Marijuana Addiction and Treatment Options

Marijuana is the most frequently used drug in America, with over 43.5 million Americans reporting using it in 2018. Although its use has been legalized at the state level, it is still considered a Schedule I substance at the federal level, meaning it has high potential for abuse and addiction.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana is derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. Its leaves, flowers, and seeds can be used to produce the drug’s characteristic high. The key psychoactive component in marijuana that produces the high is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), though marijuana contains more than 500 chemicals, over 100 of which are cannabinoids. Its effects include mind-altering effects like mild hallucination or changes in mood along with relaxation and reduced pain sensation. These effects make it a popular drug to abuse.

Methods of Consumption

Marijuana is most often used by smoking. Its leaves, buds, and flowers are dried and can be smoked in a rolled up joint or cigarette, a pipe, or a bong. THC-concentrated resin can also be smoked using a vaporizer. In addition to smoking, marijuana can be brewed in tea or baked into food known as edibles. Edibles can include brownies, cookies, candy, or gummies.

Because of the different ways in which the marijuana is absorbed in the body, the method of consumption can alter the intensity of its effects. Effects of ingested marijuana can last as long as 12 hours compared to 6 hours if smoked. The high may also be more intense because the liver converts the THC into a stronger form.

The Effects of Marijuana Abuse

Marijuana use can affect many aspects of a person’s body and mind. Many people seek out the drug’s sense of mild euphoria and relaxation. However, at high doses or when mixed with other substances, users may experience very uncomfortable effects that include hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms.

When smoked, the effects of marijuana can be felt almost immediately. However, when taken in edible form, it may take one to two hours to feel the effects. This delay can lead to dangerous overconsumption that could make a person feel very sick. The side effects of marijuana use may be serious enough to cause people to seek medical attention.

Effects on the Mind

The most common short-term psychological effects of marijuana use include:

  • Feelings of pleasant euphoria
  • Profound relaxation or tiredness
  • Impaired thinking and judgment
  • Impacted memory
  • Changes in the perception of time

Effects on the Body

Physical effects of marijuana use include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Enlarged breathing passages
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in appetite

With prolonged use, marijuana can lead to respiratory-related health issues, long-term memory problems, and potential exposure to carcinogens.

Health Risks

Marijuana use has been associated with many types of long-term problems, particularly those related to the lungs and mental health. Like all smokers, marijuana users may suffer from frequent acute respiratory illness, impaired immune system, central nervous system damage, increased blood pressure, and chronic cough. In some cases, marijuana use can be dangerous for people with pre-existing cardiac conditions because it can temporarily elevate the heart rate by up to 100% after smoking.

Chronic marijuana use has also been linked to mental health problems including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and decreased personal motivation. Marijuana use can be particularly detrimental to development, which is why it is so dangerous when used by pregnant mothers or developing young people. The effects on memory or cognition can persist long after adolescence since marijuana use can permanently impair areas of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

In addition to direct health risks, marijuana can lead to a greater risk of injury or death if used while driving or performing other tasks where motor coordination could be impaired. This risk is compounded when marijuana use is mixed with alcohol or other substances.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance with a high potential for abuse. It can be addictive, particularly among people who begin smoking at a young age or who use marijuana on a daily basis.

Long-term users may experience withdrawal symptoms if they cut down consumption. These can include anxiety, irritability, sleep problems, and decreased appetite. These symptoms make it harder to stop using marijuana altogether. Research has shown that addiction treatment, including in-patient rehab can be successful in overcoming marijuana addiction.

Marijuana Addiction Symptoms

Marijuana addiction may cause a host of physical and behavioral changes in individuals. These tend to be more common when people begin using marijuana before the age of 18. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Dependence marked by withdrawal symptoms when not using
  • Tolerance, requiring more of the drug to achieve the same effects
  • Prolonged memory and learning problems
  • Impaired problem-solving ability
  • Constant cough
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Slowed reaction time

Marijuana addiction is clinically defined as Cannabis Use Disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Two of 11 symptoms are required within a 12-month period to meet diagnostic criteria. These symptoms include:

  • Taking more cannabis than intended
  • Difficulty reducing cannabis use
  • Spending increased amounts of time using or recovering from cannabis use
  • Cravings
  • Neglect of responsibilities at work, school, and home as a result of cannabis use
  • Social or relationship problems related to cannabis use
  • Loss of interest in other activities
  • Taking cannabis in situations that can be dangerous or risky
  • Continuing cannabis use even when it exacerbates physical or psychological problems
  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal when cannabis use is discontinued
Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

When marijuana use is discontinued, particularly long-term use, individuals may suffer from withdrawal symptoms. These include:

  • Increased irritability or anger
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Depression
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Excessive sweating

These symptoms generally appear within one week of discontinued marijuana use, usually peaking within 10 days. Symptoms begin to subside over 10-20 days. Because these symptoms can be difficult to control without help, many individuals resort to using again to reduce the unpleasant withdrawal. Addiction treatment can help manage withdrawal symptoms and may help improve an individual’s chances of overcoming marijuana addiction.

Marijuana Addiction FAQs

Marijuana Addiction Recovery at Riverwalk Ranch
A Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Area Addiction Treatment Center

At Riverwalk Ranch, we can treat marijuana and other substance use as part of our comprehensive addiction treatment services. Our medical professionals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area employ only effective and research-based interventions to treat marijuana addiction along with other substance use issues and co-occurring disorders. In conjunction with the addiction experts at Riverwalk, you will find supportive and like-minded peers that make this a safe and comfortable haven to undergo treatment.

If you or a loved one is suffering from marijuana abuse or addiction, contact our addiction treatment center today at (877) 863-3869. Whether you live in Texas or you’re looking for a fresh start in a new environment, Riverwalk Ranch can provide a therapeutic and supportive home for you. Everyone deserves a happy and healthy life free from addiction, and overcoming problematic marijuana use can help you get there.

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