There is a lot of press right now about the idea that we might be able to treat opiate addiction using marijuana as a replacement therapy.
However, there is a lessor known chemical in marijuana known as CBB that does not really get the user high or create any major euphoric effect.
Live Science reports that “A growing body of evidence suggests that cannabinoids — chemical components in Cannabis plants or certain synthetic compounds — can be effective in alleviating pain, either alongside or in place of opioids.”
Apparently this CBD can be used to treat pain in certain individuals. Only recently have people really started to experiment with extracting CBD and using it for various purposes, such as treating anxiety or pain, so we do not really have full studies to support this sort of thing just yet. We are only starting to probe the possibilities.
I want to make an important distinction here though: Smoking or using marijuana that includes THC and all of the other chemicals is a lot different from the standpoint of addiction than extracting CBD and using it to target pain.
Let’s be clear here: There is a growing group of people who would like to get high on marijuana in order to replace their opiate habit. And there are a number of researchers who are looking to investigate this as a real possibility, because–at least in the short run–it seems to work. Take your average opiate addict, switch that person over to getting high on marijuana every day instead, and see how they do. Maybe give them counseling, put them through a medical detox to get them off of the opiates, and then simply prescribe for them to get high on marijuana every day. Then measure your rate of relapse when it comes to opiates.
Studies that have been organized in that way tend to show favorable results. If you take opiate addicts and clean them up and then put them on “the marijuana maintenance program” they tend to do fairly well, at least initially. So this approach is gaining some support and people are getting excited about it.
I think there is some danger in this line of thinking. Imagine if you are the struggling addict and you hear about a way to get off of opiates by getting high every day. This sounds enticing if you are a real addict because then you don’t have to face the monster that is “total and complete abstinence.” Then you don’t have to face reality directly, you can instead continue to medicate using marijuana and avoid having to feel uncomfortable feelings.
The problem with this approach, in my opinion, is that you do not get to grow as a person when you are medicating to this extent.
There are more and more MAT options these days (MAT referring to medication assisted treatment). So in the old days we had methadone for heroin addicts. Today we have a more elegant and sophisticated solution which is Suboxone–it is superior to methadone because it is not as strong and yet it still stifles cravings and urges without being nearly as addictive as methadone was.
There are other drugs available, such as Vivitrol shots and even some medications that are being tested to control cravings for stimulants like cocaine.
And a lot of these medications work in different ways and seek to accomplish different things. Suboxone fills in the opiate receptors so that your brain will stop craving opiates.
If CBD gains traction and acceptance, it will likely be because it will be proven in future studies that it can effectively medicate certain types of pain while being non addictive, and perhaps it will be shown to do the same thing for anxiety.
But I want you to make sure that you understand the difference here: Methadone gets a person high. Smoking marijuana gets a person high.
But using Suboxone or Vivitrol does not give you a “buzz.” It isn’t any fun to take those chemicals, so there is no real abuse potential.
It is likely that CBD is going to fall into this latter category–not something that gives you a real buzz, and instead has a much more subtle effect.
There are a lot of people who want to use marijuana in order to treat some other addiction, or to treat their pain, or to treat their anxiety. They want to use marijuana just like a recreational user would use marijuana, and they want the THC and all of the chemicals and they want to feel “high.”
In my opinion–and to some extent, in my experience too–this is a mistake. Because once you start medicating with the psychoactive chemical in marijuana you are essentially teaching yourself to avoid reality and avoid your problems by simply getting high.
Bad day at work? Come home and get high. Frustrating exchange with a family member? Go get high. Worried or scared about something looming ahead in your future? Better get high.
This doesn’t solve problems.
Recovery is about seeking solutions and facing reality head on. The key to success in addiction recovery is that you have to face everything. All of your fears, all of the obstacles, all of your anxiety–you have to face all of it. I know that is tough and I know that can be annoying but it is the only real and sustainable solution.
If you get off heroin or you quit your heavy drinking and then you start self medicating with marijuana in order to “recover,” what are you really accomplishing in terms of personal growth?
That is the key question that you need to stop and ask yourself in the long run. If you quit opiates and you are replacing it with marijuana every day, look at the new trajectory that your life is taking. Are you solving problems and coming up with new solutions? Are you improving yourself and your life through a process of personal growth?
Because when you take away all of the drugs, when you take away the addictive substances including marijuana and you have nothing to medicate with, it forces you to grow up, it forces you to face everything, it forces you to find solutions when new problems pop up in your life.
And this is the amazing gift that people talk about who are living in recovery. This is where the real rewards are at–they come from the hard work that is required. If all you do is self medicate with marijuana and THC every day then you do not have to work hard, you do not have to seek solutions, and therefore you will not stumble on great rewards in recovery.
It is possible that CBD will not fall into this category, that it can be used safely to treat pain or anxiety and not compromise a person’s recovery. Perhaps more studies are needed before we can know just how useful this chemical is. But for now, make sure that you stay conscious of just how much personal growth you are achieving based on the fact that you confront your problems and find new solutions. That is the measuring stick that can judge your success in recovery.