How to Help Someone Quit Marijuana
Marijuana first became popular in the United States as a recreational drug in the early 20th century. Although use of the drug was criminalized in the 1930s, it quickly became the most popular illegal drug in the country.
The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported approximately 22.2 million people used marijuana in the month prior to the survey. Of those, about 4 million users fit the criteria for a marijuana use disorder, meaning they are unable to stop taking the drug even in the face of negative consequences.
The fact that many states have legalized marijuana use for medical purposes, and in some cases for recreational use, does not mean use of the drug is without risk. There are physical and psychological health risks associated with marijuana use, as well as the potential for abuse and addiction.
If you want to help someone stop using marijuana, it is important to first understand how marijuana affects the brain, and how these effects can make it difficult for users to stop on their own.
Physical and Mental Effects of Marijuana
Whether or not marijuana makes the user “high” depends on the levels of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) or CBD (cannabidiol) in the product. THC delivers a psychoactive effect, while CBD does not. Medical marijuana may contain little or no THC, posing little risk for adverse effects.
THC affects areas of the brain that initiate the pleasure response, as well as control movement, memory, and sensory perception. Effects include impairment of judgment and motor functions, and slowed reaction time. Users typically experience a deep relaxation along with a sense of euphoria and wellbeing.
As marijuana use continues, the brain adapts to its presence. Once the brain comes to rely on the presence of the drug, it begins to demand increasingly higher doses to deliver the desired effect. This is called tolerance, and at this point, if marijuana use stops, withdrawal symptoms will likely occur, as the brain struggles to seek balance.
Withdrawal symptoms may include irritability, sleep difficulties, mood fluctuations, decreased appetite, strong cravings, and other discomforts. Withdrawal from marijuana can be uncomfortable but is rarely life-threatening. If a person is using other drugs or alcohol concurrently with marijuana, it is especially important they are monitored by health professionals as they undergo withdrawal.
Today’s marijuana is much more potent than it was a few years ago. Plants are often cultivated to contain up to 3 times the levels of THC once present, which can have dangerous effects on the brain and other body systems.
Multiple studies have found a connection between the use of high potency marijuana and psychotic episodes, including hallucinations and delusions. Other studies have associated regular marijuana use with a greater risk for:
- Chronic bronchitis
- Pneumonia or lung disease
- Stroke, heart failure
- Several types of cancer
- Depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders
Most studies agree that factors such as genetic predisposition, how often and how much drug is typically used, age at first use, concurrent use of other drugs or alcohol, and other factors may contribute to a marijuana dependency.
Marijuana use is especially dangerous for teenagers. Research shows those who start using marijuana in their teens risk damage to areas of the brain responsible for memory, thinking, and learning, and that damage may be permanent. Studies have also found damage to the developing brain may result in a loss of an average of 8 IQ points.
7 Tips to Help Someone Quit Marijuana
- Have a private, honest conversation. Be supportive and non-judgmental, while giving specific examples of behaviors or actions you find troubling.
- Refuse to enable. Be assertive, and set boundaries. Do not make excuses for missed work, school, or other responsibilities, don’t allow drug use in your home, don’t give them money, don’t bail them out of legal problems. Encourage them to take responsibility for their actions.
- Express your belief in them. Let them know you believe they are capable of recovery, and that you will support them in that goal.
- Provide treatment information. Talk to your physician or addiction specialist for guidance. Check out treatment options, considering cost and insurance coverage, as well as local support group meeting information. Support groups like Marijuana Anonymous have both online and in-person meeting options. Have a solid plan to present to your loved one.
- Allay fear concerning detoxification. The fear of detox may stop some from seeking recovery treatment. Reassure your loved one that medically supervised detoxification is the safest, and most comfortable approach, especially if they are taking other drugs or alcohol. Health professionals may prescribe medications to make the process more comfortable.
- Be patient. Do not get discouraged if they are not ready to admit they have a problem. You have started the conversation, and it is likely they will be thinking about what you said. Stay firm with the boundaries you have set, and revisit the issue at a later date.
- Focus on your own health. It is stressful to worry about an addicted or substance dependent loved one. Whether they accept there is a problem or not, do not let your own health suffer. Practice stress management, which may include deep breathing, meditation, positive thinking, reading inspirational books, journaling, or more. Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Attend a 12-step or other support group for families.
Treatment For Marijuana Abuse
Because marijuana use impairs the area of the brain responsible for motivation, it is often challenging for users to be sufficiently self-motivated to quit using the drug. For this reason, motivational enhancement therapy (MET), which rewards abstinence with money for goods or services, and motivational interviewing principles are two approaches often incorporated into the recovery plan.
Individual and group counseling, including cognitive behavioral therapy, along with family counseling, and participation in 12-step or other support groups are also typically part of the treatment plan.
At Midwest Recovery Centers we believe the most effective method for treating marijuana addiction is found through a holistic approach. Our compassionate staff is highly trained in both addiction recovery and naturopathic remedies. Many of our support staff have personally walked the addiction recovery path and are uniquely qualified to inspire those on the journey.
Because many recovering addicts struggle with more than one disorder, we recognize the need to treat co-occurring disorders simultaneously. Successful outcomes have been shown to be the highest when this integrated treatment approach addresses both mental health and substance abuse issues together.
Contact Midwest Recovery Centers to start your recovery now.