Alcohol addiction is one of the most debilitating disorders that can affect anyone. In order to stop drinking, some people have resorted to using cannabis as a substituted alcohol, a practice known as marijuana maintenance. Up until recently, this would be seen as a crazy idea. Surely replacing alcohol with cannabis is just exchanging one problem for another? Or is it?
Those who agree with the practice, maintain that marijuana is far less dangerous to a person’s well being than alcohol. They also say that it is less addictive. Studies show that marijuana is effective in treating addiction. While the idea is not without value, those opposed to it argue that the goals of sobriety can never really be achieved if someone simply replaces one drug with another.
Firstly, let’s look at the reasons people have for being against this form of treatment. What people opposed to marijuana maintenance are most annoyed about is that not only is it founded on the idea that cannabis is safer than alcohol but that it is actually safe at all. For pretty much the whole of recent history, cannabis has been seen as a “Gateway” drug.
This means that people who try marijuana are more likely to move on to harder drugs, like heroin or meth. Recent research has debunked this, but that does not stop cannabis’s critics from expounding on this theory. How can cannabis be used as a “step-down” therapy for alcohol if it leads its users to harder drugs?
According to critics of cannabis use, advocating marijuana management is not only without a medical basis but also unethical. The fundamental premise of alcohol recovery is the acceptance that alcohol is not only harmful but that the sufferer has no control over it. Alcohol can also lead to liver failure and many other chronic conditions, however, there are very no life-threatening side effects of marijuana, but there are some small known side effects i.e. increases hunger etc. The very idea that marijuana is used as a replacement seems to suggest that cannabis is something over which you have a greater degree of control.
This leads to suggest that the awareness and recognition of the problem you are meant to achieve during the recovery can simply be delayed and not truly dealt with. In the end, the critics maintain, marijuana management only results in replacing one addiction with another.
Also that doing so under the pretence that cannabis is somehow a less-harmful alternative could lead to more problems. This according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), is the real danger in this form of treatment. Among their concerns are:
Supporters of marijuana management are quick to bring up the fact that scientific research has shown there is no real evidence supporting the effectiveness of recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).
A Cochrane review of studies done in 2006 found no actual difference between the results of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) compared to those of other treatments. Even other studies which attributed assistance to AA concluded that the achievement sobriety was more associated with the regularity of attending meetings than any benefit to the 12-step model. For people who were either unable or unwilling to attend regular meetings, the rate of failure was extremely high.
It is these people that marijuana management may help. Science has proven that abstinence-only models are not only unrealistic but also actually unhelpful for most people. By giving someone the option to taper off through the use of cannabis. This means that many of the ill-effects of detoxification may be reduced or entirely avoided.
In terms of health, cannabis has been demonized by lawmakers. The difference is that compared to alcohol, it is relatively safe without any risk of death from overuse and also far less impact on someone’s long-term well being.