Marijuana has a storied history in pop culture as a casual drug, a ‘soft’ drug, the one so socially acceptable even President Barack Obama admitted using it. If you’re reading this though, you may also know it as an addictive substance that can have serious life-changing consequences for those who use it and their loved ones. Partners, employers, friends, and family members often lose patience for the person who is unable to stop using, and have trouble understanding just how an addiction to marijuana can cause such a change in a person’s life. Whether you call it weed, pot, cannabis, marijuana, or any of the other names it’s had over the centuries, in this how-to guide, you will gain the knowledge you need to recover from your marijuana addiction once and for all.
Marijuana addiction is real, and recovery is possible. It begins with taking the first step: admitting that help is needed, and accepting that help.
What kind of a drug is marijuana, and what are its effects?
- Cannabis has been grown and used by humans since before 2000 B.C.
- Marijuana’s effects range from stimulant to depressant to hallucinogen, depending on the user and the various strains.
- Herbal cannabis is derived from the dried flowers, leaves, and stems of the female Cannabis plant.
- Marijuana can be smoked or ingested.
- Studies vary on the addiction rates for marijuana, but dependence and addiction are known effects of long-term use.
- Cannabis use disorder is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a condition requiring treatment.
So what are the side effects of marijuana use? To start, cognitive impairment on attention, short-term memory, and ability to complete psychomotor tasks — that’s what makes it so dangerous to drive while stoned.
Long-term marijuana use can lead to chronic cognitive deficits like memory loss and reduced IQ, and is associated with a risk of developing other mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Physically, inhaling the carcinogenic marijuana smoke increases the risk of chronic bronchitis, lung disease, and cancer.
According to the DSM-5, the withdrawal symptoms from marijuana include:
- anger or aggression,
- nervousness or anxiety,
- sleep difficulty (ie, insomnia, disturbing dreams),
- decreased appetite or weight loss,
- depressed mood, and
- at least one of the following physical symptoms causing significant discomfort:
- abdominal pain,
- chills, or
Addicts can and do recover with marijuana addiction treatment.
Recovery is possible. That’s great news for the person struggling with marijuana addiction who may feel hopeless. However, a certain mindset is generally necessary in order for marijuana addiction treatment to work. Some of the things that are generally considered a helpful prerequisite for successful recovery include:
- Willingness to admit there is a problem. As with addiction to other drugs, marijuana addiction often leads to denial. Users shrink from confronting what is actually going on, the toll the drug is taking on their lives and relationships, and the severity of the problem; owning the wreckage can be overwhelming and is often best accomplished in an intervention-type setting with the help of concerned and supportive loved ones. Admitting the truth about the impact of the addiction is essential to seeking help and ultimately recovering.
- A sincere desire to stop using marijuana. A person must not merely pay lip service to the idea of getting clean and sober; it doesn’t work that way. Of course, he or she may not feel enthusiastic about having to give up cannabis, indeed may be terrified at the prospect, but one must be willing to put it aside in order to give treatment a fair shot.
- A willingness to consider complete abstinence as a means to successful addiction treatment. Someone with a marijuana problem may not believe they also have a problem with alcohol or any other drug, but generally speaking, those who are entirely abstinent have a much better chance of recovering from their addiction because other mind-altering drugs can act as gateway drugs to your substance of choice.
How marijuana addiction treatment works
There is no magic pill, quick fix, or single technique to help someone recover from addiction. You can change your life and recover from addiction, and be happier than you ever were before; it’s just a matter of doing the work. At Renascent, marijuana addiction treatment consists of a multi-disciplinary approach to the problem of addiction. It’s an approach that has helped thousands of people who once struggled with addiction achieve lasting recovery.
Treatment modalities for addiction include:
- Education into the nature of addiction and its physical, emotional, social, and spiritual effects
- Cognitive behavioural therapy: Practicing techniques to change behaviour patterns that led you to reach for a mind-altering substance in the first place
- 12-step facilitation therapy
- Additional therapies personalized to your individual needs and situation, including reality therapy, person-centred therapy, solution-focused therapy, mindfulness principles, and art therapy
Treatment is facilitated individually and in groups by our team of registered psychotherapists and certified drug and alcohol addiction specialists, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery.
