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Marijuana has become popular in some corners of the medical community as an alternative pain medication and remedy for certain psychological symptoms. It is also widely used recreationally. Although many states have legalized marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes, there are still consequences to consider when using it. Legalization and decriminalization of the substance have shifted the national discourse in regards to acceptance and use of the drug. Many say that marijuana is not addictive like other addictive drugs such as cocaine or alcohol, but addiction can come in many forms. While marijuana may not cause severe physical dependency like some other drugs, constant or continual use of any substance or drug can cause it to be psychologically addictive. Let’s take a look at the properties of marijuana in order to assess its addictive potential. 

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a substance that goes by many other names, such as weed, bud, green, or cannabis. Marijuana derives from the hemp plant and can be administered through smoking the dried plant, brewing into tea, or baking into edibles. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive substance in marijuana. Psychoactive substances cause mind-altering effects in the brain and within the body. The other active ingredient in marijuana is cannabidiol (CBD) which is not psychoactive but can have a relaxing effect on the body. 

Short-Term Effects

  • Alterations in perception of time
  • Impaired physical functioning, including muscle coordination
  • Slowed or reduced reaction times
  • Impaired decision-making and problem-solving
  • Foggy thinking
  • Changes in internal body sensations
  • Paranoia or anxiety
  • Overeating

Long-Term Effects

  • Compromised immune function
  • Greater susceptibility to illness
  • Reduced cognitive functioning in areas of thought, memory, and learning
  • Increased risk of mental illness
  • Issues with breathing or possible lung damage from smoking
  • Increased heart rate or blood pressure
  • Panic attacks
  • Mood swings

Warning Signs of Marijuana Addiction

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that nearly 1 in 10 marijuana users will become addicted to the substance. Despite the popular belief that marijuana is not an addictive substance, research says otherwise. Use of marijuana can lead to the development of substance abuse or other substance use disorders. Addiction does not have to be primarily based on physical symptoms of withdrawal. With marijuana, addiction is considered more psychological dependence than physical dependence. Addiction means that you are unable to control urges for use or unable to stop even when you consider doing so. Warning signs of dependency or addiction to marijuana may include 

  • Uncontrolled cravings for the “high”
  • Inability to sleep if not high
  • Anxiety about overuse
  • Unsuccessful efforts to quit using marijuana
  • Losing interest in social or community events in order to stay home and get high
  • Continuing to use despite consequences with fulfilling responsibilities
  • Continuing to use despite consequences in regards to physical or mental health
  • Finding yourself spending more money on marijuana than what you can afford
  • Increased tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, restlessness, or anxiety

Individuals that are addicted to marijuana are at higher risk of other mental and physical consequences of the drug, including issues with cognitive or social functioning. An increase in intolerance is a common warning sign that should be considered when determining addiction to the substance. It is also important to consider the amounts of THC being consumed when using marijuana. Higher levels of THC can deliver different, more severe effects on the user. 

Treatments for Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana addiction, like many other substance use disorders, is a serious issue that may require professional help to overcome. Addiction does not only affect the user of a substance but takes its toll on an entire family. Treatment options for marijuana are similar to the treatment options offered for alcohol addiction and other substance use disorders. While medications are not available to treat marijuana use disorders, behavioral therapy and other psychotherapies have shown effectiveness in treating underlying reasons for use. 

Behavioral and cognitive therapies can help an individual overcome marijuana dependency and addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be used to address and reframe negative patterns of thought that one has about themself or the world around them. CBT challenges these unwanted, unhealthy thought patterns in order to alter behavior, which in this case is using marijuana. Motivational interviewing is another counseling method that promotes change by enhancing a client’s ability to think positively about insecurities or other life challenges. There are many other forms of psychotherapy that look to treat addiction, although most of them begin with treating underlying trauma and other reasons for use. 

It is important to understand that addiction can come in many forms. Although it has been researched for quite some time, there is much research left to be done on marijuana’s effects on physical and mental health. If you are a user for pain management or other recreational reasons, it is important to bring awareness that addiction is both possible and common. Consequences come with any kind of regular or experimental drug use. 

Despite what modern-day culture believes, marijuana is a highly addictive substance. With legalization becoming more common, it is important to bring awareness to the implications caused by marijuana use. Route of administration can play a significant role in the physical consequences that come from use, although there are mental and physical consequences regardless of route. Warning signs of marijuana addiction can look like irritability, restlessness, and cravings. Any constant or daily use of the substance should be cause for concern. Psychological dependence is more common with marijuana addiction than physical dependence, as common cravings seem to be more mentally driven. If you are experiencing warning signs of marijuana addiction, there are many avenues that you can use for support. West Coast Recovery Centers specializes in addiction treatment for marijuana use. We work with addicts to help them overcome their addiction, meeting individual needs. Call us to learn more at (760) 492-6509.