Marijuana has become more prominent in our culture, and many people see no risk in using it.
The truth is, heavy use of marijuana (cannabis) can impair your thinking, your productivity and your relationships. Medical experts are seeing an increasing number of people with cannabis use disorder.
The good news is there are strategies that can help you eliminate or reduce your harmful marijuana use.
Here are some situations that suggest you could benefit from treatment:
Using more marijuana than you planned to or strong cravings for marijuana
Marijuana use results in problems finishing tasks at school, work or home
More marijuana is needed to feel the same high you used to get
Giving up social or recreational activities you once enjoyed
Society's acceptance of marijuana can make you feel conflicted.
At Eappen Clinic, we can help you break free from patterns that can cause problems in your life. We will collaborate with you on a treatment plan that will help you feel good about making healthier choices.
What is marijuana use disorder?
Cannabis use disorder—the official medical diagnosis—once was thought to be rare, but recent research suggests that a high number of marijuana users are at risk of developing the disorder. Around one in five people who have ever used marijuana meet criteria for cannabis/marijuana use disorder. Around half of them have serious trouble functioning in certain aspects of life.
Marijuana use disorder is a problematic pattern of marijuana use that leads to significant impairment or distress. Nearly a dozen criteria are used to diagnose it. Among these are:
- Failed efforts to control marijuana use
- Continuing to use marijuana despite negative effects
- Continuing to use marijuana in situations that could cause physical harm
The number of criteria that apply to you will determine whether your case is mild, moderate or severe.
Marijuana use disorder has many possible causes and is believed to be influenced by both your genes and your environment. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people with marijuana use disorder never get treatment.
And this problem is getting worse, because access to high-potency marijuana has increased at the same time that people think there is less risk from using the drug. Legal use of marijuana as allowed in some states today has also caused some to think that marijuana is harmless. It’s not.
We can help you sort out your risk, the effects marijuana use has on your life and how to feel good about making better choices for your health.
Who gets marijuana use disorder?
The earlier in life that you begin smoking marijuana, the greater the chance that you will end up with cannabis use disorder. People who begin smoking before the age of 18 are four to seven times more likely to develop the disorder.
There is also a strong link between marijuana use disorder and other behavioral health issues, including other substance use disorders and psychiatric disorders. Marijuana use disorder often occurs in people who also have a mood disorder, a psychotic disorder, or an alcohol use disorder.
Using both marijuana and nicotine (tobacco) also carries substantial risks. There is some evidence that smoking both marijuana and tobacco can intensify marijuana’s effects, making someone more susceptible to a marijuana use disorder. Using both substances also can increase the chances of respiratory distress or breathing problems.
How is marijuana use disorder treated?
About one-third of marijuana users will experience withdrawal after stopping use of the drug. If you have used marijuana for a long time, and you experience at least three of the symptoms below, you may need to be treated for marijuana withdrawal:
- Anxiety, restlessness
- Depression, irritability
- Insomnia, or strange dreams
- Tremors, or other physical symptoms
- Decreased appetite
Several medication classes may be helpful options for treating withdrawal. These include antidepressants and mood stabilizers.
Unlike alcohol or opioid use disorders, there are no approved medications for treating marijuana use disorder, after any withdrawal symptoms are addressed. But there are many non-medication options that help patients eliminate or reduce marijuana use.
Psychotherapies known as cognitive-behavioral therapy (“talk therapy”) and motivational enhancement therapy (to feel positive about your behavior change) are effective in helping patients understand the consequences of their marijuana use, develop healthier coping skills, and guard against falling back into harmful patterns.
These are non-confrontational methods. That means we will use them to work together with you to set goals and develop strategies for a healthy recovery that helps you feel well again.
We also may consider using a reward-based approach known as “contingency management,” where we set concrete goals for treatment and reward you when you achieve those goals. Many patients benefit from receiving a combination of all of these therapeutic strategies.
The search continues for an effective medication treatment for marijuana use disorder. We will continue to monitor the progress of research into several potential treatments. Even if a medication treatment does emerge, though, psychotherapy offers the best chance for you to get the most out of treatment over the long run.
How long will my treatment for marijuana use disorder last?
Even once you begin to pursue treatment for marijuana use disorder, you may face conflicting feelings about treatment—and about the drug itself. The messages you may hear from friends and in the media may suggest that marijuana use is harmless. But have you already seen how it has caused problems in your life?
We will work with you as you make progress in treatment, as this is an illness where relapse is very common. We will never consider a return to marijuana use to be a personal failure. If it happens, we will use it as an opportunity to reorient you to your long-term goals and adjust your treatment plan as needed. Recovery from any substance use disorder is a lifelong journey.
We can’t put an exact timeline on your treatment, but we’re confident that we can work with you to build your resilience and acquire the skills you need to live a healthier life. You may be able to make progress after just a few therapy sessions, though there is evidence that staying in treatment longer will produce better results.
Should I get treatment for my marijuana use disorder?
If you have marijuana use disorder but your symptoms are mild, it’s possible that you could stop or reduce your marijuana use without treatment. A thorough evaluation will help identify the severity of your problem and what your options are.
However, it’s also possible that heavy use of marijuana has left you unmotivated or uncertain about the right path to take. If you are finding that the desire to use marijuana is outweighing your interest in any of the other activities that have been important to you, you may need treatment. We’re here to help.
At Eappen Clinic, we can help you gain a better understanding of marijuana use disorder and what treatments may work best for you. Your first appointment with us is a detailed evaluation. At the end of your evaluation, you’ll know the next steps.
Let’s work together on your road to recovery so you can feel well again.