Why Marijuana Is Not Considered Addictive
As more states approve the use of recreational marijuana, the debates around its safety and addictive potential continue to escalate. Throughout the years, studies have proven the beneficial medicinal effects of marijuana.
Yet, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) still lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance, which means it has a high potential for addiction with no potential or approved medical uses. To put it in perspective, other substances with this categorization include heroin, LSD, MDMA, and ecstasy.
Nonetheless, despite many individuals considering marijuana not addictive, recent studies point otherwise.
How Marijuana Affects the Brain
Recent studies in humans have proven the long-term effects of marijuana on the brain. Studies suggest that regular marijuana use in adolescence can change specific brain regions involved in executive functions such as learning, impulse control, and memory. However, other studies have not found a significant difference between people who use and do not use the drug.
The conflicting evidence in humans is what makes the marijuana addiction debate so complex.
However, when looking at rat brains, marijuana altered the hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for memory formation. In rat studies, subjects exposed to THC (delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol) showed significant learning and memory tasks problems. They also experience cognitive impairment associated with structural changes to this region of the brain.
Researchers believe something similar can happen in humans. As we age, our hippocampus structure changes, which is why our ability to learn new information decreases. Chronic THC exposure may accelerate the loss of hippocampal neurons.
Why Is Marijuana Considered Addictive?
Recent data suggest at least 30% of marijuana users have some degree of marijuana addiction or marijuana use disorder. Marijuana is considered addictive because it leads to dependence, which causes withdrawal symptoms when someone stops taking the drug.
Marijuana users often report irritability, mood changes, cravings, and restlessness when they quit marijuana altogether. Once the brain becomes accustomed to the effects produced by marijuana, it reduces the sensitivity, which is why users feel the need to increase their dosage and use.
Most people don’t know that there are diagnostic criteria for marijuana use disorder. Besides experiencing withdrawal symptoms, other marijuana addiction symptoms include:
- Experiencing physical symptoms without marijuana
- Feeling like you need marijuana to function efficiently
- Inability to stop using marijuana, even when you want to
- Engaging in illegal or bad habits to get more marijuana
- Having legal or financial difficulties because of the drug
- Spending too much time getting, using, and recovering from marijuana use
Roughly 9% of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it. For those who start in their teens, the risks of developing an addiction multiplies by four.
Is Medical Marijuana Addictive?
The potential medicinal benefits of marijuana continue to be the subject of debate. So far, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved a handful of THC medications to treat nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Most researchers considered these medications, with purified chemicals derived from those in the marijuana plant, to be more promising than the use of the whole marijuana plant. While both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana are considered not physically addictive, they can still be psychologically addictive.
Because marijuana may cause changes to the brain’s structure and ease symptoms, it’s possible to develop dependence and addiction.
Marijuana Addiction Help and Treatment
It’s very common for people who abuse marijuana to attempt to quit. In fact, the average marijuana user will try to quit marijuana over six times. Nonetheless, with the proper support, it’s possible to treat marijuana use disorders. Most people don’t need medical detox treatment services or intense supervision while quitting marijuana. However, people with co-occurring mental health disorders or polysubstance abuse problems should consider detox in a rehab facility for help managing withdrawal symptoms.
Depending on the severity of addiction and whether or not other substances are involved, these therapies may help:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on identifying problematic behaviors and enhancing self-control skills.
- Contingency management (CM): is a therapeutic approach to addiction based on monitoring behavior and addressing it by providing or removing positive rewards when the behavior occurs or does not.
- Motivational interviewing therapy (MI): involves a series of interventions designed to produce rapid change; this form of treatment doesn’t treat the patient but focuses on helping them realize their internal resources for change and engagement in further treatment.
Currently, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat marijuana addiction. If you or someone you know is dealing with marijuana use disorder, consider speaking with your healthcare provider or addiction specialist to discuss treatment options.
Written by: nick
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3521 Buckeystown Pike,
Buckeystown, MD 21717
202 Perry Parkway Suite 5
Gaithersburg, MD 20877
Shannon Moore, ADT
Meet Shannon. Shannon is a certified A.D.T. who has worked in different capacities at several rehabilitation centers in the state of Maryland. Shannon has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia in Political Science. Prior to entering the substance abuse and mental health field, Shannon was a Corporate Executive for 18 years.
After years of battling alcohol and drug addiction, Shannon found purpose in aiding and assisting the still suffering alcoholic and addict. Shannon decided to switch careers and went back to school to obtain his Addiction Counseling degree and certification in Human Services in 2022 from Anne Arundel Community College.
