Marijuana Addiction and Abuse

Marijuana is a psychoactive drug widely used for recreational and medical purposes with a high potential for developing psychological dependence with long term use.

Cannabis - Addiction | Table of Contents

Understanding Marijuana

Marijuana is a drug that is obtained from the Cannabis plant. The plant is dried, grounded, and then rolled up and smoked, ideally in a paper similar to cigarettes or put in a pipe similar to tobacco. Although marijuana is also available in edible forms, such as baked foods and candies, it only holds the active ingredient present in marijuana, known as Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, to achieve the same effects as when you smoke it.

Some prefer to consume this substance in the form of resin extracted from Cannabis as they produce an inexplicable and a very intense high. Often referred to as “dabs,” this resin-like substance may resemble a viscous liquid, wax-like substance, or a hard, crystallize material quite similar to hard candy. This form of marijuana is generally vaporized and inhaled. Other street names of Dabs may include; Wax, Budder, and Shatter. Dabs are produced in many ways, of which the most popular is with Butane or isopropyl alcohol, both of which can be very dangerous.

Marijuana is legalized in some states, while it still remains illegal in others. Although marijuana is legalized for medical use in certain states, it is legally approved for recreational consumption in others. Medical use of marijuana is generally applied for the treatment of stress relief, pain relief, and to help improve appetite, while it is recreationally used to achieve its calming and high effects. The street names of marijuana may include Pot, Dope, Ganja, Grass, Mary Jane, Reefer, and Weed.

Marijuana, to this day, has a long and fascinating link with legislation for and against its use. Mainly due to misinformation, mixed public opinion, confusion of its existence, and the safety of marijuana use. However, it is vital that we acknowledge that marijuana addiction and withdrawal are quite real.

FAQ

Is marijuana addictive?

Marijuana use and abuse can lead to addiction.

Marijuana Effects, Abuse, and Addiction

Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that modifies perception. It contains Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the chemical compound responsible for the drug’s effects. Marijuana affects everyone differently, depending on factors such as how it was consumed and how much of it was taken at a given time. Smoking marijuana can generate a fast, yet short-lived high compared to oral consumption, while the effects of dabs can hover around for hours due to their highly concentrated form.

The common effects of marijuana are:

  • Feelings of happiness
  • Mild hallucinations
  • Increase in appetite
  • Reduced anxiety

Similar to most addictive substances, the frequent use or abuse of marijuana can result in the formation of dependence and addiction. An addiction to marijuana can be clinically diagnosed.

The common signs that indicate marijuana abuse are:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Increase in appetite
  • Lack of motivation
  • Drastic weight gain
  • Paranoid behaviors
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Memory impairment
  • Anxiety
  • Impaired judgment
  • Distorted perception
  • A relaxed state
  • Feeling high

The primary indication of marijuana addiction is the strong urge to indulge in the drug despite the negative consequences associated with it. As prolonged use of marijuana leads to dependence, individuals are no longer able to function on a daily basis without its consumption.

Consequences of marijuana addiction may include:

  • Legal consequences
  • Performing poorly at work and school
  • Difficulty in learning and remembering things
  • Financial issues
  • Neglecting personal and professional responsibilities

FAQ

How is Marijuana used?

There are a few different methods of using marijuana. It can be rolled up and smoked as a joint or a blunt, while some use a pipe to smoke it. Edible marijuana is mixed into food or brewed into a tea. Then there is also the practice of dabbing, where people smoke up small quantities of concentrated and vaporized marijuana oil orextract.

Is marijuana a medicine?

The marijuana plant isn’t recognized or approved as a medicine by the FDA.

How do I know if I am addicted to marijuana?

Some of the signs of marijuana addiction may include repeated attempts to stop using marijuana, neglecting friends and family, consuming marijuana even when it is known to cause issues at home, school, or work. Those who form an addiction may also encounter problems with attention, memory, and learning.

Is it possible to overdose or have a bad reaction to marijuana?

There’s no likelihood of a fatal overdose, but that doesn’t imply marijuana is harmless. The indicators of using too much marijuana are intense confusion, anxiety, paranoia, panic, rapid heart rate, hallucinations or delusions, increased blood pressure, and serious nausea and vomiting. In some cases, such reactions can result in accidental injury.

Immediate Side Effects of Marijuana Use

Although the short-term side effects of marijuana are not extremely dangerous, potential dangers to its use do exist. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), marijuana-related emergency room visits and admissions rose by 59 percent from 2006 to 2010.

The few immediate side-effects of marijuana are:

  • Paranoia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Excessive eating
  • Impaired motor function
  • Anxiety
  • Impaired cognition

FAQ

What are the health risks of using marijuana?

The use of weed can have a broad range of health effects on the body and brain. Heavy marijuana users can have short term concentration, memory issues, learning difficulties, anxiety, and paranoia. Marijuana can also lead to stroke, lung tissue damage, and heart disease.

What determines how marijuana effects a person?

