Cannabis is the most commonly abused illicit substance in the UK and despite many having little to no ill effects from it, its status remains a contentious issue among advocates and mental health charities.
To state Cannabis is harmless or non-addictive is evidently untrue. A number of high-profile celebrities have booked themselves into rehab for cannabis in recent years, and the number of individuals seeking treatment for cannabis addiction continues to rise.
If you or a loved one are struggling to give up cannabis, we have created this page so that you can make an informed decision on which treatment options is right for you. The good news is that help is available for both the addict and their families, and with the right support you can put cannabis addiction behind you.
Understanding Cannabis Addiction and Rehab Treatment Options
Cannabis is a drug obtained from the Cannabis plant, which has been used recreationally, medically, ceremonially and spiritually for millennia. Although still illegal in much of the world (cannabis is the most commonly consumed illegal drug worldwide), a recent trend has seen cannabis either decriminalised or fully legalised in many jurisdictions, with many more currently contemplating a change in legislation. Nevertheless, despite significant pressure from the pro-cannabis lobby, and increasing evidence as to its efficacy in the treatment of a wide range of physical and mental health conditions, cannabis remains an illegal substance in the UK: under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 it is a class-B controlled substance, with penalties for unlawful possession and supply potentially reaching five years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine, and 14 years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine respectively.
Cannabis is consumed in numerous different ways. Most commonly, plant matter from certain strains of Cannabis plants is smoked (either in cigarette “joints”, pipes, or via a range of other paraphernalia); it can also be eaten, made into a resin or an oil (for smoking or eating), vaporised, used as a balm or in various other ways (with medical research currently developing cannabis products available in many different forms).
Cannabis has several psychoactive ingredients, though the most prominent is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and central nervous system (CNS) to produce various psychoactive effects. The cannabis “high” can differ very significantly from one individual to another; typically, the positive feelings engendered by cannabis consumption can include euphoria, altered perception, profound relaxation, a general feeling of well-being, increased sensitivity, enhanced introspection and creativity, and a libido boost. However, many users also report negative sensations (especially after consuming particularly strong strains or brands of cannabis) including anxiety, paranoia, panic attacks, loss of motor control, nausea, heart palpitations, dry mouth, reddening of the eyes and incontinence.
Although cannabis consumption is not typically considered especially directly dangerous – there are no reports of anyone ever dying from a cannabis overdose, for example – cannabis intoxication is a factor in countless accidents, including many fatal ones, each year around the world, while the drug’s illegal nature leads many users into involvement in criminal activity, often with very dangerous consequences. Cannabis use can also lead to disinhibition and engagement in risky behaviour, including dangerous sexual practices. Long-term cannabis use is associated with numerous physical and mental health problems, including various cancers (typically found in those also smoking tobacco) and a greatly increased risk of psychosis.
For many years a debate raged over whether or not cannabis was an addictive drug; however, over the last couple of decades the consensus has been reached that cannabis is indeed potentially psychologically addictive – and it is now thought that millions of people around the world suffer from cannabis addiction. While many people still view cannabis addiction as being less problematic than an addiction to “harder” drugs, or even to alcohol, for those suffering from it cannabis addiction can be an incredibly debilitating and damaging condition.
Addiction is essentially a disorder of the brain’s reward centres. When someone engages in a rewarding behaviour – such as smoking cannabis – parts of the brain including the amygdala and the ventral tegmental area respond by producing higher quantities of chemicals including dopamine (linked with feelings of well-being and reward) which produce positive sensations and emotions in that person. If they continue to engage in that behaviour, the reward centres will adjust to produce more dopamine when the behaviour is engaged in, and to restrict the availability of dopamine – thereby causing unpleasant sensations and emotions including low mood – when the behaviour is avoided; the individual in question is therefore compelled to keep engaging in that behaviour in order to “feel good”. If this pattern continues, the individual may reach a stage where they continue to feel the compulsion to engage in the behaviour in question even if they are aware of negative consequences of doing so: this is the phenomenon known as addiction.
