Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States. As the movement for legalization for its recreational and medical use grows, common misconceptions about marijuana continue to pervade most conversations.
Many people – typically teens and young adults – believe that there are no downsides to marijuana consumption and that it’s not possible to become addicted to it. However, growing concern over marijuana’s long-term effects and potential to lead to more serious drug use has sparked new discussion and research.
Short-Term Effects of Marijuana
The active ingredient in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. THC produces the feeling of being “high” when smoked. However, marijuana is also often consumed by baking it into edibles or brewing it into tea.
Short-term effects of marijuana can include:
- Sensory alterations
- Changes in perception of time
- Decreased muscle coordination
- Reduced reaction times
- Impaired decision-making
Long-Term Effects of Marijuana
The use of marijuana over long periods is still largely being studied. However, enough research has been done to understand how marijuana use can affect people over time. Some of the more severe effects of marijuana use include:
- Increased risk of heart attack
- Lung damage (if marijuana is smoked)
- Increased risk of depression and anxiety
- Compromised immune function
- Memory recall problems
Many people also report that marijuana use can lead to a lower IQ or impaired cognitive abilities. However, there are conflicting studies on this claim.
While marijuana use may impact an individual, a variety of other factors could also be at play, such as family environment, genetics, age of first use, frequency of use, predisposition to addiction or mental health issues, etc. It’s essential to consider all of these factors when determining whether marijuana is the sole reason for these effects.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Many people believe that because the drug is so commonly used, marijuana can’t be addictive. However, studies have shown that this is not true. In reality, marijuana addiction can manifest itself in the brain similarly to most other substance addictions.
Additionally, the withdrawal symptoms of marijuana also tend to be similar to other substances. Withdrawal symptoms from marijuana can include:
- Mood swings
- Increased irritability
- Lack of appetite
- Cognitive impairment
- Lack of energy
Nearly 30% of people who use marijuana have either a moderate or mild marijuana use disorder, meaning they have developed a high tolerance for the drug and have become dependent on it. Because their brain has formed this dependency, these individuals will encounter withdrawal symptoms if they stop using the drug.
Marijuana addiction, on the other hand, can be viewed as a severe case of marijuana use disorder. It is estimated that 25-50% of people who use marijuana daily will become addicted to the drug.
People addicted to marijuana feel an uncontrollable urge to use the substance and cannot stop taking the drug, even if they want to. Often, people addicted to marijuana will encounter similar withdrawal symptoms to those with a moderate or mild marijuana use disorder, though these symptoms may be amplified.
Does Marijuana Use Lead to Other Drug Use?
The research on marijuana being a “gateway drug – a drug that leads to the use of other, more dangerous drugs – is muddled. Some studies have shown that regular marijuana use in adolescents can increase the likelihood of opioid use in at-risk individuals.
However, this research often contends. A 2012 study showed that 83.2% of recreational substance users in Japan had not previously used marijuana. This is likely because marijuana is much less accessible in Japan than in the United States. Because of studies like these, many people contend that marijuana use may be an initial indicator of someone’s likelihood of developing OUD. However, it isn’t necessarily the cause of the development.
An individual’s risk of developing an opioid use disorder (OUD) is driven by various factors, including genetics and environmental factors.
Genetic Risk Factors
The main reason that marijuana use can lead to OUD, specifically in adolescents, is that the brain continues changing through young adulthood. Consistent marijuana use can affect neurodevelopment and implicate neuropathways critical to OUD development. This means that marijuana can alter the remodeling of the adolescent brain, potentially making it more susceptible to OUD development.
Environmental Risk Factors
Additionally, marijuana affects individuals in different ways. Some people report increased depression and anxiety with consistent marijuana use. Worsened mental health conditions such as these can increase the likelihood of someone developing OUD.
Is There Treatment for Marijuana Addiction?
If you’re struggling with marijuana addiction, help is available. There are a variety of methods that have proven successful in treating marijuana addiction. At West Coast Recovery Centers, our professionals provide individualized treatment programs to ensure your treatment works for you. Our team is committed to helping you find freedom from addiction.
Although marijuana is commonly thought of as the safest drug that poses no threat of addiction, studies have proven this false. In reality, marijuana addiction is a real possibility for those who regularly use the substance, and it can dramatically impact their lives. While the claim that its use leads to opioid use disorders is contented, research suggests a connection between regular marijuana consumption and illicit substance use, especially in adolescents. Marijuana addiction is a serious disorder that requires professional treatment. At West Coast Recovery Centers, located in Oceanside, California, we understand the toll marijuana addiction can have on you and your loved ones. Our professionals are eager to help you return to a life of comfort and sobriety in a judgment-free zone. If you or someone you know is struggling with marijuana addiction, call West Coast Recovery Centers at (760) 492-6509.