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, pot, weed, grass, and many other street names, 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

marijuana joints and buds are a few ways to consume marijuana

As more states move to fully legalize marijuana use or decriminalize it and allow it for medical use, it’s 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.

Signs of Abuse

What is Cannabis Use Disorder?

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

Marijuana Dependence

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.

Withdrawal symptoms for marijuana include a shift in mood, difficulty sleeping, a drop in appetite, and an increase in anxiety and cravings for marijuana.3, 7 There are other, less frequent withdrawal symptoms that include tremors, sweating, elevated heart rate, and digestive issues.7

Health Risks

Physical and Mental Effects of Marijuana Use

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 of time 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 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.

Treatment and Rehab for Weed

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

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Rehab facilities like Recovery First offer detoxification as well as inpatient and outpatient services to best fit the needs of the patient. Whether it’s you or a loved one who is need of 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.