Marijuana Abuse, Addiction, and Treatment

Marijuana is one of the most commonly used and abused substances in the United States. It’s legal in some states, but illegal at a federal level, and can lead to dependence and addiction.
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What is Marijuana?

Also known as cannabis, marijuana is the most commonly used substance after alcohol.1 In 2002, 11% of 12-year-olds or older in the U.S. were marijuana users. In 2019, that jumped to 17.5%.2

The cannabis plant contains THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the chemical that changes brain function and can produce the high that many people feel when taking marijuana. It over-activates parts of the brain, causing the high that many people feel.3

Ways to Consume Marijuana

People have several options for how they choose to consume marijuana, including:3

  • Smoking in joints, through pipes or bongs, or in blunts.
  • Vaping, which helps the user avoid inhaling smoke by instead inhaling the vapor.
  • Mixed in food as edibles, such as in brownies, cookies, and candy.
  • Dabbing, which is a method of smoking THC-rich resins extracted from cannabis.

When marijuana is smoked, THC gets into the bloodstream, brain, and other organs quickly, and is absorbed more slowly when eaten.3

As more states move to fully legalize marijuana use or decriminalize it and allow it for medical use, its acceptance continues to grow, suggesting fewer people believe regular marijuana use is risky and can potentially negatively affect their health.3 Although many states have legalized marijuana for both recreational and medical purposes, it remains illegal at the federal level.

Marijuana Street Names

Common marijuana street names include:1

  • Pot.
  • Weed.
  • Grass.
  • Herb.
  • Bud.
  • Ganja.
  • Mary Jane.
Signs of Abuse

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Yes, weed has addiction potential. Despite increasing social and legal acceptance of marijuana, long-term use can have adverse effects including dependence and addiction.3 In fact, people who start using weed before they turn 18 are 4 to 7 times more like to develop a cannabis use disorder in adulthood.4

The clinical term for marijuana addiction is cannabis use disorder. Cannabis use disorder can have a significant negative impact on someone’s life.5

What is Cannabis Use Disorder?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition provides 11 criteria by which a cannabis use disorder can be diagnosed. The patient would have to exhibit at least 2 over a 12-month period. Some marijuana addiction symptoms include:5, 6

  • Attempts to cut down or control marijuana use, but to no avail.
  • Trying to get, use, or recover from using marijuana often.
  • Giving up activities with friends, family, or at work because of marijuana use.
  • Using marijuana when the user knows it’s physically hazardous.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms from the substance when reducing or stopping frequent use.

Marijuana Withdrawal

Marijuana withdrawal symptoms include: 3,7

  • A shift in mood,
  • Difficulty sleeping,
  • A drop in appetite
  • Increase in anxiety and cravings for marijuana.

There are other, less frequent withdrawal symptoms that include:7

  • Tremors.
  • Sweating.
  • Elevated heart rate.
  • Digestive issues.
Health Risks

Physical and Mental Effects of Marijuana Use

There are several negative short- and long-term effects of marijuana use on the brain and body.

Marijuana use can cause impaired body movement, difficulty with thinking and problem-solving, and impaired memory. Hallucinations and delusions are possible if the user takes high doses. For those who take marijuana with high THC levels regularly, there is a chance of psychosis.3

Those who use marijuana regularly and over a long period can develop other, more serious, health risks, including:3

  • The potential for impaired brain development, specifically in teenagers. Researchers continue to study marijuana’s lasting effects.
  • Breathing problems. If the user smokes marijuana regularly, they can develop a cough, lung illnesses, and lung infections.
  • Heart issues, including increased heart rate, which could increase the chance of a heart attack.
  • Complications during pregnancy, which may include an increased risk of preterm birth, a lower birth weight, and brain and behavioral problems in babies. However, more research is needed.
  • Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which includes intervals of intense nausea and vomiting.

Rehab for Weed Addiction

Currently, there are no drugs used to treat marijuana addiction. There are detox programs for marijuana dependence and addiction that can help manage withdrawal symptoms. Medical and clinical professionals recommend cognitive behavioral therapy as the main approach to creating the foundation for continued marijuana cessation and recovery.3,7

Rehab facilities like Recovery First offer several levels of addiction treatment, such as medical detoxification, residential treatment, and outpatient services to best fit the needs of the patient. Whether it’s you or a loved one who needs help, our admissions navigators can help you day or night: .

Recovery First, one of American Addiction Centers’ South Florida drug rehab centers, is ready to help you overcome addiction and find long-term recovery. Call us today to learn more about inpatient addiction treatment programs.


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