September 18, 2021

Dangers of Marijuana Maintenance in Recovery

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The idea of marijuana maintenance in addiction recovery is that instead of more damaging substances like drugs or alcohol, marijuana can be the replacement vice.  

However, in most cases, addiction relapses often occur when people follow the marijuana maintenance approach to sobriety. 

Even though most U.S. adults live in states where marijuana is legalized for medical or recreational use, the drug can still be addictive – one in ten people who smoke weed subsequently develop dependence. 

Read on to learn more about the potential downside of marijuana maintenance and learn the most effective ways to maintain sobriety. 

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What Is Marijuana Maintenance?

Marijuana maintenance hinges on the notion that cannabis is less harmful than substances like alcohol, opioids, or stimulants. Those who engage with cannabis maintenance use the drug as a coping mechanism while engaging with treatment for addiction to other substances of abuse Marijuana maintenance is also sometimes known as California sober. 


The concept of maintenance might be familiar to many people in the recovery community. MAT (medication-assisted treatment) is proven effective for treating addictions to alcohol, prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl. MAT for opioid addiction often involves methadone maintenance.


There are major differences between methadone maintenance and marijuana maintenance, though. Methadone therapy involves the use of a prescription drug that’s approved by FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and overseen by healthcare providers. These programs blend medications with therapy to support recovery. Marijuana maintenance, on the other hand, is usually self-administered, which can introduce risks due to the absence of structured guidance and support.


Why a Marijuana Maintenance Program Can Be Dangerous

While marijuana is often seen as less harmful than other substances, it carries risks for those in recovery from those in recovery from drugs or alcohol. A weed maintenance program may be damaging to the recovery process in many different ways.


  • Risk of new addictions: Research show that anywhere from 10% to 30% of people who use marijuana will develop an addiction (marijuana use disorder). This risk is increased in those who start using the drug during adolescence, and in people who use marijuana heavily. Using marijuana as a substitute for another substance of abuse may replace one addiction with another.
  • Undermines true sobriety: Sobriety is more than just the absence of drug or alcohol use. Ongoing sobriety involves maintaining a healthy, productive, and fulfilling life. Swapping one drug for another doesn’t align with the principles of sobriety.
  • Triggers for relapse: For those who have struggled with the abuse of addictive substances, marijuana can act as a powerful trigger, reigniting cravings and potentially leading to a relapse.
  • Escape mechanism: Many people turn to marijuana for its numbing effects, using it to self-medicate physical or psychological pain. This usage mimics the behavior that many seek to overcome in recovery: using substances to avoid dealing with life’s problems. Instead of learning healthy coping mechanisms through therapy or supportive activities, relying on marijuana can prevent people from truly confronting and overcoming their issues with substance abuse.
  • Compromises mental functions: Marijuana use can alter cognitive functions, affecting memory, judgment, and even perception of time. Utilizing a substance that impacts mental clarity runs counter to the fundamental objectives of maintaining abstinence and rebuilding a stable, stimulating life.


Safer Alternatives to Marijuana Maintenance

Recovery from addiction is a unique experience for every individual. Here are safer and more broad-based recovery strategies that avoid the risks associated with marijuana maintenance:


  • Customized and adaptive treatment planning: Developing treatment programs that are tailored to the individual’s specific needs and circumstances ensures a targeted and effective approach to recovery.
  • Medically supervised detoxification: Supervised medical detox enables individuals to safely withdraw from drugs or alcohol with access to medications approved by FDA rather than risking the use of marijuana as a coping mechanism. Supervised detoxification streamlines the withdrawal process, addresses physical dependence, and enables the transition to ongoing treatment.
  • Comprehensive behavioral therapies: Behavioral therapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is central to effective addiction treatment. Through CBT sessions, people identify personal addiction triggers and develop coping mechanisms that are healthier than using marijuana to self-medicate.
  • Group support systems: Participating in group therapy and support groups provides invaluable peer support and access to those with lived experience of similar challenges, promoting a community of encouragement and accountability.
  • Targeted aftercare: Designing a thorough aftercare plan to support ongoing recovery efforts after the initial rehab phase is integral to lasting recovery, providing continued support and resources.


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Get Effective Treatment for Drug & Alcohol Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

If you’re struggling with marijuana in addition to any other mental health disorder, alcohol addiction, or drug addiction, our evidence-based program can help.

While we don’t offer treatment for marijuana alone, addiction to cannabis often co-occurs with other mental health or substance abuse disorders which we offer treatment for.

Begin your marijuana addiction recovery Los Angeles at Gratitude Lodge in Long Beach or Newport Beach, CA. Marijuana and alcohol withdrawal can be mitigated during supervised medical detoxification at one of our luxury beachside facilities.

During ongoing inpatient treatment, you can access a personalized blend of science-backed and holistic interventions that include:

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Talk therapies
  • Motivational therapies
  • One-to-one counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic treatments
  • Aftercare planning


Call our friendly recovery specialists at 800-994-2184 for immediate assistance.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

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