What is a Marijuana Addiction?

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana comes from the leaves, buds, and stems of the cannabis plant.

It is often called weed, pot, Mary Jane, grass, and a host of other names. The drug is usually smoked, but is sometimes eaten in food products known as edibles. Concentrated marijuana resins, also known as resins, extracts, or marijuana oil, are newer former of concentrated marijuana that users often inhale via a vaporizer.

Marijuana contains delta-9-tetrahydro-cannabinol (THC), which causes the psychoactive effects associated with marijuana use. Levels of THC in marijuana vary greatly according to the particular strain or type of marijuana, making it difficult to predict the effects of use.

Since marijuana is primarily smoked, various paraphernalia exists to facilitate that process. Marijuana can be rolled into joints by simply placing the drug into rolling papers.

Sometimes, it is smoked in pipes that have a bowl where the marijuana is placed, and sometimes, users utilize water pipes, known as bongs, to inhale the substance. Vaporizers, or vape pens, are more commonly being used to inhale marijuana, largely due to their more discreet nature.

Marijuana edibles present a serious risk to young people and others who may unknowingly ingest the drug. In some instances, emergency medical care is needed if a person ingests more marijuana than intended, or any marijuana, as is the case with children.

Marijuana Abuse Fun Facts

Marijuana is the most commonly used drug in the United States. A 2014 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that 22.2 million people in the US had used marijuana in the month prior to the survey.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), around 9% of marijuana users will become addicted to the drug.

While marijuana is used across all age groups, adolescents and young adults are the most frequent users of the drug. Use of marijuana among high school students has held steady in recent years, while most other drug use has declined.

In 2014, SAMHSA’s survey found that 7.4 percent of those aged 12-17 used marijuana. In the 18-25 age group, nearly 20 percent had used marijuana in the prior month, and in the 26+ age group, 6.6 percent used marijuana in the prior month.

Effects of a Marijuana Addiction

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, affects the brain by mimicking certain neurotransmitters. THC influences the following brain functions:

  • Pleasure
  • Memory
  • Thinking
  • Concentration
  • Movement
  • Coordination
  • Sensory and time perception

Marijuana affects these brain functions primarily by interfering with the hippocampus, a part of the brain that deals with memory, emotion, and learning. Marijuana also affects the cerebellum and basal ganglia, which regulate coordination and movement. THC activates the reward center of the brain, which causes feelings of euphoria and the desire to repeat the experience of taking the drug.

Side-Effects Of a Marijuana Addiction

In addition to feelings of euphoria and relaxation, marijuana can have various other short-term effects, including:

  • Heightened sensory perceptions
  • Uncontrollable laughter
  • Altered perception of time
  • Increased appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Distrust
  • Panic
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Loss of sense of identity

Smoking marijuana produces almost immediate effects that will generally last 1-3 hours. Eating or drinking marijuana products causes the effects to be delayed for 30-60 minutes. This delay in onset of action often leads individuals to consume more edibles, not realizing that the effects simply haven’t hit yet. As a result, the individual may end up taking high doses that produce a bevy of undesirable effects. Emergency department visits are common as a result of marijuana edibles.

Physical effects of marijuana use include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Increased risk of heart attack
  • Fainting or dizziness

Some studies have suggested that marijuana can lead to long-term effects, including a loss of white matter in the brain and decreased IQ.

Marijuana bought illicitly is often cut with other more dangerous substances. Many people do not know what the marijuana they use actually contains. The substances added to marijuana can have serious, life-threatening side effects. The National Library of Medicine lists the following possible side effects of marijuana cut with other drugs:

  • A sudden spike in blood pressure
  • Chest pain and irregular heartbeat
  • Extreme hyperactivity and violent behavior
  • Heart attack
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Cardiac arrest

Seek immediate medical attention if any of these effects occur. Emergency treatment may sometimes include benzodiazepines, a class of drugs used to ease anxiety.

Marijuana use may increase the risk of psychiatric disorders.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders have all been associated with marijuana use. Some research has suggested that frequent marijuana use can trigger underlying tendencies toward mental health disorders.

Contrary to the popular belief that marijuana is safe and nonaddictive, it is possible to become addicted to the drug. According to NIDA, about 30 percent of people who frequently use marijuana have some form of marijuana use disorder. Chances of becoming addicted to marijuana are much higher among people who begin using the drug before the age of 18.

A study published by Addiction Science & Clinical Practice reported that individuals who are addicted to marijuana commonly experience the following consequences of marijuana use:

  • Relationship and family problems
  • Guilt associated with marijuana use
  • Financial difficulties
  • Low energy and self-esteem
  • Dissatisfaction with productivity levels
  • Sleep and memory problems
  • Low life satisfaction

Addiction to marijuana is sometimes accompanied by physical dependence. This occurs when the body adapts to the presence of the drug and depends on the substance in order to function. About 9 percent of marijuana users become dependent on the drug. Once dependence occurs, the individual will likely experience withdrawal whenever lessening or stopping use. While marijuana doesn’t carry the high risk for physical withdrawal symptoms, psychological withdrawal symptoms are common.

Symptoms Of Marijuana Withdrawal

Symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include:

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep problems
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cravings
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia

Withdrawal typically begins within a week of last use and can last as long as two weeks. For some people, the symptoms of withdrawal may continue for weeks or even months, though they decline in severity and frequency over time.

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