At Renascent, the atmosphere is that of a comfortable home, not a bleak institution. You will be surrounded by loving, caring, experienced staff and peers who, like yourselves, are on a journey of recovery. We have found this to be the best possible environment to support someone as they recover. The bottom line is, marijuana addiction doesn’t have to rule your life anymore. For more information about Renascent’s programs and to find out why we are your best choice for lasting recovery, please call our Access Centre, day or night, toll-free at 1-866-204-7864 or text 1-647-691-4146 to speak confidentially to one of our counsellors.
Bell Let’s Talk Day is coming up, and all we can think about is action! Opening up the conversation about mental health is important, of course, but in the work Team Renascent does we know that recovery is more than just talk: it’s about action.
Taking action in support of mental health and addictions can make sure that someone else is able to reach the recovery you have found, and it’s also a fulfilling way to keep your own recovery on track.
Here are just a few ideas for how you can be action hero this coming week:
Our alumni contacts bridge that daunting gap between leaving treatment and achieving stable recovery at home. As an alumni contact, you will be put in touch with someone leaving treatment who lives in your community. You’ll meet them, take them to a local meeting, introduce them to program contacts, and generally help them find their footing in your area’s recovery community. It’s an important job and an amazing way to give back.
Our monthly donors can choose exactly how much they give every month, so if $9 a month works for you, great! When you give the gift of recovery, you help us keep our promise of never turning anyone away from drug and alcohol addiction treatment because of money. Over the course of a year, your monthly donations will accumulate into an impressive annual gift, and you’ll get a tax receipt for the full amount.
When you go back to the house where you found recovery, you’re not only giving yourself an amazing reminder of how far you’ve come, you’re also showing everyone currently in treatment what’s up ahead. If you aren’t feeling like a shining example of recovery this week, go anyway. When you share your struggles, hope, and experience, you’re doing everyone a favour.
4. Review us on Facebook and/or Google.
When you let others know how and where you found recovery, you’re helping them find it for themselves. This is probably the easiest way to spread the word! On Facebook, go to facebook.com/RenascentCanada and click on “Recommend” to share your experience. (While you’re there, “Like” us to connect with the Renascent community and get resources, support, etc.) On Google, search for your house (Munro, Punanai, Sullivan, or Wright) and on the results page, you’ll see an option on the right hand side to write a review.
Remember your first meeting? How nervous you were? How weird everything felt? A friendly face saying “hey” can be the difference between running out the door and never looking back, or coming back next week and finding a supportive community for life.
Being of service is a key factor of long-term recovery — you’ve got to give it to get it! Whatever you’re good at, from gardening to computers, there’s a charity or non-profit organization who could use your help. (We might even have some opportunities for volunteers at our suite during the upcoming ORC.) Apply to be a volunteer today!
Members of Parliament and Provincial Parliament are responsible to you. If you think more government money should go toward funding addiction treatment programs, let them know! They work for you, and need to hear from you to know what their constituents care about.
Now celebrate your action hero status with a little dance party!
My problem with food started as far back as I can remember.
I learned to hide it when I got disapproving comments from family and others. I always wanted to be alone to eat and I would hide and hoard it. As I got older it only got worse. I used food for everything. When something bad happened, I would use it for comfort. When something good happened I’d use it to celebrate or as a reward. I would use it to alleviate boredom.
I got sicker and sicker. I began to binge every day in secret. It made me so ashamed of myself. I would have to be sure to have my binge foods already in the house for each night because I knew I was going to need them. Every day I would buy or bake lots of terribly unhealthy sugary/salty foods and every night I would gorge myself until I felt so sick that I could hardly move.
I couldn’t stop no matter how hard I tried. I would even become angry that I couldn’t keep eating. Each night I would promise myself that tomorrow would be different, but each morning I’d wake up with the obsession still there just as strong as the day before and I’d have to do it all over again.
I lost and gained hundreds of pounds dieting and then giving in to the cravings and quitting. I was in chronic pain. I had to go up my stairs on my hands and knees many times. I didn’t want to go out. I had nothing to wear. My job became almost impossible. It was no way to live. I was desperate.
