Marijuana Anonymous

Founded in the late 1980s, Marijuana Anonymous is a 12-step support group similar to Alcoholics Anonymous that helps people recovering from marijuana addiction. Meetings are free and provide an opportunity for members to support each other in their sobriety.
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Marijuana Anonymous, or MA, is a 12-step recovery program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous.

One of the common misconceptions about marijuana is that it’s not addictive. In fact, studies indicate that about 9 percent of people who use marijuana develop a dependency on it. Roughly one-third of people who use marijuana will develop a problem with the drug, or a marijuana use disorder, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Following the 12-step approach of groups like AA and Narcotics Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous promotes a spiritual recovery that encourages members to admit they no longer have control over their lives and surrender to a higher power.

With support from other group members, members work the various steps of the program, which involve admitting mistakes, making amends and eventually sharing the message of recovery with others suffering from addiction.

The 12 Steps of Marijuana Anonymous:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over marijuana, that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood God.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to marijuana addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

A key element of self-help groups like Marijuana Anonymous is fellowship. Meetings provide a free and confidential forum for people to discuss their problems with marijuana and share stories of how they achieved sobriety.

Some participants may choose to have a sponsor. A sponsor is another member of the group who has made progress in recovery and can serve as a guide and confidante to help another member maintain sobriety.

Finding the right sponsor is just as important as finding one at all. A good sponsor is trustworthy, available when needed and positive.

History of Marijuana Anonymous

For decades, individuals fighting to overcome marijuana addiction didn’t have their own dedicated self-help group — and many who attended 12-step programs designed to address other problems often felt out of place.

By the late 1980s, several small groups aimed at addressing the unique challenges of marijuana addiction began sprouting up in several California cities. In 1989, these small groups joined together to form one organization, which became Marijuana Anonymous.

Today, local chapters of MA host meetings in nearly every state and in several countries around the world. Phone meetings and online chats are available for those unable to attend in-person meetings.

Marijuana Anonymous holds an annual convention focused on topics related to recovery from marijuana addiction. The group publishes a monthly newsletter called A New Leaf, featuring first-person recovery stories.

An important resource about the MA program is Life with Hope, a book similar to The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Life with Hope is available for free on the Marijuana Anonymous website. The book explains the 12 steps of the program in detail as they apply to marijuana addicts.

Do 12-Step Programs Work?

While 12-step programs aren’t a substitute for marijuana addiction treatment, they can provide important benefits to individuals in recovery.

Peer support is a key component of recovery. Through groups like Marijuana Anonymous, people can easily meet like-minded individuals who can share emotional support and insights about marijuana addiction.

A 2016 study in the journal Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation notes that support groups help people build healthier coping skills, and participants tend to have more confidence in their ability to stay sober.

Providing support to others in recovery and performing service work in the community have also been shown to help with long-term sobriety.

According to a 2013 study in the journal Social Work in Public Health, members of AA and NA who attended two to four meetings a week reported between one and five years of sobriety, on average. Membership surveys indicated that 45 percent of AA members and 55 percent of NA members had been sober for more than five years.

Finding a Meeting

If you are looking for a Marijuana Anonymous meeting, the organization’s website has a section where you can search for in-person or virtual meetings.

You can also search for meetings using the group’s free mobile recovery app. If you’d like to start a new meeting in your area, MA has an online starter kit to guide you through the process.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Amy Keller, RN, BSN
Content Writer,
As a former journalist and a registered nurse, Amy draws on her clinical experience, compassion and storytelling skills to provide insight into the disease of addiction and treatment options. Amy has completed the American Psychiatric Nurses Association’s course on Effective Treatments for Opioid Use Disorder and continuing education on Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT). Amy is an advocate for patient- and family-centered care. She previously participated in Moffitt Cancer Center’s patient and family advisory program and was a speaker at the Institute of Patient-and Family-Centered Care’s 2015 national conference.

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