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Addiction is related to, and often confused with, physical dependence, which develops when someone repeatedly consumes a particular substance over time and their system adjusts to the presence of that substance and becomes reliant upon it for normal functioning; when the substance is withdrawn from the system, various potentially distressing and dangerous symptoms may arise which are collectively known as withdrawal syndrome. Although cannabis is not known to be physically addictive in this way, some users have reported physical withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use (though these may be psychosomatic in nature).
Cannabis can lead to a huge range of psychological and social problems. Many long-term cannabis users become socially isolated, preferring to stay home smoking cannabis than to engage in other, healthier and more sociable activities; cannabis users often gravitate towards each other, forming peer groups within which cannabis consumption is the primary focus, thus limiting their opportunities to take part in events and activities which do not involve taking cannabis. Cannabis is notoriously bad for motivation and application, leading many long-term users to suffer a deterioration in their professional or academic circumstances, with knock-on consequences for life prospects. Cannabis consumption can also lead to the manifestation of psychosis and other mental health issues including depression, which in many cases leads eventually to suicidal ideation.
Because cannabis has traditionally been seen as a relatively harmless substance, comparatively little attention has been paid to cannabis addiction as a condition requiring treatment. However, the great number of cannabis users in the UK include many thousands for whom cannabis consumption has become cannabis addiction, and a growing priority is now being placed upon the treatment of cannabis addiction, including in residential rehabilitation (rehab) facilities of which there are now numerous operating throughout the country.
Every facility is unique, and a great variety of approaches to addiction treatment are employed. However, all facilities have in common the aim of helping addicts overcome their conditions and returning to a healthy life away from cannabis use and abuse. Rehab is generally considered to be the most effective way to treat addiction of any type, and a large number of Britons are now leading successful and happy lives having gone through treatment.
What to Expect from Treatment
It is important to bear in mind that just as any given person’s experience of addiction is unique, so too is every journey through treatment and recovery. Treatment facilities may have a great deal in common with each other, but treatment needs to be bespoke to a certain extent, as every addict has their own particular challenges and responds to treatment differently. Treatment programmes are tailored to each client’s needs – though some commonalities may be observed – and need to be highly reactive in order to take into account unforeseen developments during treatment, and the different rates of progress which different clients will display. Moreover, every treatment facility will have its own governing ideology and idiosyncrasies.
However, with all that in mind, while it is impossible to draw up any universally applicable “addiction treatment roadmap”, it is possible to give a rough guide to cannabis addiction treatment in rehab.
Addiction screening and assessment
Your first port of call having entered rehab will be a full physical and mental assessment carried out by doctors who will base your treatment programme on this assessment; the idea is to get as complete as possible an understanding of your condition and of the nature, duration and severity of your cannabis addiction. The treatment plan which will be drawn up following this assessment will be the governing framework for the rest of your stay in rehab, in accordance with which treatment will be provided.
Detoxification (detox) is generally the first phase of addiction treatment. A period of detox will cleanse your system of substances of abuse including cannabis, getting you into a state of abstinence and sobriety ahead of entering into therapy and other elements of the treatment plan. During detox, withdrawal may manifest; although cannabis withdrawal is not considered particularly dangerous, it can be unpleasant with numerous psychological withdrawal symptoms potentially manifesting, and some individuals have been known to self-harm or even commit suicide as a result of cannabis withdrawal; because of this, your detox period will be monitored and managed by medical professionals on site, who may prescribe various medications to combat particular withdrawal symptoms.
Psychotherapy lies at the heart of addiction treatment; it unveils and addresses the root psychological causes of substance abuse and addiction, and focuses on the damaging thought processes and behaviours which have contributed to the development of addiction, enabling the client to recognise and remediate them. If detox can be said to treat the body, therapy certainly treats the mind, and is fundamental to an individual’s chances of a long-term recovery.
A great variety of different therapy models and methodologies are employed in addiction treatment, but any given facility can only provide a limited number of them. If you believe that you would respond best to a particular therapeutic approach or methodology, speak with an addiction specialist to find out which treatment facilities might offer that approach.
