Everything You Need to Know About Cannabis Counseling

Everything You Need to Know About Cannabis Counseling

February 26, 2021

Conversations about cannabis (weed, pot, marijuana, etc.) often introduce many different schools of thought. Opinions differ, often significantly around the topics of right and wrong, legal or illegal, harmful or not. Those who support marijuana use but whether recreationally or medicinally, often point to many arguments that “prove” marijuana is safe for at the very least less harmful than other street drugs. While marijuana or weed or cannabis may be a naturally occurring plant, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that it is safe. Because many young people believe weed to be “safe,” it has become a commonly abused drug among adolescents and teens. The degree of safety people often associate with cannabis influences their understanding of the addictive nature of the drug itself. Teens can and do become addicted to cannabis and require counseling at an addiction treatment center like Hillcrest to reduce the cravings and need to use.

What is Cannabis?

Cannabis or marijuana is a psychoactive herb derived from the cannabis plant. Still illegal in many states, weed acts as a mind-altering substance that impacts the central nervous system and other systems within the body. Marijuana is a mixture of dried, shredded flowers as well as leaves of a plant called Cannabis Sativa. Marijuana is usually smoked; however, it can also be found in electronic cigarettes and various vape oils. In some cases, marijuana can be included in liquids such as tea or baked into edibles. All forms of cannabis are considered mind-altering, psychoactive drugs, and all forms contain TCH 9 delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the main active chemical in marijuana. The level to which marijuana affects someone depends significantly on the amount of THC they are exposed to. The potency of cannabis is measured by the average amount of THC it contains. For example, most ordinary marijuana contains approximately seven percent THC. Hashish, a much more potent form of marijuana made from the female flower’s sticky resin, contains between ten and twenty-six percent. Research has shown that those who smoke cannabis regularly or those who choose products with a high THC potency are at increased risk for psychotic episodes. Cannabis use in Teens

Data released in 2020 by the National Institutes on Drug Abuse indicates marijuana use among teens remains a growing problem. Among students surveyed who are currently in 8th grade, as many as 15% indicated they had used marijuana in their lifetime. Of those, approximately 1% indicated they use daily and 7% within the past month. Unfortunately, as teens get older, these numbers do not decrease. The same survey studied marijuana use habits in 10th and 12th graders as well. For 10th graders, the lifetime usage was approximately 33% in 44% for 12th graders. When questioned about marijuana use within the past month, 17% of 10th graders and 21% of 12th graders indicated they had used it. Daily use among 12th graders is approximately 7%, and daily use among 10th graders falls just over 4%.

Signs and Symptoms of Cannabis Addiction

Cannabis addiction is a pattern of marijuana use characterized by many of the common signs and symptoms often seen with any substance addiction. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the technical name for cannabis addiction is “cannabis Use Disorder.” As with many types of addiction, denial is a significant challenge to overcoming addiction and achieving sobriety. Whether it is a lack of awareness about their use or a refusal to accept reality, many teens (and adults) who use marijuana refuse to admit being addicted to it. In fact, you may hear your teen adamantly deny it is even possible to become addicted to marijuana due to many common misconceptions about the addictive qualities of its ingredients. According to the DSM-5, there are specific indicators your teen may exhibit within the last 12 months that could be indicative of a marijuana use disorder. For example, continuing to use it even when they know it is causing social or relationship problems, developing a tolerance, or experienced withdrawal symptoms if they don’t have access to it or reduce the amount they use. Other potential indicators of cannabis addiction include giving up activities they used to take joy into smoke marijuana instead, drug-seeking behaviors, and attempts to quit or reduce their use of weed on their own without success. The DSM-5 lists several other potential indicators of cannabis use disorder. If you are concerned that your teen may be struggling with an addiction to cannabis, reach out to the team at Hillcrest today. Let our team guide you towards the next steps of seeking cannabis treatment and counseling for your teen.

