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Marijuana Addiction: Treatment and Rehab

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Marijuana addiction, otherwise known as marijuana use disorder, is estimated to occur in 10–30 percent of individuals who misuse marijuana.1 Marijuana addiction has the potential to take a serious toll on your health and well-being. If you suspect that you or a loved one are struggling with marijuana use, you should know that you’re not alone. The 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that 49.6 million people used marijuana in the past year.2

Marijuana has legitimate medicinal purposes when used correctly; however, when misused over time, an individual has the risk of developing an addiction. Addiction is defined as the compulsive behavior to use marijuana and the inability to cut down or quit, despite harmful consequences within many aspects of your life.

It’s important to seek treatment sooner rather than later to prevent serious consequences, including worsening addiction.3 Although there is no FDA approved medication to treat marijuana use disorder, behavioral therapies have been shown to help curb compulsive use and teach healthier ways to manage stress and unhealthy triggers. Addiction for any type of substance can be difficult to overcome on your own; proper treatment in a marijuana rehab program can help you initiate the path to recovery and improve your life.

Overview: Marijuana Addiction

People use marijuana for a variety of reasons, including social conformity, pleasure, and experimentation.4 People abuse the substance when they are no longer in control of their substance use and use it in harmful or hazardous ways.5 When people continue to use the substance despite the negative effects it has on their lives, they may have an addiction, also known as cannabis/marijuana use disorder.6, 4

Chronic marijuana use can cause changes in your brain chemistry and different marijuana effects. Researchers know that THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary chemical that is responsible for marijuana’s pleasurable effects.4 In addition to THC, marijuana contains more than 500 compounds that interact with different receptors known as cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), which are located throughout your central nervous system.4 This complex interaction can lead to feelings of relaxation, reduced pain, and other pleasurable sensations that can increase your desire for marijuana and compel you to continue using it.4

How is a Marijuana Use Disorder Treated?

Marijuana or cannabis use disorder (the diagnostic terms for addiction) can be treated using different methods. Treatments are designed to help people stop using the substance and learn healthier ways of dealing with and managing their triggers to use the drug.3 The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that behavioral therapies are the primary method for treating marijuana use disorder.7

Treatment can provide you with the support and skills you’ll need to cope with life stressors and prevent relapse. When considering a marijuana rehab program, it’s advisable to discuss your situation with a doctor or other treatment professional to help determine the appropriate form of marijuana treatment for your needs.

Marijuana Withdrawal

It’s important to note that SAMHSA states that “there are no medical complications of marijuana withdrawal,” and reports that medication is not typically required for marijuana withdrawal.8 Additionally, there are no FDA-approved marijuana treatment medications to date, but research is ongoing.7

Although marijuana withdrawal is usually mild, unpleasant withdrawal symptoms are still a possibility and can include problems such as depression, restlessness, irritability, trouble sleeping, changes in appetite, chills, abdominal pain, and headaches.8 In certain cases, people can suffer from suicidal ideation or other medical problems.8

Mental Health Disorders and Marijuana Addiction

Researchers have found a link between marijuana use disorder and an increased risk of co-occurring psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety disorders, but they’re not entirely sure whether and to what degree marijuana use plays a role in causing these conditions.9 The NIDA reports on research that indicates daily use of high-potency marijuana could potentially result in a higher risk (5 times higher) of developing psychosis compared to people who have never used marijuana.9 One item to note, however, is that the development of psychosis can be influenced by a combination of different risk factors, such as genetics, the amount of the substance you use, and the age at which you started using it.9

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says that having a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder can complicate diagnosis and treatment.10 They report that integrated treatment, which means coordinated mental health and substance use treatment, can be helpful for improving treatment outcomes and quality of life, and potentially increase the possibility of a complete recovery.10 Treating the marijuana use disorder and the co-occurring psychiatric disorder may involve a combination of medication and behavioral therapies, which have been shown to reduce marijuana use, especially in those who have been heavy marijuana users or who have chronic psychiatric disorders.7

Types of Marijuana Addiction Treatment

There are different types of marijuana addiction treatment centers. The appropriate setting for you can depend on your unique needs. Different treatment settings will work better for different individuals. When choosing a program, you may wish to consider different factors, such as:11

  • The type and length of program.
  • The program’s approach to addiction treatment.
  • Accreditation and licensing.
  • Whether the program offers medication.
  • Whether family members are included in the treatment process.
  • Whether the program offers a continuum of care, including aftercare for ongoing support.

