Is Addiction a Disease and Can Marijuana Help You Stop? | cannabisMD

Is Addiction a Disease and Can Marijuana Help You Stop?

Marijuana for Addiction Treatment

Addiction generally refers to the unruly behavior of doing, taking, and using something to the point of harming oneself. Regardless of the person’s knowledge of its harmful effects, he or she continues said behavior. We can be addicted to almost anything. Common addictions include gambling, drugs, alcohol, technology/internet, solvents, nicotine, food and even shopping.

Addiction is characterized by the addicted person’s obsessive, dangerous, and isolating behavior, not by the substance they are addicted to. Addiction and poor mental health can cyclically heighten one another. Addiction can also be called a “substance use disorder” when pertaining to substance abuse problems, like with drugs and alcohol. Addiction can be controlled through treatment but is a chronic disease that requires consistent dedication to treatment.

Is Addiction a Disease?

A disease is defined as a disorder of function that is negatively affecting the being of a person or a group of people. Addiction becomes a disease when the substance affects a person in a harmful way. Just like asthma and diabetes follow a particular pattern, so does addiction.

Several relapses can occur when a patient goes into remission when fighting an illness. For instance, drug addiction is a relapsing brain disease. It affects the brain, resulting in psychological and behavioral changes. It’d be helpful if the public accepted that addiction is a disease. It’d help us better understand why continued addicted is not a mere “choice.” It’s not all about willpower. However, there are effective treatment options for those who are ready.

What Is an Opiate Addiction?

Opiate addiction has become an epidemic, with an increasing number of deaths from its abuse over the years. Although many of us use the words interchangeably, opiate (natural) and opioid (synthetic) are not necessarily similar. However, they both will cause a “high” feeling, are highly addictive, and have serious side effects.

Opiates are derived from the Papaver Somniferum plant (famously known as Opium). Opium was cultivated by the Sumerians in 3,400 BC. Opium plants are known to relieve pain, improve bowels, induce sleep, and suppress coughs.

Opiates are prescribed for moderate to severe pain. They are in a range of drugs, including:

  • Morphine
  • Meperidine
  • Codeine (less powerful, used for coughs)
  • Hydrocodone (brand names: Lortab & Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (Percil & Oxycontin)
  • Fentanyl (analgesic for skin or transdermal patch)

There are also opiate-based illicit street drugs, most notably heroin. Individuals have died from abusing both illegal heroin and the prescription drug morphine. Heroin is made from morphine after all. Opiate addiction is one of the deadliest addictions. It is treatable if the addicted person wants help. This is why it is paramount we acknowledge addiction as a disease. That way we can lessen stigma and encourage people to seek out help.

What Are Conventional Treatments for Addiction?

Conventional treatments have varied success but have worked for some. The most common treatment methods are:

  • Psychotherapy is a series of talk therapy sessions with a specialist or expert.
  • Self-help groups involve meeting with other people with the same addiction. Sharing one’s own story with addiction can be healthy and helpful.
  • Easing withdrawal symptoms can seriously help. Tapering is one example of addressing withdrawal symptoms. If recovery is less painful, more people will commit to it.
  • Moral support is one of the most important. Support can come from family and friends. It can help patients feel motivated to recover.

What Are the Alternative Treatments?

When treating addictions, expecting an immediate 360-degree turn around will leave you disappointed. It’s a matter of conditioning the body and the mind. Some of the specialists and rehabilitation experts recommend a method called tapering (reduced dosage) of the drug in question. They claim it could help the patient make some adjustments until eventually they recover. It’s a gradual treatment method.

This brings us to the newly discovered alternative: Marijuana. One study showed by adding cannabis (marijuana) to opioids, the drug becomes safer. This happens because cannabis prevents the tolerance build up of opiates and the desire for dosage escalation. This method of tapering allows the addiction to be lessened over time.

Marijuana is safer than other options that could worsen the withdrawal process. Scientists detail opioid and cannabinoid receptors in our brains. The receptors communicate and connect, resulting in the psychological and behavioral changes. Opiates cause more death than marijuana. There is no deadly cannabis overdose on record. We already know that your next concern is: “Isn’t marijuana addictive as well?” Unfortunately, cannabis is addictive and many can become dependent on its affects.

According to a study, by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), out of recreational marijuana users, 9% became addicted. Addiction to cannabis is caused by one cannabinoid out of over 80 cannabinoids in the plant. The cannabinoid that causes addiction is THC. THC is addictive because it release dopamine–the happy drug–into our brain. Opiates also release dopamine.

We have to understand there are other chemical compounds in cannabis aside from the infamous tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis also has cannabidiol (CBD) which has proven to be a potent medicine for a range of ailments. Unlike THC, which binds itself directly to the cannabinoid brain receptors, CBD indirectly attaches to our endocannabinoid system. There is not a psychoactive effect from using CBD.

CBD is able to balance the chemicals, hormones, and general activity of our body. In essence, CBD enables the body to find homeostasis. CBD also counteracts some of the effects of THC. Even with the use of THC, cannabis is relatively low in harm, particularly compared to harsher drugs.

The use of cannabis for recovery should be in relative moderation. Yet, when compared to the deadly effects of opiates, it is relatively safe. If cannabis is able to save an addict, by offering an exit from a harsher addiction, the associated “high” and potential dependency is worth it.

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