Addiction education is an often-undervalued aspect of addiction treatment. An addict can develop more positive and healthier views and outlooks on life, and get a better idea of the damage that their addiction may have done – and may continue to do, without treatment – to themselves and to those close to them, by being given a proper education about the true nature of substance abuse and addiction. A significant proportion of addicts are not sufficiently aware about how long-term substanceabuse can impact upon physical and mental health, personal and professional relationships, and life prospects generally, and it can be very difficult – if not impossible – to gain that understanding whilst enveloped in addiction. Given as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment plan, addiction education can facilitate the development of new perspectives which can enable addicts to come to understand their actions more fully, and to examine them in a new and more positive light.
Follow up and aftercare (to avoid relapse)
Recovery is not achieved the moment you walk out of a treatment facility; on the contrary, true recovery is only just beginning when you leave rehab, and you should see it as a long-term – maybe even lifelong – process to which you will need to remain committed day in, day out. In order to optimise the environment in which recovery takes place, good rehabs typically provide up to one year’s free aftercare at the end of residential treatment. Aftercare includes various elements including scheduled appointments back at the facility (for checkups, status updates and potentially for the prescription of medication); a commitment to attend support group meetings or counselling; phone and/or email consultations; and potentially much more. Each aftercare plan will be drawn up based on how the individual has responded to treatment so far, and their specific requirements and difficulties; one person’s aftercare plan may be very different from another’s, though both will have the aim of ensuring the greatest possible support during the challenging period after treatment.
Dual Diagnosis in Cannabis Addiction Treatment and Rehab
The co-occurrence of substance use disorder and one or more mental health disorders is known as dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis is relatively common in cases of addiction because of the complex relationship between substance abuse and mental health problems: many people suffering from poor mental health choose to engage in substance abuse as a means of escapism or self-medication, while on the other hand substance abuse itself can lead to the emergence of various mental health problems both as a result of how substances of abuse affect the brain, and how addiction can impact upon life circumstances with subsequent deleterious effects on mental health.
Dual diagnosis is particularly common in cases of cannabis addiction, partly because cannabis use and abuse are so widespread in the UK, but also because of how cannabis can stimulate and exacerbate psychosis, anxiety and other mental health disorders. Dual diagnosis can complicate the treatment of cannabis addiction quite significantly, because both disorders need to be treated simultaneously and because the treatment of one could impact negatively upon the treatment of the other; because of this, specialist care is usually required in cases of dual diagnosis.
Medication used for Cannabis Addiction Treatment and Rehab
At this time, no drugs have been approved to treat cannabis addiction specifically – in other words, there is no pharmaceutical cure for the condition. However, medication can be used at various points in the treatment of cannabis addiction to counter any particularly challenging withdrawal symptoms. For example, antipsychotics can be prescribed if psychosis emerges during or after detox; various anxiolytics can be given to combat anxiety; and antidepressants can be prescribed to counter the emergence of depression.
Various medications are being studied which may treat cannabis cravings, though at present none has been approved for that use.
Pros and cons of using medication in cannabis addiction treatment and rehab
As a rule of thumb, doctors prefer to try nonpharmaceutical treatment before resorting to the prescription of medication, and in the case of cannabis addiction where withdrawal is not typically thought to be particularly dangerous, it may be that doctors suggest at least initially trying to go through withdrawal without the use of medication; however, withdrawal can be both distressing and uncomfortable, and doctors in rehab strive to secure both the safety and comfort of all clients, so individual withdrawal symptoms may well be tackled pharmaceutically.
Medication is not free, but costs are usually included in the overall treatment fee. Some medicine can cause unpleasant or even dangerous side-effects; it is very important that if you are addicted to cannabis and wish to overcome your addiction, you do not attempt to self-medicate: always consult a doctor before taking any medication, and preferably only take medication prescribed by a doctor with experience in the treatment of cannabis addiction.
Medication replacement programmes for cannabis addiction treatment
Medication replacement involves substituting less dangerous and problematic substances for those (potentially illegal and highly dangerous) which someone is addicted to, making dosages easier to manage and taper down, and reducing the risks to which the addict is exposed. In cases of cannabis addiction, no medication replacement therapy has yet been approved; however, some doctors may suggest switching from high-potency strands of cannabis to less strong varieties, or even using new cannabidiol (CBD) products, as a means of reducing exposure to THC.
