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Marijuana Addiction Relapse

Recovering from an addiction to marijuana is a process just like it is with other substances. It’s common for a person in recovery to experience marijuana relapse; however, that doesn’t mean they have failed, and continued recovery is possible.1 Relapse often means you may need to try a different approach to your recovery.

In this article, learn more about relapsing on marijuana, including:

  • What is a relapse?
  • How to recover from a relapse.
  • Warning signs of a relapse.
  • How to reframe a relapse.
  • How to find a relapse prevention program.

What Is a Marijuana Relapse?

A marijuana relapse is defined as the return to marijuana use after a period of abstinence, or not using.1 Relapsing is often a part of the marijuana recovery process and should be viewed as an opportunity to gain insight into what is and isn’t working in your recovery.

The percentage of people in recovery who relapse after an extended period of abstinence resembles that of other medical illnesses, such as high blood pressure, asthma, and diabetes.1 Research shows that 85% of people struggling with addiction who stop substance use often start using again within a year.3

When a person is experiencing marijuana withdrawal or post-acute withdrawal, they can be more vulnerable to relapse.4 Marijuana that contains THC (delta­-9-­tetrahydro-cannabinol) may be more associated with withdrawal symptoms, particularly for people who used it in large doses or for long periods of time.5 Experiencing withdrawal symptoms may lead people to use a substance again to get relief.6

Several different risk factors may lead someone to relapse on marijuana, including:2

  • Experiencing stress.
  • Lacking a relapse prevention plan.
  • Believing that you can use it again after a period of sobriety.
  • Being around people who are still abusing marijuana.
  • Having strong cravings to use marijuana.
  • Lack of positive coping skills.
  • Relapsing in the past.
  • Being around triggers, such as places where you used or paraphernalia.
  • Experiencing relationship, family, or financial problems.

How to Recover from a Marijuana Relapse

If you or someone you love has relapsed and is experiencing a medical emergency or overdose, call 911. After being medically stabilized, you and your treatment team can discuss the next steps for receiving treatment and continuing recovery.

If you or someone you love relapses on marijuana, don’t view it as a defeat. You can do many things to help encourage ongoing recovery like:2

  • Recognize triggers to help you improve coping skills down the line.2 Was there a crisis that led to the relapse? Were you having problems with a job, family, or friends? Were you bored? Was it related to a specific event?
  • Reach out for help like contacting your therapist, a 12-step sponsor, or a trusted loved one.
  • Return to treatment even if you’ve completed a marijuana recovery program before. You can always learn something new and figure out ways to prevent relapse in the future. If the relapse was severe and you have returned to consistent marijuana use, you may require a higher level of care, such as inpatient rehab.
  • Get treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders. If you have a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder (also called a dual diagnosis), you may require a comprehensive marijuana rehab program that addresses both disorders at the same time. This may include a combination of therapy and medication along with other addiction treatment services. People with untreated mental health disorders may be at higher risk for marijuana relapse.5

American Addiction Centers maintains a strong partnership with a large group of insurance companies at our addiction treatment facilities. Start the journey to recovery and find out instantly if your insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies.

Develop a Relapse Prevention Plan

If you or your loved one doesn’t have a marijuana relapse prevention plan in place, it may be helpful to develop one with your treatment team, which may include a sponsor, therapist, and/or doctors.

A relapse prevention plan can include any combination of the following elements:

  • See a therapist on a consistent basis.
  • Attend mutual support group meetings and get a sponsor.
  • Learn how to identify and manage triggers and high-risk situations.
  • Create new, healthy habits like eating a nutritious diet and getting regular exercise.
  • Build a network of supportive and encouraging people you can trust and avoid negative people.
  • Enter a sober living home to help encourage an abstinent lifestyle.
  • Develop coping strategies to help when you encounter triggering situations.

Relapse Warning Signs

A marijuana relapse is usually preceded by certain thoughts or behaviors. Here are some signs you or your loved one may be in danger of relapsing:2

  • Experiencing cravings, which can be common throughout recovery, may contribute to relapse if they are not addressed. A therapist can help teach you techniques to manage your cravings.
  • Thinking about the “good times” when you used marijuana. After a period of abstinence, some people look back on their drug-using days with nostalgia and overlook all the problems. This kind of thinking can lead back to drug use to re-experience the “good old days.”
  • Reducing participation in your recovery program. Maintaining abstinence by yourself can be difficult. If you lose interest in therapy or a mutual support group program, it’s important to find other sources of support.
  • Telling yourself you can use marijuana again. If you’re having thoughts about using marijuana again, connect with a trusted loved one, doctor, therapist, or support group.
  • Reconnecting with friends who use marijuana. Spending time with people you used to use marijuana with may trigger cravings to use again.
  • Losing interest in activities or hobbies. If you’re often bored, lonely, or sad, reach out to someone and try to find ways to spend time doing things that bring you satisfaction.
  • Stopping medication that you may be taking for a co-occurring disorder or other physical health conditions, you may be at higher risk of relapsing.2

Marijuana Relapse Doesn’t Mean Failure

It can be helpful to reframe relapse, so you don’t see it as a failure. It can be discouraging to relapse, but many people who have relapsed go on to achieve long-term sobriety from marijuana.

Different addiction treatment programs work for different people. If you completed treatment for marijuana addiction and have relapsed, you may need to readjust your treatment plan to better suit your current needs. You and your treatment team will decide if inpatient or outpatient treatment is appropriate and what services will help you recover.

Get Help After a Relapse

If you or a loved one have experienced a marijuana relapse, help is available. The caring admissions navigators at American Addiction Centers (AAC) are ready to take your call at without judgment and in full confidence. They can help you find a treatment program, check your insurance coverage, and provide additional resources to help you get back on track.

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