NewsBriefs BUTTONS

NIDA Panel Makes Recommendations on Marijuana Treatment


November 1995

If treatment programs are to work for people with marijuana problems, they should be tailored to the specific problems of marijuana abuse and should recognize that there may be difficulty in diagnosing marijuana dependency problems, treatment professionals said on a panel at a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) conference on marijuana use ("Panel: Treatment Programs Must Become Marijuana-Specific," Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly, August 7, 1995, p. 3).

Treatment providers must provide "a non-judgmental environment for presentation and engagement" with a focus on the client's behavior, said David Mactas, director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.

The two-day NIDA conference, called the National Conference on Marijuana Use, was held in Washington, DC, July 19-20. Recent surveys have found that marijuana use is rising, especially among young people. Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Lee P. Brown used the conference to announce a new government initiative targeting marijuana use.

Marijuana treatment researchers Roger R. Roffman, PhD and Robert S. Stephens, PhD of the University of Washington said treatment programs must address the particular life experiences and desires of the recovering marijuana abuser. Because of marijuana's psychopharmacological effects, the researchers have found that many clients need to learn anger management skills.

Roffman and Stephens also found that programs should be designed for marijuana users only. "Advertising your program as specifically for marijuana use is an important aspect of getting clients to come forward," Roffman said.

The researchers also pointed to the confusion surrounding marijuana addiction as a barrier to treatment. Treatment providers should not enter into discussions that stray from the client's marijuana abuse problem, they warned, and should avoid addressing topics such as the legalization of marijuana and other social issues. Finally, Roffman and Stephens noted that marijuana abusers are more susceptible to relapse because of marijuana's perceived harmlessness.

[For more information about marijuana treatment protocols, contact Dr. Roger Roffman at the University of Washington, Innovative Programs Research Group, School of Social Work, 4101 15th Avenue NE, Seattle, Washington, 98105-6299, 206-543-5968.]