Duration of Cannabis Addiction Rehabilitation
How long a person spends in cannabis addiction treatment depends on numerous factors including their health status, their personal circumstances, the nature and severity of their addiction, and how successfully they respond to the treatment they receive. A typical stay in rehab last between 30 and 90 days, although both shorter and longer treatment programmes are available at many facilities.
Cannabis Addiction Treatment and Rehab Success Rate
Getting an accurate picture of how successful – or not – addiction treatment facilities are is incredibly difficult, as comparatively few addicts remain in touch with their treatment facilities for long enough to get an idea of how successfully they are maintaining abstinence. However, in 2012 the NHS’ National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse released a study of success rates in private addiction treatment facilities: the best performers managed to achieve success rates of between 60% and 80% in terms of the proportion of clients still maintaining abstinence five years after completing a treatment programme – though at the other extreme, the worst-performing facilities could only record five-year abstinence rates of under 20%.
Twelve-Step Programme for Cannabis Addiction Treatment and Rehab
Many people are aware of the 12-step programme initially devised by the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) which is now offered by numerous other organisations including Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Some rehabs also offer 12-step programmes, as well as courses intended to prepare clients for entry into support groups utilising the 12-step model once treatment is complete. While this can be extremely beneficial, some addicts do not feel able to engage fully with the 12-step model as it requires them to admit the need to put themselves in the hands of a higher power (for instance, God) in which they personally may not believe.
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Therapy in Cannabis Addiction Treatment
Therapy is fundamental to addiction treatment, and many different therapy models are offered in the treatment of cannabis addiction.
Motivational enhancement therapy
Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) is a time-limited treatment approach which is developed from traditional motivational interviewing techniques, aimed at invoking inwardly motivated change. MET is divided into two elements: initial assessment and individual therapy. MET principles are used to boost the addict’s motivation and to develop coping strategies and plans for ongoing change.
Contingency management uses stimulus control and positive reinforcement to drive behavioural change; clients are rewarded for their adherence to the treatment plan and other conditions, as well as potentially being punished for any deviation from them.
Cognitive behavioural therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) seeks to improve overall mental health and to challenge and remediate problematic thoughts and behaviours, as well as to improve emotional regulation and to help the client develop personal coping strategies targeting specific problems such as substance abuse and addiction.
The Role of Counselling in Cannabis Addiction Treatment and Rehab
Many therapeutic approaches incorporated into the treatment of cannabis addiction rely on the client finding their own solutions to their problems. Counselling, however, involves the provision of advice on how to address specific challenges such as those arising as a result of substance abuse and addiction. As well as playing a role in addiction treatment plans provided in rehab, counselling is often an aspect of aftercare, as well as being engaged in independently by addicts seeking supplementary support during recovery. If you are interested in engaging in addiction counselling, get in touch with an addiction specialist to find out about high-quality counsellors in your area.
Individual vs Group Therapy
Therapy in rehab may be given in both one-to-one and group environments. Individual therapy puts clients together with therapists on a one-to-one basis, allowing them to address their own personal issues and challenges and to work at their own pace. Group therapy brings together a group of addicts (usually between three and 12) who can share experiences and offer new perspectives on situations and concepts which may be particularly problematic for individual attendees, as well as providing much-needed companionship and reassurance.
Choosing a Treatment Centre for Cannabis Addiction Treatment and Rehab
Many people who decide to seek treatment for their cannabis addiction feel somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer variety of choice in terms of the different treatment facilities which operate in the UK. This is entirely understandable: there is no reason for most people ever to become aware of the field of addiction treatment. However, no matter how daunting the decision may be, it can have huge ramifications for your treatment: picking the correct treatment facility is vital. If you want advice on choosing a rehab, contact an addiction specialist to discuss what you wish to achieve from treatment and any issues which you feel may impact upon your eventual choice of facility.
Inpatient Cannabis Addiction Treatment Programme
While most people think of “rehab” as being residential in nature, many rehabs do offer both inpatient and outpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment – the residential option – sees addicts placed in secure, confidential and pleasant residential environments – typically for stays lasting between 30 and 90 days – where they can be treated according to bespoke addiction treatment plans.
