Marijuana Is As Addictive As Alcohol

Marijuana Addiction Treatment

Despite legalization of recreational marijuana use in some states, the fact remains that regular marijuana use is harmful, especially to young people.

Why Dr. Kittay Takes Marijuana Addiction Seriously

  • Marijuana is the most common illegal drug in the U.S. and has surpassed alcohol as the most common misused substance.   Its cost to society in addiction, law enforcement, and lives is staggering;
  • Marijuana is the most prevalent illegal drug found in impaired drivers and crash victims involved in “drugged driving” accidents….especially when combined with its “friend” alcohol;
  • There is a common misconception that marijuana is safe to use, but this is far from the truth.  It affects learning, memory, intellectual functioning and perceptions.  These effects can last for days or weeks after use; with chronic use, these effects can be permanent;
  • Marijuana is a “Gateway Drug” often used in combination with alcohol.  It is associated with experimenting or recreational use of other drugs particularly non- medical use of Prescription Drugs including opioids, tranquilizers, sleep aids, and psychostimulants;
  • Marijuana is a dangerous drug and its use can have serious consequences.  It affects the same brain circuits as all other drugs and can decrease the effectiveness of addiction treatments and recovery outcome of all substances.

Pot Smokers

  • Approximately 10%-30% of people who smoke marijuana will get addicted to it;
  • Addicted marijuana users have difficulty controlling their use and continue to use it even though it has serious negative consequences to their life;
  • People who smoke marijuana are 4 times more likely to develop depression. A number of studies have shown an association between chronic marijuana use and increased rates of anxiety, suicidal ideation, and schizophrenia;
  • Marijuana smokers are three times more likely than non-smokers to develop psychotic symptoms such as paranoia and hallucinations.

Joints vs. Edibles:  Edibles take longer to get into your brain because they must be first absorbed in the gut, and it takes 2-3 hours to get there.  People tend to use more not realizing they have actually used more drug then they think. Using edibles puts them at higher risk for side effects and bad trips. It also causes more addiction and withdrawal is more difficult.

Effects of Marijuana Use Marijuana and IQ

  • Recent studies report that regular use of Marijuana results in a significant decrease in IQ;
  • Individuals who started using cannabis between the ages of 13 and 18 experienced an average IQ drop of eight points.  An IQ of 100 puts places an individual in the 50th percentile of intelligence.  If this person loses eight IQ points, it drops them down to the 29th percentile.  Quitting or toning down cannabis use did not help adolescent-onset cannabis users to recover their lost IQ points;
  • Marijuana Effects on Teen Brain Development is Especially Concerning;
  • Chronic Marijuana Use Can Disrupt Normal Brain Development in Preteens, Adolescents and Young Adult.; Marijuana is particularly dangerous to an adolescent’s brain development and can cause irreversible delays in brain maturation.  This results in increased risk for behavioral and social problems, as well as under achievement in school and employment. Chronic Marijuana Use Particularly in Very Young People Increases the Risk of Depression, Anxiety, Schizophrenia and Suicidal Thoughts.

Smoking Marijuana for Medicinal Purposes

Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the hemp plant. There are many varieties of this plant, and each contains different active chemicals in differing amounts. These chemicals are called cannabinoids and include delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol.  Medical research is exploring the value of these chemicals in the treatment of many illnesses.  THC is associated with the high of marijuana and most of the negative effects of marijuana and has no medical uses. Cannabidiol may beneficial medicinal effects.

  • Despite all the hype, there are few good scientific studies on medical marijuana, and it is only recommended in a few clinical situations;
  • Marijuana is a gateway drug to other addictions especially in adolescence;.
  • Like all other addictive substances, marijuana is associated with a withdrawal syndrome.