Outside of diagnostic criteria, you may notice certain changes in your teen if they are using or under the influence of cannabis. Some of the most common symptoms include mood changes, alterations in energy levels, and changes in eating patterns and weight. Some teems may experience problems at school both academically and behaviorally. Early-onset of cannabis use (before age 15) is a significant predictor of future development of a cannabis use disorder and other types of substance use and mental health disorders during early adulthood.

Treating Cannabis Use Disorder

Addiction and substance abuse disorders affect everyone differently. A struggle with cannabis use or a cannabis use disorder is no different. For this reason, the most beneficial treatment programs are those specifically tailored to meet the treatment needs and goals of the person seeking help to defeat their addiction. The first and most essential step in a cannabis counseling program is for your teen to admit they have a problem. This will likely be challenging because so many people believe cannabis to be a “safer” alternative to virtually all other drugs. Despite medical and scientific evidence to the contrary, adults and teens alike often do not see marijuana as an addictive or potentially dangerous substance. However, if you can help your teen understand the difficulties they may face with cannabis addiction, it will make the ability to reduce and control cravings during treatment significantly easier. Most treatment programs for cannabis use will include a combination of behavioral therapies, counseling, support groups, and aftercare planning. Some programs may involve an element of detox depending on the severity of one’s addiction; however, detoxing from cannabis does not typically produce dangerous or life-threatening side effects as seen with other substances.

In many addiction treatment programs, the most commonly used therapy models used to treat substance use and abuse disorders include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management, and motivational enhancement therapy. Of the above, cognitive-behavioral therapy is used with the most frequency and success across many different forms of addiction and mental health treatment.

While some addiction treatment programs for specific substances supplement behavioral therapies with medications, this is not the case for cannabis use disorder. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved any medications for the treatment of cannabis use disorder; however, research is actively underway to see if such supplemental medications would be beneficial. Some drugs that have shown early promise include medications that aid in sleep, anti-anxiety, anti-stress and anti-seizure medications. It is believed that these, as well as drugs that interact with the body’s cannabinoid receptors, may help to reduce the rewarding effects of THC thus, reducing its effects and “reward.”

Although the legal standing of cannabis has changed in many states across the nation, and medical prescribing of marijuana has increased for specific situations, the addictive nature of cannabis remains a common point of debate. For this reason, adolescents and teens are experimenting with and actively using marijuana with growing frequency and at a younger age. Early and consistent exposure to cannabis often leads to cannabis use disorder and the need for comprehensive addiction treatment counseling to defeat their addiction and attain sobriety and maintain long-term recovery. Depending on your teen’s unique treatment needs and goals, the team at Hillcrest will work with your family to develop a comprehensive treatment program that addresses their substance use and their emotional, physical, and spiritual health. It is not uncommon for teens who experiment with or frequently use cannabis to struggle with co-occurring mental health disorders. It is crucial to ensure that your teen’s treatment program addresses both their mental health and substance use needs in these circumstances. Research shows that addressing only one concern frequently falls short of comprehensive treatment needs, and relapse is common in these cases.

 It is important to remember that despite popular opinion, yes, someone can become addicted to weed. An addiction to this drug makes the possibility of adverse side effects and new or worsening mental health conditions all the more likely. If you believe your teen’s use of cannabis has gotten out of control where you are concerned about the potential for long-term effects, contact the admissions team at Hillcrest today. The ability to quickly and successfully give up cannabis without treatment is often limited. Although some can quit “cold turkey,” far more typically find their opportunities for achieving sobriety to be much greater with the help and support of an addiction treatment program. Also, the longer your teen uses, the more difficult it will be to conquer their addiction.

 For this reason, as with many other substance use disorders, early and comprehensive treatment is often the most successful. At Hillcrest, we will work with your team and family to create a treatment plan designed to consider their history with cannabis and any preexisting or coexisting mental health and medical conditions they may have. We will also ensure their return home after treatment is successful by creating a robust and supportive aftercare program. If you are ready to learn more about how Hillcrest can help your teen quit cannabis but are unsure where or how to start, reach out to our caring and compassionate admissions team today. Let us help you take these first steps on your family’s journey to a future without the influence of substance use.