Advantages of inpatient cannabis addiction treatment and rehab centres
Inpatient treatment has numerous advantages, including 24/7 access to medical support; on-site provision of therapy and other appointments; a safe, secure, attractive, confidential and substance-free environment in which to focus wholly upon treatment and recovery; on-site facilities such as gyms; and support, advice and companionship from a peer group aware of the highs and extreme lows of addiction.
Outpatient Cannabis Addiction Treatment Programme
Not everyone is able to take the time out from their commitments – including work and family – which a stay in residential rehab entails. For such people, outpatient treatment may be preferable: certain appointments including therapy and health assessment need to be conducted at the facility, but the addict must carry out other elements of the treatment plan independently. Although outpatient treatment is a perfect solution for some people, it can be problematic as it does not take addicts out of the environments in which substance abuse and addiction have developed, thus making relapse significantly more likely.
Short-Term vs. Long-Term Treatment
Whether you require short-term or long-term treatment for your cannabis addiction will be determined by various factors, and you will need to consult a doctor and/or addiction specialist to get an idea of the time commitment which your treatment will require.
All-Age Rehabs vs. Specific Age Group Rehabs
For a host of reasons, certain addicts may need – or prefer – to receive treatment in age-specific facilities. For instance, it might be inappropriate for young addicts to stay in the same facility as adult clients; meanwhile, elderly addicts may require facilities designed specifically for their needs. If a particularly young or elderly person that you know is suffering from a cannabis addiction and desires treatment, contact an addiction specialist to find out about age-specific rehabs.
Gender-Specific vs. Mixed Gender Programmes
Some people may wish to be treated in single gender facilities, for a variety of reasons. Some rehabs do offer single-gender treatment; consult an addiction specialist to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of gender specific rehabs.
Cannabis Addiction Rehabs and Confidentiality
Every rehab prioritises confidentiality, as their clients need to feel entirely confident that their treatment will remain private. If you have special concerns regarding confidentiality, speak to staff at any facility which you are considering attending about their confidentiality policies and safeguards.
Treatment Near Home vs. Different City or County
Where you receive treatment may be affected by your personal preferences: you may wish to attend a treatment facility close to your home, perhaps because you may prefer to feel close to loved ones and friends; on the other hand, you may prefer to put a great deal of distance – both geographical and mental – between your treatment and your daily life. If you have any particular preferences regarding the location of your cannabis addiction treatment, speak with an addiction specialist.
Questions to Ask Treatment Centres
When doing your research into different rehab facilities, it may help you to ask staff the following questions:
- Is the facility fully accredited?
- What success rate does the facility enjoy?
- What types of therapy are available?
- What are the payment terms?
- What kind of medical care is accessible in the facility?
- What aftercare programmes are provided?
- What are the rules regarding visitors?
- How long will I be in treatment?
Cannabis Addiction Rehab and Treatment Statistics
- According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) anywhere between 128 million and 232 million people worldwide used cannabis in 2013.
- The countries with the highest percentage of adults using cannabis are Canada, Nigeria, the United States of America, and Zambia.
- Cannabis has been illegal in the United Kingdom since the 1920s.
- In 2016, the Home Office estimated that 2.1 million people in the UK had used cannabis in the previous 12 months.
- Just under 16% of young people (aged between 16 and 24) in the UK use cannabis each year.
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Cannabis Addiction Treatment & Health Insurance
Although private addiction treatment does come at a cost, a significant proportion of clients in rehab pay for their treatment through health insurance. However, not all insurance policies cover all forms of treatment; if you are considering getting treatment for your cannabis addiction and wish to pay for it via health insurance, get in touch with your insurer and request written details of exactly what is and is not covered in your policy. If you want to find out about using health insurance to pay for cannabis addiction treatment, contact an addiction specialist.
Get Help Today
If you have a cannabis addiction, you may feel that you are a slave to the drug and that life is passing you by, with no light at the end of the tunnel. However, do not give up hope: help is out there in the form of numerous excellent treatment facilities which can help you defeat your addiction and resume a healthy life free of cannabis abuse.
Get in touch with your GP and/or an addiction specialist today to discuss your condition and to find out about what treatment options might be available to you. Making that call today could be your first step on the road back to happiness – so don’t delay. The sooner you can reach out for help, the sooner you can start receiving it, and the sooner you can enter recovery and set out on the rest of your life.
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