Like any other substance, the effects of marijuana on an individual depend on a number of variables, including prior experience with the drug or other substances, potency of the drug, biology, gender, and the method of administration.

Long-term Effects of Marijuana Abuse

The long-term side effects of marijuana use are not as destructive as other drugs out there. However, a few discernible effects can be attributed to prolonged marijuana use. Although there is no plausible evidence of the damaging effects of marijuana use in adults, this is not the case in regards to adolescents.

Some side-effects of long-term marijuana use are:

  • Mood swings
  • Diminished ability to learn
  • Lung infections
  • Restrained mental development
  • Panic attacks
  • Memory loss

Possible Effects on Teens

The potential long-term risks associated with marijuana abuse were elaborately highlighted in a study conducted by Duke University.. The study showed that from the 1,037 individuals, those who had consumed marijuana regularly as teens sustained an average decline of around eight IQ points. However, the study also asserted that these IQ differences could also be contributed to other factors.

Increasing THC Content in Marijuana

The THC content present in marijuana has soared up to 300 percent since the 1960s, directly affecting marijuana abuse and tolerance to this day. The higher concentration of THC present in today’s marijuana indicates an increased risk of intoxication and dependence.

Marijuana and Other Drugs

Marijuana has generally been regarded as a gateway drug as initial experimentations have often led to the use of harder drugs such as cocaine. This perception of marijuana mainly derives from teenage marijuana use, as teens are much likely to abuse other drugs once they try experimenting with marijuana.

There has been a drastic increase in marijuana abuse in the US today as teenagers now smoke marijuana more than ever. Teenagers who smoke marijuana retain a higher chance of developing an addiction to addictive substances later on in life.

FAQ

Does marijuana use lead to other drug use?

Research suggests that those who use cannabis are more likely to form an alcohol use disorder three years later. Most of them are also likely to participate in the consumption of illicit drugs.

Is it safe to use marijuana while breastfeeding?

It is possible for the chemicals from marijuana to pass to the baby from the breast milk. The compound THC is stored in fat and is gradually released. This means that the baby could even be exposed after the mother discontinues using marijuana. Nevertheless, there is no specific data to explain the effects of exposure to marijuana through breast milk in babies. Hence it is advisable for a breastfeeding mother to reduce or avoid marijuana to limit potential risk to the baby.

Does marijuana's legal status imply its safe for use?

The fact that it’s legal does not Indicate that it is safe. The use of marijuana may cause irreversibly negative health effects.

The Dangers of Marijuana

Although there are virtually no reported cases of a marijuana overdose, marijuana does possess the second-highest rates (after cocaine) for emergency room visits. These emergency room visits are mainly chalked up to the accidents caused while under the influence of marijuana.

The psychological ramifications of prolonged marijuana use have not yet been identified, but some studies suggest that marijuana addiction may escalate the possibilities of developing mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, motivational disorders, and schizophrenia.

Although marijuana use is known to implicate short-term memory and the ability to retain new information, the long-term effects on memory and learning are yet to be proven.

Marijuana Abuse Statistics

  • Regular marijuana users in America rose by 2.3 million people from 2006 to 2012.
  • Marijuana was regarded as the primary drug of choice of around 18 percent of people who enrolled in rehabilitation programs in 2009.
  • Around 14.8 percent of marijuana users who entered rehabilitation centers did it out of their own accord.
  • According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, around 115 million Americans (44 percent) aged 12 or older have experimented with marijuana at least once in their life.

What is Marijuana Withdrawal?

Similar to most drug addictions, chronic marijuana use can also increase an individual’s chances of facing withdrawal symptoms upon quitting drug use. Although marijuana withdrawal is not as severe as other hard drugs like cocaine or heroin, most people still find marijuana withdrawal symptoms unpleasant to deal with.

During marijuana consumption, the cannabinoid receptors in the brain are actuated by a neurotransmitter called Anandamide. THC replicates and hinders the actions of natural neurotransmitters like Anandamide to the point where the body stops its own natural production. As a result, the user’s brain starts to depend on marijuana regularly to function. During this period, any abrupt cessation of THC will lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Marijuana withdrawal symptoms can affect each individual differently. However, unlike heroin or alcohol, the initial symptoms of marijuana withdrawal are essentially psychological rather than physical.

Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms may differ between people based on their drug dependence. For instance, an individual with a mild dependence on marijuana may face comparatively minor physical and psychological symptoms such as headache and restlessness, whereas an individual with a more chronic dependence may encounter serious symptoms such as sweating, fever, chills, and hallucinations. Prolonged use of marijuana can also lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, most marijuana withdrawal symptoms tend to largely disappear within a month.

Common withdrawal symptoms of marijuana may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Restlessness
  • Abdominal pains
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue

How Long Does Marijuana Withdrawal Last?

The duration of marijuana withdrawal tends to vary from one person to another. Factors such as the severity of dependence, duration of addiction, gender, and several environmental factors may all contribute to the duration of one’s marijuana withdrawal symptoms.

Marijuana Withdrawal Timeline

Day 1

Withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, and insomnia are quite common during the first day of marijuana withdrawal.