I decided to have Gastric Bypass Surgery but when I lost some weight ahead of time they said I didn’t need the surgery. That upset me and sent me back to the food. I quickly regained everything I’d just lost plus.
I went to a support group where I heard about a Pilot Program in Toronto for Food Addicts at Renascent. I called them the very next day. It was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I was accepted into the program and I went into the house on October 12th 2016 for 3 weeks.
It was an adjustment at first but I soon found myself really benefitting from their program of healthy, prepared meals, classes, meetings and counselling sessions. I learned for the first time in my life that I’m not a bad person but that I have a disease. I learned that I’m not like other people. I learned that when I eat my trigger foods, my mind and body undergo actual physical changes that are a chemically induced abnormality or illness. I learned that it is a progressive disease and that it only becomes worse without treatment. I learned that unless I abstain from these trigger foods I cannot recover.
I was helped by counsellors to make changes that have literally saved my life. I have been able to remain abstinent since leaving treatment by using all the tools that were given to me. I work this program every single day and it has become a way of life for me. I have a plan of eating that I follow each day. I have a sponsor who helps me and I have a support system of people in my life that have gone through the same experiences, and who are also in recovery. I now have freedom from the mental obsession and physical cravings that used to plague me relentlessly.
I’ve lost at least 100 lbs. and I feel better than I have ever felt in my life. I’m active and I can do things I only dreamed of doing before. I believe in this program. It has worked for me. The key for me was willingness. I am so grateful that I have been helped to understand that recovery from eating compulsively is possible.
In this episode we’re going to talk about something that’s hard for all of us to do: it can be so hard to ask for help. How do you do it, and why should you? We all need help — there’s no such thing as a self-made person; every single person that you look to who has been successful has had somebody help them.
Congratulations on being on Step Three!
Many say that this step is where they truly found peace and freedom from the obsession of addiction, as they turned the key of willingness in the lock of self-will.
That is the good news.
The perhaps not-so-good news is, Step Three really never ends.
Like many of the Twelve Steps, Step Three is not a step we take just once; most people find the door slamming shut behind their self-will many times each day, let alone in an entire lifetime of sobriety.
For many of us in addiction treatment and recovery, Step Three is front and centre as we continue to make the decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a Higher Power.
Step 3 is a Decision with Powerful Principles Behind It
Notwithstanding the necessity of making the Step 3 decision over and over again, it is just that: a decision.
Reviewing the evidence, we have to decide whether to turn our will and our lives – or, as it has also been expressed, our thinking and our actions – over to the care of God as we understood him.
The evidence can be handily summed up by the ABCs on page 60 of the Big Book:
- That we were alcoholic (addict) and could not manage our own lives
- That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism
- That God could and would if He were sought
Of course, accepting these tenets requires certain spiritual principles.
The first is Faith.
We had to come to believe that, though we couldn’t do much alone about our own drug or alcohol problem, that there was a loving Higher Power of some kind who could and would help us: first by putting an end to the merciless obsession to drink and use, and secondly by guiding us through recovery and life.
The next principle involved is Surrender.
Once we have declared that we need help, and are willing to believe that a Higher Power can provide it, the next logical step is to put that belief to the test and surrender our thoughts and actions to that power.
The third principle is the one that will truly put us to the test: Willingness.
I Can’t. Higher Power Can. I Think I’ll Let It.
Some say that’s all there is to Step 3: repeated willingness to step back and let a Higher Power take the driver’s seat.
Of course, this principle of willingness does not need to be exercised every waking moment; we can hardly be said to be ‘taking our will back’ when deciding what colour socks to put on or what to make for dinner.
Obviously, as recovering addicts and alcoholics, we have immense strengths and skill sets already that don’t necessarily require communing with God before taking action.
It never hurts to seek the guidance and wisdom of our Higher Power; the habit is a good one to develop so that when we really do need to let a higher consciousness take over, we’ll feel comfortable asking for spiritual help and accepting spiritual advice.
By having faith, surrendering to the will of a Higher Power as we understand it, then showing the willingness to do so repeatedly when we need help, we will start reaping the rewards of recovery, trusting that we’ll be taken care of every step of the way.