Inpatient Marijuana Addiction Rehab

Inpatient marijuana addiction rehab means you live onsite, stay overnight, receive 24/7 care and support, and can receive immediate medical attention for any concerns that may arise. It removes the distractions of day-to-day life and allows you to focus on recovery in a supportive environment. Inpatient, also referred to as residential, treatment can be helpful for many people, including those with co-occurring conditions or significant medical concerns.12, 13

Inpatient treatment can have different durations and levels of intensity that can depend on your specific needs. Generally speaking, an inpatient stay can range from 28–30 days to 90 days or longer.12 Treatment should be personalized to your unique needs and take into account specific factors, such as your level of addiction, your overall mental and physical health, as well as any social, vocational, and legal problems you may be facing.14

Outpatient Marijuana Addiction Rehab

An outpatient marijuana rehab center is different than inpatient because you live at home and travel to a rehab center on a regular schedule for treatment. Outpatient treatment can occur on a variety of levels of intensity, from partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient, which means you attend treatment for most days a week, several hours a day, to standard outpatient care, which might include visits with a counselor or attending group therapy sessions 1–2 times per week.12

Outpatient marijuana rehab care can last anywhere from 2 months to around a year.12 It’s usually suited for people who have reliable support systems, easy access to transportation, and stable living situations.12

Therapy Programs

Behavioral therapy is an important component of treatment for marijuana use disorder.7 People with marijuana use disorder as well as those who have co-occurring mental health disorders may benefit from behavioral interventions, as these have been shown to be effective in helping people reduce marijuana use.7

Behavioral therapies can include:7

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you identify and change problematic thoughts and behaviors that lead or contribute to substance use.
  • Contingency management (CM), which involves principles of positive reinforcement, such as tangible rewards, to promote behavioral change.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET), which is designed to help promote rapid change by helping you identify your reasons and build motivation for wanting to stop substance use.

Support groups and community support systems can play an important role in helping people throughout the recovery process. This can include participating in 12-Step facilitation therapy, which is designed to help increase your motivation to attend 12-Step groups like Narcotics Anonymous.15 People often start support groups during rehab, and many continue to participate in them as a part of their lifelong recovery journey.

Behavioral therapies are provided in a variety of settings, including individual or private therapy sessions with your assigned therapist, in groups that are led by a therapist, or in family settings that are also led by a counselor/therapist. People increasingly engage in online counseling, telehealth, and teletherapy sessions, which involves care that is provided over the phone or online as a way of supporting treatment and recovery.12 It can be a very helpful supplement for people who are unable to attend in-person sessions.12

Recovery is a lifelong process that doesn’t end once treatment is complete. Aftercare can take place beyond the initial treatment period; it is designed to provide you with ongoing recovery, relapse prevention, and abstinence maintenance support.16 It can involve one or a combination of measures, such as ongoing support groups, mindfulness interventions, recovery management checkups, individual counseling, telephone-based continuing care, and more.16

Paying for Marijuana Rehab Treatment

People who want to start rehab are often understandably concerned about the cost of treatment. Overcoming addiction is one of the most important steps you can take to take back control of your life, and there are ways to pay for rehab so that cost is not a barrier.

The cost of rehab can vary based on a number of factors, which includes length and type of program as well any additional amenities or services. Different ways that people pay for rehab include:17, 18, 19

  • Health insurance.
  • Paying out-of-pocket.
  • Applying for Medicare/Medicaid.
  • Going to a facility with public funding.
  • Applying for a sliding scale plan, which is based on your income.
  • Using a payment plan.
  • Using savings.
  • Taking out a loan.
  • Asking family or friends for help.

Those with health insurance should know that the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act requires that health insurers and group health plans offer the same level of benefits for mental health/substance abuse treatment as they do for medical and surgical care.17 However, different plans can have different benefits; for example, if it’s an HMO or PPO, you may have to cover your deductible or pay a copay, you may have different costs depending on whether you choose an in- or out-of-network provider, and you may need prior authorization for certain services.18

If you or someone you care about are interested in starting the path to recovery, or if you want to know how to help a marijuana addict, you can easily verify your insurance with us online right away, or call to learn more about your treatment options.

Learn More About Marijuana

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Kristen Fuller, MD, enjoys writing about evidence-based topics in the cutting-edge world of mental health and addiction medicine and contributes to medicine board education. Her passion lies in educating the public on the stigma associated with mental health. Dr. Fuller is also an outdoor activist, an avid photographer, and is the founder of an outdoor women's blog titled, GoldenStateofMinds. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, backpacking, skiing, camping, and paddle boarding with her dogs in Mammoth Lakes, California, where she calls home.
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