Can I Use Marijuana to Help Me Taper Off Harder Drugs?
Many people who abuse alcohol and drugs also use marijuana. Some, when thinking about quitting, decide that “marijuana maintenance,” substituting marijuana for harder drugs, is a good way to be able to remain high without the negative consequences associated with drugs like heroin or cocaine. This presented difficulties in treatment plans because therapists outside of treatment settings did not have evidence indicating that smoking pot was problematic when achieving sobriety from “more serious” addictions. In fact, there has been contradictory information. Some scientists for example, believed that heroin addicts may benefit from the calming effects of marijuana and substituting a less harmful substance might help to achieve abstinence from other more harmful drugs. Other scientists held that marijuana could interfere with successful sobriety.
A new study suggests that marijuana does have an effect on recovery from the abuse of other substances; marijuana stimulates reward areas in the brain. Therefore, people who regularly smoke pot may find it more difficult to stop using other drugs and alcohol because the reward pathways are continuing to be stimulated. This increases the risks of subsequent substance abuse and relapse to “harder” drugs.
Study leader Richard Saitz, chair of community health sciences at Boston University’s School of Public Health and professor of medicine at the School of Medicine said:
“The findings might be useful for prognosis—so patients and clinicians alike can be aware that marijuana use in this circumstance increases the risk of subsequent other drug use. They are also useful because of implications for treatment or self-change. They imply that continued use of marijuana is not harmless”.
The results of the study point to the probability that addressing marijuana use during addiction treatment could improve treatment outcomes. The results showed that the odds of achieving sobriety were decreased by 27% for drug and heavy alcohol users when marijuana was continued to be used during treatment. Marijuana can negatively influence addiction therapy in more than one-fourth of patients.
Addiction treatment centers and therapists need to discuss marijuana-smoking habits when planning a strategy for reaching sobriety goals. At this time, it is suggested that individuals consider quitting the use of marijuana for better overall health, especially during any effort to achieve long-term abstinence from alcohol and drugs.