Help for Weed Addiction

Cannabis Use Disorder (CUD) Treatment

Deciding to get treated for cannabis use disorder (CUD), aka marijuana addiction, is a major life decision. In fact, if you’ve made it to this point, you’ve just passed the first stage of addiction recovery!

Treatment for CUD isn’t just about removing a single habit from your life. It’s about recognizing all the ways that your marijuana use has influenced your thoughts, daily routine, and personal relationships. In taking the first steps toward treatment, you’ve already reclaimed control over yourself. You can now look forward to regaining all those aspects of your life that have been replaced by CUD—it’s called recovery for a reason.

What is the Treatment for CUD?

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for cannabis use disorder. Two people with CUD won’t necessarily have the same response to the same treatment, the same way that two people may not have the same effects from a blood pressure-lowering medication. Fortunately, there are many strategies for treating your CUD, ranging from self-made lifestyle changes to in-person therapy. Depending on the severity of your addiction and the potential for severe withdrawal, some people may benefit from more intensive therapy. Read on to see which of the following treatment options may best suit your needs. And remember, the content on this website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a qualified physician or other medical care provider.

Self-Directed Treatment

In contrast to other substances like alcohol, stopping marijuana too abruptly is not life-threatening. Withdrawal symptoms can be challenging, but do not pose any long-term dangers to your health. This means that, for people with mild to moderate addiction, it is possible to wean your marijuana use without the supervision of a doctor or therapist. Defining your personal treatment goals, treatment timeline, and coping strategies are important aspects of formulating a good self-directed treatment.

If you choose to go the self-directed treatment route, you’ll quickly find that life-style modifications are the best way to stay abstinent. Coping strategies, distractions, and healthy daily routines are going to be your fortress against temptation. Go on a run with a friend or join an exercise class. Find other creative outlets for stress reduction, or perhaps practicing mindfulness techniques like meditation or prayer whenever you feel tempted to use.

Note: while ‘self-directed’ treatment may sound like you’re going about it alone, that isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the case. Although it may not seem like it right now, you are surrounded by people who are cheering you on. If you aren’t, though, and your current crowd is normalizing a behavior that you want to eliminate, it might be a good idea to look elsewhere—your family, other friends, even third parties—for support. Because, in the end, self-directed treatment works best for people who have a strong network of family and friends. Having this additional support helps you keep yourself accountable to treatment goals and can be a source of emotional comfort when the recovery process is tough. For more information on how to get started, check out The Weedless Guide.

Outpatient Treatment

For some people, creating your own treatment strategy, or doing a few days of structured therapy, won’t be enough to overcome marijuana addiction. It is common to struggle with more than one substance use disorder in addition to cannabis use disorder. If you’re one of those people, then just know that you’re not alone. If you have cannabis use disorder, you are twice as likely to struggle with alcohol addiction compared to others (Kerridge, Addict Behav, 2018).

Whether cannabis was your introduction to alcohol and other substances, or vice versa, we aren’t here to judge, but to help. If you are planning to quit, you may consider consulting with your doctor or a healthcare professional, as you are also at increased risk of severe cannabis withdrawal syndrome. A brief stay in the hospital, if you so choose, may also be helpful in reducing temptation to use other substances when you’re craving marijuana.

Many people struggle with a mental illness on top of their marijuana addiction. Like with other substance use disorders, having a mood disorder like depression of bipolar disorder makes you twice as likely to develop cannabis use disorder compared to someone without a psychiatric diagnosis (Lev-Ran, Am J Addict, 2013). With cessation of marijuana use, there is an elevated risk of your baseline mood symptoms getting much worse, since mood disturbances and mood swings are dominant features of cannabis withdrawal. Therefore, getting appropriate treatment may also require a brief stay in an inpatient facility or residential treatment center. Having these environments, which are designed to be a safe space, will ensure that you can get the real-time medical attention you may need when trying to quit.

