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Group Meetings Helping Cannabis Addiction

BBC’s Newsbeat was recently given exclusive access to Marijuana Anonymous (MA), which currently has ten groups in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The meetings are similar to other addiction group meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous and begin with everyone introducing themselves and admitting that they have an addiction. The leader then shares his or her story and discusses the 12-step programme.


At this particular meeting, the topic for discussion was ‘fear’ and how this is a major part of addiction for many. Many addicts are afraid of rehabilitation because of what they do not know. Others are afraid because of the paranoia they suffer with because of their addiction; yet others are afraid of relapse. However, the purpose of the meetings is to get addicts or recovering addicts to admit their fears and to talk openly about their problems and what is causing their substance abuse. Dealing with fear is an important part of this. Sharing stories is a type of therapy and many members regularly attend meetings because they are worried that, if they stop, they will find themselves back smoking cannabis again.

Are Cannabis Addicts Getting Enough Help?

Many believe that cannabis addicts do not get enough help because priority is given to those who are hooked on harder drugs such as cocaine or heroin. A lot of users and addiction experts feel that cannabis addicts have been let down by the system. However, health officials insist that there is help our there for those addicted to cannabis.

One of the members of the MA meeting that Newsbeat visited told them the story of how he became an addict. He said that he began smoking cannabis at the age of thirteen because ‘everyone was doing it’. However, he soon began smoking more of the drug and, by the age of fifteen, was smoking it every day. By the time he was 18, he knew he had a problem, especially when he was smoking even when he did not really want to be. He said, “Physically it drained me, it made me very unhealthy. It made me very yellow in the face, it made me very unwell.” He also says that he felt ‘worthless’ and that his life was not worth living if he did not smoke cannabis.

It got to the stage at which he was spending £100 every day on his habit and would smoke it before, during, and after work; he was lying to friends so that he could be on his own to smoke it. When things got so bad that he could not afford to buy what he needed, he began dealing. It was only when his home was raided by police that he hit rock bottom and knew he needed help to quit his addiction. He then joined MA and successfully kicked his habit. He revealed that he could talk about his feelings at the meetings while not being judged. He has now been clean for nine months.

Cannabis Facts

Cannabis is a Class B drug. Possession of the drug can carry a prison sentence of up to five years. No matter what you are using it for, and regardless of whether it is for pain relief, it is an offence to possess it and you can be prosecuted. If you are caught producing or supplying the drug, then you could face a prison sentence of up to fourteen years. It is important to note that even if you give cannabis to a friend, it is considered as supply and one can face the maximum penalties.

Addiction to Cannabis

For years, many people believed that cannabis was not addictive; the truth is that it is not as addictive as other hard drugs such as heroin or cocaine. However, for ten per cent of people, cannabis does become addictive and they soon begin to find it difficult to control their use. They will also find that even when cannabis begins to have a negative impact on their lives, they still cannot stop using it.

Consequences of a Cannabis Addiction

  • Cannabis can have a negative impact on physical health and on brain function. Because the drug is smoked with tobacco, users can develop the same type of illnesses that smokers do, including lung and mouth cancers.
  • Cannabis can have a negative effect on mental health, with users more likely to develop psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia. Paranoia, depression, hallucinations, and delusions are also common among cannabis users.
  • Fertility can also be affected in those who use cannabis, with sperm production believed to be disrupted in men and ovulation in women.
  • Studies have shown that cannabis use can affect brain function by causing abnormalities in the centres that are responsible for controlling reward and emotion. It is believed that even those who use cannabis casually are at a higher risk of developing other addictions in the future.

Types of Rehabilitation Treatment for Cannabis Addiction

A cannabis addiction is similar to addictions to other substances, although many people with a cannabis addiction will also be suffering with some form of mental illness that needs to be addressed. The following are a few examples of treatments available for those with a cannabis addiction.

  • Cognitive-behavioural therapy – Cognitive-behavioural therapy is a treatment option that uses discussion to help addicts deal with their addiction by changing the way they behave and think. It is a popular therapy for dealing with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, which is why it is ideal for cannabis addiction. This is often the first step in a treatment programme for cannabis addiction because it teaches the addict how to deal with their problems in a positive manner.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy – Motivational enhancement therapy is a counselling technique that encourages addicts to accept treatment and stop taking drugs. A number of sessions with the patient will deal with the issues surrounding the addiction and certain strategies are suggested for helping the patient overcome addiction. This approach is helpful in improving an addict’s commitment to treatment as well as reducing their intake of cannabis. It is best used in combination with cognitive-behavioural therapy for treating cannabis addiction.
  • Contingency management – Contingency management principles are often used for treating cannabis addiction. This method involves using rewards for positive behaviour. Incentive based treatment programmes have proven to be highly effective for cannabis addiction.
  • Group therapy – Group therapy such as MA meetings are a successful way of treating cannabis addiction. Speaking to others who are dealing with a similar addiction can be a useful way of voicing issues and concerns. Speaking in an anonymous environment is an ideal way for addicts to say what they want to say, and this can be very therapeutic.

Where to Get Help

If you or a loved one has an addiction to cannabis and would like to get help, Addiction Helpline can put you in touch with a suitable rehabilitation centre. We have access to centres across the UK and will ensure that you get the treatment you need to get better. Call us today for free, independent advice.



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