Marijuana is one of the most popular drugs in the United States. Some people use it recreationally for its relaxing effects. Others use it to elevate their mood or cope with painful emotions. It may temporarily help with symptoms of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses, but it can have a boomerang effect. Marijuana drug abusers may end up more anxious and depressed.
In the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 22.2 million people admitted to using marijuana. More than 11 million young adults ages 18 to 25 were among them. Social acceptance of marijuana use has spiked dramatically in recent years. Researchers believe this made the drug so readily available that younger people, especially, may not realize the consequences of chronic marijuana abuse.
Despite the legalization of marijuana in many states, it is still considered a dangerous drug with potential for abuse. Some of the people who are most vulnerable to substance abuse are those who:
- Begin using drugs at an early age
- Abuse marijuana on a daily basis
- Have an undiagnosed or underlying mental health condition
Is It Time for Marijuana Abuse and Addiction Treatment?
If you or a loved one is struggling with marijuana use, it may be helpful to learn the signs of marijuana abuse and to understand how addiction takes root.
How Marijuana Addiction Begins in the Brain
THC is the psychoactive substance in marijuana responsible for the “high” feeling. It remains in the body for a long time. This is how it gives someone the feeling of being high:
- THC boosts the brain’s levels of a pleasure-producing chemical called dopamine.
- In part, this dopamine boost explains marijuana users’ desire to keep taking more of the drug.
- The brain reacts to recurring changes in its dopamine levels by altering its production of that chemical and adapting to the presence of THC.
- This adaptation can turn into a physical dependence on marijuana.
Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction
People with a marijuana use disorder show signs of addiction similar to other substance use disorders. Dependence transitions into marijuana addiction when users of the drug develop problems such as:
- Strong urges to consume more marijuana (or any other cannabis product)
- Preoccupation with obtaining and using marijuana
- Difficulty limiting marijuana consumption
- Tolerance and the need to consume higher amounts of the drug in order to get “high”
- Failed attempts at quitting marijuana
- Marijuana withdrawal symptoms without the drug
- Relationships and financial problems
- Neglecting work, school or personal responsibilities
- Severe lack of motivation and productivity
- Continued marijuana use even after experiencing negative consequences
Continuing drug use ― even though the drug is destroying your life ― is a sure sign that marijuana use disorder has risen to the level of addiction. If you’re experiencing any signs of marijuana addiction and have not been able to break out of the pattern on your own, it may be time to seek help at an inpatient treatment center.
Short-Term Mental and Physical Effects of Marijuana Abuse
Marijuana is taken in usually by smoking it or ingesting it in food. The way a person uses the drug will impact the short-term effects. In general, THC has the ability to pass through the lungs to the bloodstream very fast. The chemical is carried through the brain and organs through blood. When a person eats or drinks cannabis, it is absorbed more slowly than when it is smoked.
The short-term effects of marijuana include an altered state of consciousness and time. But the drug also can cause:
- Mood changes
- Blocked thinking
- Inability to problem solve
- Memory problems
- Hallucinations, delusions and psychosis (when consumed in large doses)
Long-Term Mental and Physical Effects of Marijuana Abuse
Marijuana abuse takes a physical toll. It takes only a few minutes for the heart to speed up and blood vessels in the eyes to expand after smoking marijuana. Expanded blood vessels cause the red eyes and use of eye drops frequently associated with smoking pot. Marijuana abuse can increase the risk of:
- Heart palpitations
- Heart attack
- Respiratory problems from marijuana smoke:
- Chronic cough
- Chest illness
- Lung infections
There’s a link between mental illness and chronic marijuana use. Marijuana abuse is known to cause problems in the brain, such as:
- Significant impact on learning and memory
- Impaired judgement and sensory perception
- Lack of physical coordination
- Anxiety and depression
- Development of psychosis later in life (especially prevalent in teen pot smokers)
The long-term impact can be especially severe for those who begin using the drug at an early age. Ongoing research shows multiple life consequences for those with a history of chronic marijuana use, including:
- Less satisfaction with life
- Poor mental and physical health
- Interpersonal conflict
- Less academic and career success
- Dropping out of school
- Moving from job to job and never settling in
- Chronic lateness or absence from work
Researchers say these effects can last for years after stopping marijuana use.
Causes and Risk Factors
No one knows exactly why people become addicted to marijuana, but some of the following may play a role:
- Early trauma
- Exposure to the drug at an early age
- Ease of attaining the drug
- Genetics, or having addicted family members
Marijuana addiction can also be related to co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, such as:
- Alcohol addiction
- Prescription drug addiction
- Anxiety disorders, including panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder
- Personality disorders and other mental health disorders
A dual diagnosis will require special treatment options to make sure that all mental health issues and substance use disorders are addressed at the same time.
Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms are one of the key features of substance use disorders. Marijuana withdrawal may set in as late as seven to 10 days after quitting use. For this reason, many marijuana abusers believe they can quit any time they want to. However, within four to six days they may begin to feel marijuana withdrawal symptoms set in. Symptoms may include:
- Drug cravings
- Changes in appetite
- Mood swings
- Marijuana cravings
Start Your Recovery Today
You may need professional substance abuse treatment to recover from marijuana addiction. At Lucida Treatment Center, you will get compassionate care and develop healthy coping skills. We offer a non-12-step drug rehab option. Some of our addiction treatment options include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Gestalt therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy skills
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
- Group and individual therapy
- Yoga and fitness
We can minimize marijuana withdrawal symptoms and help you get to the heart of your drug problem. Speak confidentially with a Lucida recovery advisor at 844-878-1996.