijuana than with many traditional and stronger drug treatments.
  • Medical marijuana patients achieve more effective symptom relief using cannabis than with other alternatives.

Since withdrawal from alcohol and serious drug use often prompts the same symptoms as other medical conditions that marijuana is used to treat (anxiety, depression, pain, nausea, and sleeplessness,) it is logical that responsible use of marijuana could also help with addiction recovery.

Have you used cannabis to reduce use of other substances or to treat addictions? If you have we want to hear your story. Sharing our experience not only helps spread the word on the effectiveness of cannabis products it also reduces the stigma that has kept cannabis therapy in the shadows. Send us a message on instagram @miss.envybotanicals

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Check out the next articles for more information about the specific use of cannabis and CBD:

Cannabis and CBD for Alcohol Addictions

Cannabis and CBD for Opiate Addictions