For decades, marijuana was classified as a highly illegal addictive substance. Now, in a twist of irony, not only is it becoming legal, but it’s also being used to treat people recovering from addictions.
With dozens of states relaxing their cannabis research policy, we’ve learned the plant has vast medicinal properties.
Now, people use medical marijuana to live higher-quality lives. They don’t have to suffer from conditions like epilepsy and chronic pain anymore. Yet we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg.
Recent studies show that cannabidiol (CBD), the second dominant ingredient in cannabis, may help combat drug addiction.
How can an “addictive” chemical stop someone from using drugs? Read on to find out!
1. Marijuana is a Method of Harm Reduction
Have you ever tried to quit a habit cold turkey? No matter what kind of habit it is, it’s never an easy thing to do.
Now imagine a habit that has ingrained itself into your body so much that your brain thinks it can’t live without it. And when it’s taken away from you, your bodily systems begin to freak out.
That’s what happens to an addict when they try to stop doing drugs. But some countries are adopting policies of harm reduction. The goal of these programs is to get users of hardcore drugs to be a bit safer, substituting things like opioids for marijuana instead.
Yes, weed can still be addictive, but overdosing on marijuana is extremely rare. Fatalities from opioids, cocaine, psychostimulants, and methadone, on the other hand, are endemic.
2. Cannabis Decreases the Withdrawal Symptoms
We know enough about the addiction recovery process to understand it’s extremely complicated. A recovering addict deals with substantial withdrawal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, and hallucinations.
The withdrawal process can be so severe that it causes many users to turn back to their drug of choice to get away from these symptoms. This creates a vicious cycle of addictions that often ends in a fatal overdose.
What if, instead of masking the withdrawal problems with the same hard drug, recovering addicts used weed instead?
Cannabis affects the endocannabinoid system and helps stabilize the body and brain. Experts say that a weed detox can control the withdrawals just enough to pull an addict through safely.
At worst, the patient has a new addiction to marijuana. This can be managed legally with a medical marijuana card, as thousands of other people across the country have.
3. Cannabidiol Can Reverse Drug Damage
The more important compound in addiction recovery is cannabidiol. CBD is legal, by federal law, across the country, so there’s no concern about replacing one illegal drug with another.
Current research has high hopes for CBD as a fix for damage caused by heroin. The drug harms the glutamate transmitter system, a part of the brain that focuses on cognition and decision-making.
CBD attaches to the receptors in this system, as well as the cannabinoid receptors, and fixes the damage. At the same time, it activates the brain’s serotonin response, which balances anxiety and depression.
More studies are needed before these results are understood completely, but right now, it looks promising.
4. Marijuana Can Prevent Relapses
Recovering from an addiction is a long-term process. Even after they make it out of the withdrawal stage, addicts often struggle with the urge to use for the rest of their lives.
The hardest time for most people is when they’re faced with hard challenges in life. If they have nothing else to turn to as a method of stress reduction, they frequently relapse. And the cycle starts over again.
Having marijuana on hand as a form of stress relief effectively puts a wedge in this repetitive and dangerous cycle. The key is to ensure the user has their medical marijuana card, so they’re not forced to go back to the shady practices of buying street drugs again.
The benefits of marijuana on our health are already vast, and they’ve barely been tapped into because of restrictive legal issues. Now that the world is waking up to the relative harmlessness of weed, researchers have a greater opportunity to explore the rest of the “iceberg” we call marijuana.