Day 2 - 3

Withdrawal symptoms may peak during this period. Patients may experience strong cravings, sweating, chills, and stomach pains during this stage.

Day 4 - 14

Throughout the next several weeks, the intensity of withdrawal symptoms will greatly decrease. However, depression can set in as the brain chemistry changes and adjusts to the abstinent of the drug. Cravings for marijuana may also persist during this period.

Day 15+

As most symptoms fade away, individuals with chronic psychological addiction may experience depression and anxiety for several more months.

Do I Need Detox for Marijuana Withdrawal?

Marijuana withdrawal can be distressing, especially for chronic marijuana users. A medially-supervised detox program can be ideal, particularly for those who have co-occurring mental health disorders and other drug addictions. Addiction to other drugs such as benzodiazepines or alcohol can aggravate the symptoms during a marijuana withdrawal phase.

Medical detox is structured in a manner to help a patient slowly wean off their substance of abuse until it is entirely flushed out of their body. This process is considered to help ease the intensity of any withdrawal symptoms. During this process, medical professionals monitor their patient’s recovery and adjust their treatment accordingly. Detoxification through medically assisted programs helps decrease the chances of relapse drastically.

Other reasons for preferring a medical detox program may include:

Having a co-occurring mental disorder along with marijuana addiction

Some may form an addiction to marijuana while trying to self-medicate a mental health condition. During such cases, medical detox provides an ideal setting to help patients receive treatment for both conditions.

Failing repeatedly to quit

Most habits die hard, and marijuana use is no exception. The distressing symptoms linked to marijuana withdrawal make it quite difficult to quit drug consumption without some professional assistance.

Living in an unstable environment

Patients who come from an unstable environment surrounded by substance abuse will find it much harder to quit their addiction. Medical detox program provides such patients with safe and secure residential facilities to help increase their chances of recovery.

Detox Options for Marijuana

Most states with legalized marijuana generally practice the tapering down method during detoxification. This method helps decrease and manage severe withdrawal symptoms during detox. The tapering-down method cuts down the quantity and frequency of marijuana use over a certain period while allowing the brain time to accustom itself to the lowering levels of THC.

In some instances, patients are recommended to undergo medical detox programs, where patients are prescribed non-narcotic medications to help alleviate severe forms of withdrawal symptoms. Medications generally prescribed during detox may include metoclopramide or promethazine to help alleviate nausea and vomiting, and paracetamol or ibuprofen to help alleviate muscle pains or headaches.

It is, however, highly imperative to consult a treatment specialist to help you find the right treatment for you.

Getting Off Marijuana

Although prolonged marijuana abuse does not form a physical addiction, it does, however, form a psychological addiction that can be quite formidable. Due to its wide acceptance in society today, more and more young adults find themselves consuming marijuana, unaware of its potential dangers. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, a majority of US citizens preferred to legalize marijuana for the first time in history. This preference is likely attributed to the notion that most believe marijuana is not addictive in nature. Although marijuana addicts do not usually display physical symptoms, that does not mean an individual is free of dependence.

Treating Marijuana Addiction

After the successful completion of a medically-assisted detox program, patients must pursue further treatment at a reputed inpatient or outpatient treatment center. While outpatient rehabs are most fitting for individuals with milder marijuana dependence, inpatient rehabs are best suited for the more severe forms of addictions.

Both inpatient and outpatient rehabs focus on counseling and therapies to unveil the root cause of addiction and to empower individuals to remain sober.

The rehabs also focus on:

  • Education on relapse prevention skills and communication skills.
  • Offering recreational activities as a means of respite from the daily treatment procedures.
  • Helping individuals rebuild estranged relationships.
  • Offering education on addiction and its ramifications.
  • Equipping individuals with stress-reducing techniques.
  • Providing individuals with a solid foundation before their transition back into routine life.

Inpatient Rehabilitation for Marijuana Addiction

Inpatient treatment centers provide a safe and secure environment void of all distractions and temptations. This helps patients with severe dependence focus their attention and energy solely on recovery. Treatments at an inpatient rehab generally last between 30-90 days.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has observed that most enrollees into marijuana addiction treatment programs come in with at least ten years of regular use and more than six failures to quit on their own. This implies that these individuals have had a long history of dysfunction and may benefit the most out of a regimented inpatient program that provides both structure and security.

Ongoing Recovery

Most patients who pursue treatment for marijuana addiction utilize behavioral therapy to control the psychological components of their addiction. Duration to behavioral therapy generally lasts 12 weeks but may differ from patient to patient.

Behavioral therapy helps patients understand their addictions and motivations better and help them confront their cravings and avoid relapses. As marijuana is predominantly a psychological drug, it is imperative to conduct cognitive behavioral therapy along with other therapeutic methods.

Support groups are also an excellent tool to help motivate and achieve long term recovery. There are multiple support groups such as Marijuana Anonymous (MA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and SMART recovery programs, currently available for patients seeking ongoing support and treatment for their recovery.

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