September 18, 2021

Dangers of Marijuana Maintenance in Recovery

woman standing in the mountains wondering about the dangers of marijuana during recovery

A recent trend related to addiction to drugs and alcohol called marijuana maintenance recovery has provoked much discussion. While some believe it to be a viable way to approach recovery, many point to the potential dangers of using a drug while in recovery from other substances.


The concept of marijuana maintenance recovery is that while a person who is in recovery from a substance use disorder should avoid using drugs, marijuana is the exception to this rule. Some people who support this idea already smoke pot and want to continue to do so, believing that marijuana is different enough from drugs such as cocaine and heroin to allow its safe usage during recovery. Other people who have given up alcohol or other drugs begin to use marijuana for various reasons, believing it fits into their concept of being sober. 

A big reason marijuana maintenance recovery entered the picture is due to how widely available it is now as a legal recreational drug. Almost twenty states allow adults age 21 and over to buy marijuana for recreational usage. Government regulations established the minimum age, licensed sellers who can offer it, and provided states with the ability to tax the sales. It is widely expected that within a number of years, recreational marijuana sales and usage will be legal in all 50 states. Because of this major change in the legality and public perception of pot, many people view it differently in terms of whether or not it is dangerous or potentially addictive.


Believers of the usage of marijuana maintenance recovery often cite the idea that not everyone agrees that pot is addictive. A common argument put forth involves the stereotype of someone with an addiction to crack or opioids who ends up homeless, violent, and in need of an intensive, difficult detoxification program. They juxtapose this with the idea of someone who uses marijuana not necessarily ending up in similar dire straits. The main active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly called THC, which is a psycho-stimulant. It is proven to affect a person both physically and emotionally, with many people becoming reliant on it. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse issued a report that shows that 30% of people who use pot end up with marijuana use disorder. The younger a person is when they begin using marijuana, the more likely they are to experience an addiction to it. Individuals who started engaging in marijuana usage before they turned 18 are four to seven times more likely to end up with a marijuana use disorder than those who started pot usage as adults. 

When an individual uses marijuana in large amounts over a long period of time, their system comes to rely on its effects. Reducing the amount they use or quitting altogether may cause withdrawal symptoms. While some people do not experience physical symptoms, psychological ones are quite common, which include emotional reactions such as feeling depressed, anxious, or moody. Often these types of reactions feel so overwhelming that a person gives up and begins smoking or otherwise ingesting marijuana again.


For some people who were already smoking pot before they began recovery for other substances, the difficulty they felt in giving it up contributes a great deal to their support for marijuana maintenance recovery. They point to the attitude that while there may be an addictive quality to pot, it’s not really a “vice” compared to other narcotics. Their decision to keep smoking isn’t completely about believing it’s not harmful but rather has a lot to do with feeling it’s too difficult to give up. They might also point out that they used to smoke large amounts regularly, and indulging in marijuana usage sporadically shouldn’t be a big deal. For many, this rings about as true as a person saying they used to drink huge amounts of alcohol consistently, and part of their recovery from alcoholism should include having a drink now and then. 

While marijuana is now legal in many states, citing that as a reason to allow regular usage of it as part of recovery doesn’t ring true to many. Alcohol is legal all across the country for those of legal drinking age, but continuing to drink it while in recovery from alcoholism is not a recommended approach. Even if someone is in recovery from addiction to a drug, it’s hard to justify avoiding using drugs to become high but feeling that drinking to excess should be allowed. 

Regardless of the substance, a person is in recovery from using, marijuana will provide some of the very results that make choosing sobriety a wise choice. Getting high can easily be a way to avoid difficult feelings or situations that cause stress. Rather than using pot as a crutch, most treatment professionals believe that utilizing things like therapy and support groups helps reconcile life’s challenges much better.


Gratitude Lodge understands how hard it is for you or a loved one to ask for help with addiction to drugs or alcohol. We treat marijuana addiction along with any accompanying mood disorders like depression or bipolar disorder. 

Contact Gratitude Lodge today and let us show you how you can take charge of your life. We’re happy to answer any questions you have.

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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.

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