Marijuana Withdrawal Syndrome

Marijuana withdrawal does not make you physically sick like heroin, pain pills or alcohol.  Instead it causes psychological symptoms including irritability, anxiety, sleep problems, decreased concentration, fatigue. Drug craving make it difficult to quit. Withdrawal begins in about 1 day, peaks 2-3 days after you stop using it, and lasts about 1-2 weeks. If not treated with proper medications, you feel sick and have trouble functioning normally.  This is a major cause of relapse.

Dual Diagnosis

People who use marijuana are often self-medicating away psychiatric and physical pain.

Marijuana addiction often occurs when people try to “self-medicate” serious psychiatric  illnesses.  People with both Heroin Addiction and a Psychiatric Disorder are call Dual Diagnosis.

  • Many people use marijuana to cope with psychiatric problems. Long term, this will not work, but will makes matters worse;
  • This is why diagnosing and treating co-occurring psychiatric problems is so important in Addiction Medicine;
  • Addiction Recovery Models , must address both the Co-occurring psychiatric issues in order to be successful.
  • Kittay’s Addiction and Psychiatry Model treats Dual Diagnosis and is effective.

Marijuana addiction often occurs when people try to “self-medicate” serious psychiatric anxiety illnesses.  They use to cope with psychiatric problems such as Bipolar Disorder.  Long term, this will not work, but will makes matters worse. This is why diagnosing and treating co-occurring psychiatric problems is so important in Addiction Medicine.  Addiction Recovery Models like ours, must address both the Co-occurring psychiatric issues with the Addiction in order to be successful. Sustained  recovery is a good example of why this model is effective.


Medications used in the treatment Marijuana Cannabis  Use Disorders:

There are several medications that can be helpful in treating Marijuana Use Disorder. Some are used to reduce drug use or treatment dropout, others to decrease cravings. Often combinations of medications are used to achieve the best results. Medications shown to be helpful include:

  • Naltrexone
  • N-acetyl cysteine, NAC
  • Neurontin
  • Medications are also used to manage withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety or sleep

Medicines are also prescribed to treat any anxiety, depression, sleep of medical problems and importantly co-occurring psychiatric illness.

The vast majority of marijuana addictions can be safely and comfortably treated outpatient, and do not need inpatient care.

Your Individual Evaluation & Treatment Plan for Marijuana Use includes:

  • Addiction, Medical and Psychiatric Evaluation;
  • Examination of Co-occurring Medical Disorders and Poly-Addiction;
  • Medically Supervised Home Outpatient Detoxification;
  • Medications to reduce cravings and relapse;
  • Medication Management of Anxiety, Sleep and/or Co-Occurring Psychiatric Disorders;
  • Psychological, Social and Family Interventions;
  • Cognitive Behavioral Restructuring of Stresses and Cues;
  • Social and Family Intervention;
  • Relapse Prevention.

Treatments are individually tailored for safety, comfort and effectiveness to minimize withdrawal symptoms and avoid medical complications. Medications are prescribed to help prevent cravings, reduce use and prevent relapse.  Medications target the brain’s reward systems, and the way nerve cells communicate restoring balance in brain chemistry. Psychiatric problems and symptoms are medically treated as necessary.

Dr Kittay specializes in the treatment of:

  • Dual Diagnosis: Addictions and Co-occurring Psychiatric Disorders;
  • Poly -Drug Dependency: Addictions to more than one substance;
  • Substance Use Disorders in women during pregnancy and post-partum;
  • Drug and Alcohol use associated with Anxiety, Depression And Sleep Disorders;
  • Addictions related to the treatment of Medical Problems;
  • Addictions related to the treatment of Pain Problems;
  • Medical disorders related to addictions and high risk behaviors;
  • Male Sexual Dysfunction related to Substance Use;
  • Substance related suicidal thoughts and behaviors;

Addictions treated include:

  • Alcohol
  • Opioids: Prescription Pain Pills, Heroin, Fentanyl
  • Anxiety Medications: Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, Valium
  • Sleep medications: Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata
  • Stimulants: Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Adderall
  • Marijuana

Contact us now for more information or to schedule an appointment.