Dangers of Marijuana Maintenance in Recovery

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Since the legalization of marijuana began, the subject has been discussed and debated in many circles. Lately, marijuana maintenance recovery has come to the forefront, inviting opinions both pro and con about the concept. While many believe it to be a relatively risk-free idea, many express concern about the potential dangers. 

Defining Marijuana Maintenance Recovery

Marijuana maintenance recovery involves making marijuana an exception to the list of drugs a person in recovery for a substance use disorder cannot use. In general, someone who is in recovery for substance abuse should avoid any drug with the potential for misuse. Those who practice marijuana maintenance recovery believe that pot can be safely smoked without risk of it leading to addiction. Or compromising the person’s sobriety in relation to other substances. They believe that smoking pot should be allowed in order to keep them comfortable in their recovery.

Legalizing Recreational Pot Influences the Marijuana Maintenance Debate

In 1996 California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in. The majority of states have followed suit since then. In 2012, Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana, a move that spread to a total of 19 states. Washington, D.C., and Guam follows suit as well. With so many states allowing the legal sale of pot to individuals, it’s not surprising that people find themselves with a variety of opinions about it. Businesses that sell legal recreational marijuana must hold a license and can only sell to adults age 21 and over. Taxes from sales provide a boon to state budgets across the board. 

Expectations are that eventually, all states will allow the legalized sale of recreational marijuana. For many who advocate for marijuana maintenance recovery, this supports the idea that pot is of no or low risk. They use this misguided belief to justify its use while simultaneously sustaining recovery from an addiction to other drugs.

Is Marijuana Maintenance an Exception to Recovery Rules?

The argument against marijuana maintenance recovery focuses on the potential misuse and abuse of pot. Despite being legal in almost 40% of the states, it is still a narcotic. For many, using it for similar reasons a person might use drugs or alcohol negates the idea that there’s nothing wrong with it. Marijuana usage is often cited as a way to relieve stress, anxiety, depression, and symptoms of other mental illnesses. Many treatment professionals point out that if those reasons don’t wash when it comes to using substances like stimulants, opioids, and alcohol, then marijuana should not be an exception. 

Many in the recovery community, from treatment professionals to those living sober lives, believe that exempting pot from the list of prohibited drugs is a mistake. They believe it to be an excuse to keep using a party drug, similar to someone who might be in recovery for abusing narcotics but attempts to justify heavy amounts of alcohol consumption. 

Further compounding the issue is the newly popular availability of marijuana in a consumable form. For many, particularly younger people, ingesting pot in the form of edibles takes away the serious nature of the drug. They believe that marijuana that is baked into items like cookies and brownies or comes in gummy bear form erases any potential for becoming reliant on the substance. 

Why Marijuana Maintenance Can Be Dangerous

The main ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is a psycho-stimulating substance. Marijuana, like all drugs that come with a risk of addiction, alters a user’s mind and consciousness and affects a person physically and emotionally. These effects are part of what classifies marijuana as a drug and are a part of what makes the maintenance recovery theory questionable. 

Another concern is the fact that marijuana has the potential to be addictive. While addiction to marijuana doesn’t present in some of the more dramatic symptoms that happen with addiction to drugs like heroin and crack, reliance on and abuse of it happens to many people. Some people who advocate marijuana maintenance recovery admit that they have used pot in excessive amounts in the past. They believe they can step down their usage to smaller amounts as part of their recovery. However, this is no different than an alcoholic arguing that they can cut down their drinking and still be sober.

If a person is trying to hold onto marijuana usage in order to keep from experiencing the world completely sober, it’s a sign they need help. If they find that getting high helps alleviate withdrawal symptoms or emotional difficulties related to stopping usage of other drugs or alcohol, this need should also be addressed. 

Drug Rehab in Los Angeles

When addiction to drugs and alcohol changes the direction of a young person’s life, it’s vital to get them help. Launch Centers provides a compassionate program that combines addiction treatment with helping people plan for their education and careers. Let us guide you to the sober, meaningful life you deserve. 

We know how hard it is to let go of an addiction. When you are ready, contact Launch Centers and let us help you get started.

About Our Founder

Jose Hernandez, for over a decade, has been involved in alcohol and addiction recovery helping people succeed in overcoming substance abuse and regaining control of their lives. He has experience in all aspects of the recovery world, from facilitating entry into treatment as an intervention specialist to counseling and case management at rehabilitation facilities. Jose has worked one-on-one with individuals as a sober companion and with groups as a resident counselor at addiction treatment centers and is certified by the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (CAADAC) to practice as a substance abuse counselor.

Through his professional experiences in crisis intervention, drug and alcohol detoxification, substance abuse counseling, and relapse prevention, Jose has developed a unique plan for case management that bridges the gap between a person’s painful past of substance abuse and a future of sobriety.

At Riviera Recovery, a sober living facility with multiple locations, clients continue their transition from the supportive environment of a treatment center to living well and happily in the “real” world. The program he designed at Riviera Recovery personalizes treatment plans that enable clients, including those with a single or dual-diagnosed mental health disorder, to embrace a satisfying life.

His greatest endeavor has been establishing LAUNCH, a Los Angeles-based life skills intensive outpatient program for young adults. LAUNCH works with recovering men and women to establish personal vocational and educational goals and develop the tools to successfully meet them. His mission is to ensure that no one stands alone in his or her recovery.

Meet Our Clinical Team

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Jess Beck, LCSW

Clinical Director

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Eric Chaghouri, MD


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Chloe Kruskol, LCSW

Family Program Manager

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