Marijuana Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Risks, and Treatment Resources

Updated On: Jan 13, 2024
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    Marijuana is a ubiquitous recreational and medicinal drug that’s legalized in several states. While it may seem harmless, it has potential for abuse, addiction, and other serious risks.

    What Is Marijuana?

    Marijuana is a plant that contains the mind-altering chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other compounds.[1] It may be smoked, ingested, or absorbed through the mucous membranes to get high.

    Though it’s viewed as harmless, marijuana can be risky and addictive. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 1 in 10 people who use marijuana will become addicted.[2] If they start before age 18, the rate of addiction rises to 1 in 6.

    Under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is a Schedule I substance with no medical use.[3] It’s federally illegal, despite being legal for medical or recreational use in several states. The common street names for marijuana are weed, pot, grass, Mary Jane, and dope.

    Side Effects of Marijuana

    The active ingredient in marijuana is THC, which is responsible for psychoactive effects. Marijuana can also cause side effects like paranoia, anxiety, confusion, breathing problems, sedation, confusion, and panic attacks.[4] More severe effects can occur as well, such as psychotic symptoms, heart changes, and with smoking, an increased risk of lung cancer.

    How Is Marijuana Taken?

    The leaves of the marijuana plant are usually dried and ground to be smoked, which brings the fastest unset of euphoria. People also take marijuana orally in foods or edibles, though with this method of ingestion, it takes longer for the effects to start.

    Marijuana Quick Reference

    Drug Category Commercial & Street Names DEA Schedule Administration
    Depressant, stimulant, hallucinogen Weed, dope, Mary Jane, pot Schedule I Smoked, ingested, sublingual

    Learn About Other Substance Use Disorders

    Statistics on Marijuana Use, Misuse, and Addiction

    Here are some statistics on marijuana use, misuse, and addiction:

    • Marijuana is the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the US
    • 48.2 million people, or about 18% of Americans, used marijuana once in 2019
    • Recent research estimates that approximately 3 in 10 people who use marijuana have marijuana use disorder
    • Long-term or frequent marijuana use has been linked to increased risk of psychosis or schizophrenia[5]

    Effects of Marijuana Abuse

    The route of administration for marijuana determines how quickly the effects of marijuana begin. Smoking is the fastest way for THC and other chemicals to get into the bloodstream, leading to immediate effects.

    Marijuana’s effects may include laughter, euphoria, heightened sensory perception, an altered perception of time, increased appetite, anxiety, panic, paranoia, and fear.[6] In higher doses, marijuana can cause hallucinations, delusions, and the loss of the sense of personal identity.

    Can You Overdose on Marijuana?

    Marijuana has never caused a fatal overdose on its own, but some people have died from mixing marijuana with other drugs.[7] Marijuana can cause serious sickness or a rare psychotic reaction when it’s ingested in large doses.

    Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Overdose

    If marijuana is mixed with other drugs, the two can counteract and mask each other’s effects, making overdose more likely.[8] With alcohol, the depressant effects can compound and shut the brain and body down to dangerous levels.

    What to do if you suspect someone is overdosing on marijuana:

    Marijuana overdoses are rare, but they can happen. If you think someone is overdosing on marijuana, call 911 and stay with them until the emergency medical team arrives. Roll them on their side to avoid choking if they vomit.

    Dangers of Long-Term Marijuana Use

    Marijuana can be risky with long-term use. An increased risk of lung damage from smoking is the biggest risk, but people may also develop psychotic disorders like schizophrenia.[9]

    Marijuana Addiction and Abuse

    Marijuana doesn’t have the potent addictive properties of drugs like heroin or methamphetamine, but frequent, long-term use can cause addiction.[10] When marijuana becomes a regular habit, it becomes much more difficult for people to stop taking it. Marijuana use can also interfere with work, school, family obligations, or even cause problems with the law.

    Signs of Addiction to Marijuana

    According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), marijuana addiction is clinically known as marijuana use disorder (cannabis use disorder). The criteria for marijuana use disorder include:

    • Using more marijuana than intended
    • Trying but failing to quit using marijuana
    • Spending a lot of time using marijuana
    • Craving marijuana
    • Using marijuana even though it causes problems at home, school, or work
    • Continuing to use marijuana despite social or relationship problems
    • Giving up important activities with friends and family in favor of using marijuana
    • Using marijuana in high-risk situations, such as while driving a car
    • Continuing to use marijuana despite physical or psychological problems
    • Needing to use more marijuana to get the same high
    • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping marijuana use[11]

    Marijuana Addiction and Mental Health

    Long-term, frequent marijuana use can cause mental health effects like paranoia, disorientation, and anxiety.[12] Temporary psychosis is also possible, which can contribute to chronic mental health conditions like schizophrenia.

    Marijuana Addiction Treatment

    Marijuana addiction treatment often lasts a few months. The cost for treatment depends on your care plan and insurance coverage, as treatment is always individualized. A thorough assessment is the first step to determine the severity of your addiction and develop your treatment plan.

    Marijuana Addiction Treatment Levels of Care

    Addiction treatment has different levels of care to manage your symptoms and challenges throughout recovery. This usually includes a transition from intensive care into more flexible environments.

    Medical Detox

    Marijuana withdrawal isn’t life-threatening, but it can be difficult and uncomfortable. Medical detox provides a care team to monitor your health and keep you safe and as comfortable as possible while you detox from marijuana.

    Inpatient Treatment

    Inpatient or residential rehab programs are usually the next step after detox. This is a 24/7 facility with supervision, support, and structure while you undergo therapy sessions and build skills for recovery.

    Outpatient Treatment

    Outpatient treatment programs are less intensive than inpatient. You attend treatment sessions during the day and have the freedom to return home to spend time with family or sleep in your own bed.

    Therapies Used in Marijuana Treatment

    Marijuana addiction is often treated with behavioral therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement therapy. These treatments identify unhelpful thought and behavioral patterns, inspire self-motivation, and develop strategies to overcome addiction stressors and challenges.

    Other marijuana addiction therapies may include:

    • Motivational interviewing: A therapy that helps you find your own motivation for recovery.
    • Contingency management: This therapy offers rewards for adhering to your treatment program.
    • Experiential therapy: This therapy explores emotions through activities, art, animal interactions, and more.
    • Relapse prevention: This is a targeted therapy with strategies to avoid relapse.
    • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): This therapy helps with managing intense emotions that interfere with recovery.
    • Twelve-step facilitation: This therapy uses the 12-step mutual support group model to build peer support.

    Co-Occurring Disorders

    Co-occurring disorders are substance use disorders and mental health disorders that occur simultaneously. Marijuana is often used to self-medicate mental health conditions, such as anxiety. Some of the common co-occurring disorders with marijuana are anxiety, depression, impulse control disorder, drug-induced psychosis, and borderline personality disorder.

    How to Find Marijuana Addiction Treatment in Connecticut

    If you or a loved one need treatment for marijuana addiction, check with your insurance provider to find approved treatment centers. You can also get help through the Behavioral Health Services Locator tool offered by SAMHSA.

    Make sure to do your due diligence and check into any treatment facilities you’re considering. Speak with the team, read client reviews, and ask for recommendations from peer support groups. If you’re ready to start now, contact our compassionate care team at Paramount Wellness Retreat.

    Marijuana Detox and Withdrawal Management

    Detoxing on your own can be uncomfortable and increases your risk of relapse. Medical detox keeps you safe and comfortable while managing your symptoms until the drug makes its way out of your system.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is Marijuana Addictive? Chevron Down
    Why Do People Use Marijuana? Chevron Down
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