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Legalization of Marijuana and the Impact on Recovery

Marijuana—one of the most common drugs in existence—is something we are all familiar with. It is among the most-used drugs on earth, and its legal status in countries around the world is shifting dramatically. Many decades ago, the United States was consumed by reefer madness. Marijuana was demonized and believed to have deadly consequences. 

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Marijuana placed many people in jail annually for those who sought its “deadly” high. It also was considered to have no medicinal value. Over time, society has adopted a more lenient attitude toward the substance. Doctors have discovered it can be used medicinally. However, that does not mean there are no consequences from its use.

The drug has been used extensively throughout history. Many ancient cultures viewed it as a means of healing instead of a drug. Marijuana use dates back to nearly 500 B.C. in Asia. The history of cultivation in the U.S. dates back to its earliest colonists who used hemp for textiles and rope. 

In the 20th century, political motivation and reefer madness led to its criminalization in the country. The legal status, however, has also shifted significantly nationwide in the past decade.

An Irish doctor who studied in India back in 1830 found that cannabis extracts helped to manage stomach pain and vomiting for people who had cholera. It wasn’t until later in the 1800s that extracts of the substance were sold in pharmacies throughout the United States and Europe for stomach ailments. Scientists at the point were all in agreement about THC’s ability to promote hunger and diminish nausea. 

It wasn’t until the 1900s when the substance was being exploited for recreational reasons. During the Mexican revolution, many nationals of the country came to the United States and introduced the practice of marijuana smoking to the American culture. It led to 29 states outlawing the drug during the Great Depression.

How Marijuana Affects Users

Despite some of its positives, marijuana causes many issues. Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Hoover Adger Jr., MD, MPH, MBA, shares that marijuana use is associated with reduced workplace productivity, underachievements, motor vehicle accidents, and the risk of using other substances.

Marijuana has been linked to physiological issues and psychiatric conditions. Some of these include psychosis, anxiety, panic, and depression. Medical professionals have accepted cannabis as an addictive substance by medical professionals. It is easy to understand why those in recovery should abstain from all drug use, including marijuana.

You may wonder, however, what happens when you place someone in recovery around a substance that is now considered legal and medically sound? We’ll explain below.

Legalization and Its Impact on Recovery

Individuals in recovery know marijuana can be as dangerous as other drugs—it alters our state of mind. Drug users all have one trait in common, and that is to escape what is in their minds. Substances that change our state of mind can be considered addictive.

Individuals may claim they are sober when they ingest or smoke marijuana because it is not their drug of choice. It is referred to as a marijuana maintenance plan, but it does not take into account that most people do not need to smoke marijuana for the rest of their lives. Pot use generally leads a drug user back to their substance of choice.

To consider yourself sober during recovery, you must abstain from all mood or mind-altering chemicals. A drug user will chase their first high for life. It may not be their first marijuana high, but it can be meth, heroin, cocaine, or crack. Cannabis is viewed as a stepping-stone for imminent relapse.

Although drug users have stopped many times, the allure or biological pull of the drug experience often proves too much. Long-term abstinence is difficult to achieve, and many believe they can self-medicate with a little bit of pot. 

Self-medication is often the underlying factor because users are self-medicators. They use it to treat psychological illness, or they want to get high. It may start innocently, but it can snowball and open the floodgates of active addiction that is challenging to step back from.

Will Legalizing Marijuana Impact the Recovery Community?

Legalizing marijuana is going to make the drug more accessible and readily available. Fortunately, this will not be much of an issue in the recovery community. Most of those in the recovery community do not have a problem with accessing drugs. If someone wants to smoke marijuana, they are going to do it despite its legal status. Their attitude about recovery can be detrimental to them.

Unfortunately, legalizing marijuana may undermine one’s footing in their recovery. Advertising the drug as medication contradicts their efforts to live on their own terms during recovery. Some may feel they benefit from the drug from a medical standpoint. Just because the laws concerning marijuana change does not mean you can consume mind-altering substances.



Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Marijuana. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/marijuana

History.com Editors. (2017, May 31). Marijuana. from https://www.history.com/topics/crime/history-of-marijuana

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Drugs and the Brain. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Drug Misuse and Addiction. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drug-misuse-addiction

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. (2018, September 12). from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/som/

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