Marijuana Maintenance Programs - More Harmful than Helpful?

As the movement to legalize marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes continues to gain traction, some in the medical community are experimenting with prescription marijuana as an alternative to more traditional medically assisted treatment protocols. This unproven method of substance abuse treatment poses significant risks to the recovery community, as it sends the message that a person living in sobriety need not abstain from marijuana use. Beyond that, it directs those who choose to enroll in such programs to regularly use marijuana in early recovery. These new standards are dangerous for a number of reasons, and could very well contribute to a spike in relapses and overdose deaths.

There is validity to the idea that marijuana is a gateway drug, especially for those who have already developed a substance abuse disorder. The effects of marijuana on the brain diminish your inhibitions, making you much more likely to engage in risky behaviors including a return to your drug of choice. Proponents of this new, experimental medically assisted treatment protocol point to marijuana as having fewer side effects than traditional MAT medications such as Suboxone. This argument falls apart when you consider the increased potential for relapse posed as a result of marijuana use compared to Suboxone, a fact which renders the entire program self-defeating and dangerous.

The social effects of marijuana being prescribed as part of a MAT program could pervade the recovery community as a whole, not just those who participate in such programs. For traditional MAT therapies like Suboxone, there is a clear line between legitimate use as part of a recovery program and abuse of the substance. A prescription is always required to legally receive Suboxone, and doses are usually administered on a weekly basis to prevent abuse of the prescription. There are far fewer barriers to receive a substantial supply of marijuana, and we are seeing more and more states legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational use, eliminating these barriers entirely. If marijuana is to be considered a valid medication for relapse prevention, what is preventing anyone in early recovery from procuring a medical marijuana card and self-administering the drug? This lack of regulation and cavalier attitude towards an addictive substance poses a great risk to the recovery community and should be subject to additional scrutiny and testing.

The advent of marijuana as an alternative MAT program therapy should not be heralded as a victory for the recovery community. These programs are experimental at best and present significant risk to those who opt to enroll in them, as marijuana has not proven an effective deterrent to relapse in the recovery community. On the contrary, most of those who have attempted “marijuana maintenance” on their own have soon found themselves right back in the depths of their addiction. For those in early sobriety considering a MAT program to provide a safety net against relapse, you should stick with traditional programs and medications such as Suboxone which have proven effective in the recovery community.

ABOUT EVOLUTIONS TREATMENT Evolutions is a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center located in beautiful South Florida. Our holistic approach to addiction treatment centers around addressing and healing the underlying issues at the root of addiction, rather than merely medicating symptoms away.

Our treatment program includes individual and group-based therapy to help clients understand and manage their symptoms and emotions.

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, alcoholism, or any co-occurring disorders please call us at (833) 818-3031 or visit