Autoimmune Disorders and Marijuana Addiction

Autoimmune Disorders and Marijuana Addiction

An autoimmune disorder occurs when the body no longer knows the difference between normal cells and foreign invaders. This causes the body to generate autoantibodies that mistakenly go after normal cells, while other regulatory cells fail to keep the immune system functioning properly. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services website, autoimmune disease affects more than 23.5 million Americans. There are more than 70 types of autoimmune disorder, including Hashimoto’s disease, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. These types of disorders can motivate marijuana use, and if an addiction develops, the disorder can complicate a recovery.

Marijuana and Autoimmune Health

According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 104 million Americans age 12 and older reported using marijuana at least once. With 42% of those surveyed reporting prior use, marijuana is unequivocally the most consumed illicit drug in the country. There are several reasons why marijuana use might accompany an autoimmune disorder, including the following:

  • Self-medicate insomnia, pain and other symptoms associated with a disorder
  • Perceived as providing psychological relief from dealing with the condition
  • Getting high provides an escape from social unease caused by a disorder
  • Form of alternative treatment encouraged by medical marijuana advocates

Regarding the latter motivation, several medical journals published studies in recent years that suggest marijuana may help with certain autoimmune disorders. These early studies are far from conclusive, but a person suffering from an autoimmune disorder may turn to any potential treatment for help.

Marijuana Use Risks

Individuals who embrace the idea of medical marijuana need to consider additional factors, which include the following:

  • Research into marijuana’s effects on autoimmune disease is limited, per Health.com in 2011
  • Potential marijuana side effects like lethargy can hinder recommended lifestyle changes
  • Self-medicating the symptoms is not the same as treating an autoimmune disorder
  • Marijuana use can impair mental alertness and have negative legal consequences
  • Ongoing marijuana use can result in an addiction

Whether it involves marijuana, painkillers, anti-anxiety medications or any other drug, an addiction can affect a person’s overall health. Marijuana addiction magnifies the potential side effects of the drug and promotes unhealthy behavior, including the following:

  • An obsession with procuring and using more marijuana
  • Willingness to put health, finances and security at risk
  • Triggering or escalating a mental health disorder
  • Possible desire to deceive loved ones about drug use

Autoimmune disease specialists are the best resource for treating a disorder, just as rehabilitation centers are the best way to overcome a marijuana addiction. Nevertheless, most addiction programs can provide integrated care for an autoimmune disorder. Addressing both conditions together is important because pain, discomfort, insecurity and other disorder-related symptoms can spark marijuana cravings and cause a relapse.

Marijuana Addiction Treatment

From the start, rehabilitation centers help minimize marijuana withdrawal symptoms such as insomnia, irritability, anxiety and restlessness. As the body recovers, treatment specialists provide a variety of potential services, including the following:

  • Examination of the underlying reasons that motivated the marijuana use
  • Relapse-prevention strategies to handle autoimmune disorder symptoms
  • Therapies that improve cognitive activity related to behavior
  • Counseling to identify and address marijuana use triggers
  • Optional holistic therapies that improve mental and physical health

Treatment centers can also provide screenings and integrated care for co-occurring mood disorders like anxiety, depression and mania.

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