Investigative Medications for Treatment of Cannabis Use Disorder

You’ve probably wondered whether there is an effective medication for cannabis use disorder. As it turns out, for the past decade, scientists and doctors have been asking the same question. Unfortunately for everyone, there remains to be a good pharmacologic treatment for cannabis use disorder that truly helps people stay clean. After all, the goal of CUD treatment is abstinence. Even so, there are a number of promising drugs on the horizon which are being investigated for CUD; in most cases, these medicines are given in combination with structure therapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy or motivational enhancement therapy.

Our goal is to put these therapies on your radar, with the hope that you, or someone you know, may benefit from one of these treatments in the years to come.

Medication
Potential Effect
Reference
N-acetylcysteine
May increase rates of abstinence
Gray, Drug Alcohol Depend, 2017
Gabapentin
May increase rates of abstinence; reduces severity of withdrawal
Mason, Neuropsychopharmacology, 2012
Nabiximol
May reduce frequency of cannabis use
Lintzeris, JAMA Intern Med, 2019
Cannabidiol (CBD)
May reduce frequency of cannabis use
Freeman, Lancet Psychiatry, 2020

Other drugs, including other cannabinoid agonists, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, have also been studied for treatment of CUD in small clinical trials. Sadly, in all of these trials, these medications performed no better than a placebo medication in promoting abstinence or decreasing the amount/frequency of cannabis use.

Medication Class
Medication
Antidepressants
Escitalopram, Fluoxetine, Venlafaxine, Bupropion, Atomoxetine, Buspirone
Cannabinoid Agonists
Dronabinol, Nabilone (Synthetic THC Analogues)
Other
Divalproex, Lithium, Topiramate

While this list may seem discouraging, or even depressing, just remember that clinical trials for drug development are an extensive and rigorous processes, and for good reason! Medications that do no better than a placebo medication essentially don’t work and basically amounts to taking on the risk of side effects without gaining any added beneficial effects. Even so, many of these trials were done in small sample sizes, which means that there just may not have been enough people to capture their effects. As these things change, and more research emerges, our goal is to keep you up to date with the latest, and most accurate, information. This way, you’ll be best equipped to choose your treatments wisely.

Stages of Treatment

Once you’ve committed to battling your marijuana addiction, you’re already on your way to recovery, so congratulations! It is also helpful, though, to have a sense of what lies on the road ahead. Treatment for marijuana addiction can be broken into at least 5 stages.

Committing to Recovery

If you’re reading this, chances are you are either already dedicated to getting treated, or that you’re considering it. While it might seem trivial, making that mental decision is an actual stage of recovery from addiction.

Setting Your Personal Goals for Recovery

After you’ve made that big first step, it’s helpful to contemplate what you want to get out of treatment. Marijuana addiction can impact people’s lives in many ways, whether it is bringing down their grades or impairing their job performance—regaining control over those aspects of life might be the major reason someone wants to recover from marijuana addiction. Identifying what is the most important change you hope you see from your treatment give you something to work towards.

Making Your Plan of Action

Even if you know what you want to change in your life, it’s not enough to just stop using marijuana—you need to have a plan in place for what happens next. Making your treatment plan might mean creating a personalized treatment, finding a therapist, or seeking out a help group.

Initiating Your Plan

The Action phase of addiction recovery can be the hardest of all the stages of treatment. When times are difficult, whether it’s because you’re having cravings or experiencing unpleasant symptoms, it’s crucial to go back to your master plan and remind yourself of what you will gain from sticking to the treatment. You should never be afraid to ask for support during this tough transition, as having an extra ear can give you that push to keep going.

Maintenance/Recovery

The last stage of addiction treatment is Maintenance. What maintenance means is that you have successfully stopped using marijuana, and that you are now adjusting to this as your ‘new normal’. It is also called the Recovery stage, because it is when you will really start to reap the rewards of overcoming your addiction.