Equipped with empathy, authenticity, and the ability to connect with people from all walks of life, Shannon strives daily to be a beacon of light and to provide “great compassion without compromise.” Shannon’s experience, strength, and hope inspires those in our program and prepares them for the real-world journey of recovery. Steeped in the 12-step philosophy and community, Shannon enthusiastically educates clients, especially newcomers in recovery, on the simple model and its transformative ways to a new life in sobriety.
Erin Marks, M.S. CSC-AD, CPRS
Residential Program Director
Erin has a master’s degree in management from University of Maryland, University College, and a bachelor’s degree in special education from Townson University. Prior to entering the substance abuse and mental health field, Erin was a Special Education Teacher for 10 years.
Being a person in long term recovery, Erin wanted to give back and help those struggling with the disease of addiction. Erin decided to switch careers and went back to school to obtain her Addiction Counseling certification. In addition, to being a certified Addictions Counselor, Erin is a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist (CPRS), and a Registered Peer Supervisor (RPS).
Over the past 7 years, Erin has worked in many different roles within the substance abuse & mental health field including: outreach specialist, discharge coordinator, peer counselor and addictions counselor. Prior to joining the Freedom Center, Erin worked as an addiction counselor with Montgomery County’s chronically homeless individuals who struggle with substance abuse and mental health. Erin’s favorite thing about helping others is seeing the light come back in a client’s eyes and then watching them succeed on their journey to recovery.
Over the past several months, Erin has worked with our team to create a strong clinical program for our residential location in Buckeystown. In addition, she has enjoyed decorating and preparing a safe, comfortable environment for clients and staff. With her passion and drive to bring success to our residential program, Erin is excited for the opportunity to lead our team in Buckeystown as the Program Director. Erin is grateful to be a part of the dedicated, caring and compassionate Freedom Center Team.
Samantha Kunz, ADT
Samantha is a compassionate therapist dedicated to helping individuals navigate their mental health challenges and find healing and recovery. Currently pursuing her advanced degree in psychology, Samantha’s personal journey of overcoming addiction fuels her passion for supporting others on their path to wellness. Samantha’s own journey of recovery serves as a powerful foundation for her therapeutic services. She approaches her work with empathy, understanding, and non-judgment, recognizing that everyone’s path to healing is unique.
Patrick Hurley, ADT
I began working in the treatment field for alcohol and drug addiction in January 2020, and it has provided me with a sense of purpose, as helping others has always been a passion of mine. I worked in construction prior to this field and needed a complete change in career as I was too suffering from substance addiction. I watch clients walk through the door, broken, and still remember when it was I who felt hopeless. After learning the necessary coping skills and engaging in a 12-step fellowship, my life began to change, and only for the better. I now enjoy working with others and helping them get through the hard times of early recovery. I still engage in a daily program of recovery myself and also enjoy fitness and health, nature, sports, horror movies, video games, cooking and spending time with family and friends. I have been on both sides of the fence, active addiction and recovery, and continue to choose recovery every day.
Melissa Cafarelli, ADT, CPRS
Melissa is a visionary and empathetic leader in the field of peer support and recovery. Nationally Certified as a Peer Recovery Support Specialist by the Maryland Addiction and Behavioral-health Professionals Certification board, Melissa’s journey has been defined by her unwavering commitment to helping others find their path to recovery. Armed with credentials as a Registered Peer Supervisor, Certified Peer Recovery Specialist, and Alcohol and Drug Trainee she has earned her place as a guiding light for individuals seeking hope and solace. Melissa’s illustrious journey includes a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, while she currently works diligently towards her Master of Social Work (MSW) degree at Walden University. Melissa’s personal experiences with addiction and mental health struggles instilled within her a profound passion for supporting others on their recovery journey. Her unwavering commitment to peer support, coupled with her own lived experience, fuels her drive to make a meaningful impact in the lives of those facing similar challenges.
As an integral part of The Freedom Center, Melissa’s multifaceted experience shines through her past work in various capacities. She played a pivotal role as a peer support specialist in the overdose response team for Montgomery County, where she collaborated closely with the Department of Health and Human Services, Crisis Center, EMS, MCPD, and Montgomery County hospitals. Her presence on this team highlights her dedication to crisis intervention and her ability to provide critical support during vulnerable times. Prior to her role in crisis intervention, Melissa worked extensively in the substance abuse and dual diagnoses treatment field. Her diverse roles as a case manager, discharge coordinator, behavioral health technician, group facilitator, and clinician have provided her with invaluable insights into the complexities of addiction and mental health recovery. Above all, Melissa’s authenticity shines through her self-disclosure as someone in long-term recovery herself. This profound personal connection fuels her passion for working in the field and enables her to bring a unique blend of empathy and expertise to her role.
David Minnick, CSC-AD, B.A.
With six years of experience in addiction therapy, a solid academic foundation in Psychology from the University of Mary Washington, and additional credentials from Anne Arundel Community College, David is a compassionate and dedicated therapist. Currently enrolled in a master’s program for Social Work, he is committed to expanding his knowledge and providing comprehensive care. Inspired by his upbringing in Bolivia, marked by poverty, unaddressed mental health, and substance use, he brings a unique perspective to his role as a Primary Therapist at the Freedom Center. He tailors treatment plans to meet individual needs, fostering healing and growth. Outside of work, he finds solace in outdoor activities like hiking and woodworking. With his expertise, experience, and passion for helping others, David is an asset to the Freedom Center, empowering individuals on his recovery journey.
James Scribner holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. His career began working in the accounting industry as a financial auditor. In that role, James audited a national trade association with over 1,300 member companies that sell health insurance coverage to more than 200 million Americans. He also conducted official financial examinations of various non-profit organizations and for-profit corporations. This experience allowed him to learn the inner workings of almost any aspect of a company. It also taught him the value of building meaningful relationships with clients and having a strong ethical framework.
James began his personal recovery journey in 2010. Throughout that process, he learned the importance of helping others and living by spiritual principles. Throughout his recovery, James has used his personal story to help make a difference in the lives of others. Over the years he grew into becoming an advocate for people in recovery or seeking recovery from substance use disorders. James is a CCAR Recovery Coach and believes in developing meaningful relationships, and providing highly individualized therapy and client care. In 2017, James had the opportunity to combine his business experience and passion for recovery to start The Freedom Center.
Being born and raised in Gaithersburg, Maryland, it was always a dream for James to start a program where he began his own recovery journey. Having faced addiction in his own life, and having worked through recovery, James truly understands what it takes to get sober and stay sober. James now has the opportunity to do what he loves and help others achieve long-term recovery. James works alongside the clinical director and administrative team to help ensure that every client benefits from a customized treatment plan and holistic approach that offers freedom from the grips of addiction.
Executive Director, Co-Founder
Corey Hassett grew up in Gaithersburg Maryland. After graduating high school, he attended college at the University of Coastal Carolina & Salisbury University. In 2014, Corey moved to Florida where he worked in retail sales. In 2015, Corey was given the opportunity to join Amethyst Recovery Center’s Business Development team. In 2018, Corey had the opportunity to partner with Amethyst and USR to open The Freedom Center in his to hometown of Gaithersburg, MD. Throughout his tenure at The Freedom Center, he has strategically built relationship with referring providers, hospitals and local government leaders. Corey has continued to grow The Freedom Center brand, educate his local community on Substance Use Disorder and become a pillar of the local recovery community. Corey’s mission is to provide quality behavioral health care to local community members who reach out in need, regardless of their financial situation. Outside of The Freedom Center, Corey enjoys playing golf, hiking and most of all being the best father to his three young boys.
Ashlyn Jacobs, LMSW
My name is Ashlyn Jacob and I’m a licensed master’s social worker. I have over four years of experience helping individuals, couples, and families navigate life’s challenges, including mental health issues, addiction, trauma, grief, and other issues individuals may experience. I graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with my Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and then pursued my Masters in Clinical Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, School of Social Work. I have experience working in psychiatric hospitals, inpatient, outpatient, detox, and partial hospitalization programs providing clinical social work services. My approach to therapy is grounded in compassion, empathy, and a deep understanding of the unique experiences and perspectives of each of my clients . I utilize a person-centered approach to my clients to help empower change within themselves.
Sydney Tubbs is a driven and compassionate Operations Director at The Freedom Center. With a profound understanding of the complexities surrounding addiction, Sydney has dedicated her career to improving the lives of individuals struggling with substance abuse. Her exceptional leadership skills, coupled with her unwavering commitment to delivering high- quality care, have allowed her to successfully oversee the day-to-day operations of a leading addiction treatment facility. With herself and her staff their main goal is to provide a safe, nurturing environment for our clients. Through her relentless pursuit of excellence, Sydney empowers individuals on their journey towards recovery, offering hope and healing to those in need.