Marijuana Addiction: Signs, Effects, and Treatment

Addiction Resource > Addictive Substances: The Anatomy of Drug Addiction > Marijuana Addiction: Signs, Effects, and Treatment

marijuana abuse and addiction

The use of marijuana for recreational purposes is one wrought with controversy. Proponents of the herb maintain that it has therapeutic effects that outweigh the potential drawbacks. Meanwhile, supporters of maintaining its illegality state that the drug’s impact on health and potential dangers are too great to those who live and work near users.

For medical purposes, marijuana has been shown to help with conditions such as chronic pain and anxiety. Some state that cannabis oil may even help kill cancer cells. However, most ingredients found in original synthetic marijuana are banned in all fifty states. In light of this, newer formulations are now available. These synthetic formulas are considered legal, but these newer ingredients are being investigated frequently. Anyone with an addiction is urged to seek treatment at once.

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Marijuana Abuse

At the time of this writing, any non-medical use of marijuana is considered drug abuse in most states.

However, medicinal and recreational use is legal in a handful of states. State laws are changing, however, and the use of marijuana (also referred to as pot, weed, cannabis, and other nicknames) is growing in acceptance by the general public. Although, this still conflicts with the federal interpretation of the drug. Marijuana is still considered a schedule I narcotic by the US government.

Marijuana is a green plant that grows very easily, and its buds are normally smoked or consumed as an ingredient in a food or drink recipe once dried. In the US, prices of marijuana vary but average at around $20 per gram.

Cannabis oil may also be vaporized using a vaporizer or electronic cigarette-type device. Some users prefer the use of dabbing – a preparation process of the drug using butane gas. Usage of dabbing as opposed to standard methods comes with pronounced health risks. There are certain telltale signs you may notice in a person who is dabbing.

The drug works by way of its chemical ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which has psychoactive properties that cause the user to feel “high.” This creates a feeling of well-being, euphoria, or relaxation. This and other cannabinoids (compounds of the plant) remain in the user’s system for a long time after usage. Marijuana also impacts one’s brain activity, slowing down its reaction and processing speed, making it dangerous to perform certain activities such as driving a vehicle due to these slower reaction times.

Although its supporters often claim marijuana can’t cause overdose, studies have shown smoking marijuana can affect cognitive development in growing brains, making its use especially harmful for teens and young adults whose brains have not finished developing yet.

Smoking marijuana also carries some of the same risks as smoking cigarettes. Smoke enters the lungs and may lead to complications such as asthma, lung cancer, and heart issues if smoked in excess. Some users prefer using dry herb vaporizers.

Artificial Marijuana or “Spice” Abuse


Any use of artificial marijuana is considered abuse. It is not comprised of any particular substance, and there are no regulations for its manufacturing.

Most brands contain various spices, herbs, and incense which is sprayed with a psychoactive agent that mimics the effects of THC when smoked. Spice was often purchased by teens and young adults as an alternative to marijuana because it was readily available and legal when it was released in 2008, but it was quickly shown to have greater dangers than using pot. Due to the potential health risks, it was banned in the US in 2012.

Potential dangers of using Spice include:

Nausea and vomiting
High blood pressure

Reduced blood flow to the heart

In some severe cases, a heart attack has been reported. Due to the levels of unknown toxicity in Spice, it is hard to know what long-term health consequences would be. The exact chemical profile of Spice/K2 is not heavily regulated or understood. In 2011, over 11,000 emergency room visits were linked to synthetic marijuana use. The psychoactive effects of Spice are thought to be much more potent than in natural THC.

Who is at Risk for Marijuana or Spice Addiction?

Many people use marijuana and synthetic marijuana, and there are no real groups that are left out of the equation. They are of the most commonly used drugs available, and even those you wouldn’t suspect of drug abuse may be smoking marijuana or using a synthetic brand. Some groups which may be more likely to use marijuana and its synthetic counterparts include:

Professionals: One might be surprised to learn of the professionals who regularly use marijuana. The stresses of working in a high-powered career often lead to self-medication and relaxation, and cannabis is often a convenient way of getting “high.” This demographic is generally more prone to the usage of indica strains as opposed to sativa strains because of their sedative effects.

Teens and College Students: Marijuana is often widely available on college campuses, and it is commonly used at parties or in clubs where young adults frequent. Synthetic marijuana is also more commonly used among teenagers, since newer variations are often deemed legal, and are thereby readily available in convenience stores or vape shops. It’s also often less expensive than real marijuana.

Veterans: Those who have been in combat, or anyone who has suffered through trauma or an injury, may be more likely to use marijuana. It is often used as a form of self-medication for stress, anxiety, and chronic pain.

Young people are more at risk for becoming addicted to marijuana. The younger one starts using, the higher the risk of addiction.

Signs of Abuse

Signs of any drug addiction are similar among various drugs, including marijuana. They may include:

Changes in behavior. Someone who was once outgoing and bubbling may become withdrawn and sullen. Someone who was friendly may suddenly become aggressive or irritable.

Changes in physical appearance. Bloodshot eyes, watery eyes, mouth sores, tremors, and lack of personal hygiene can all be signs of drug addiction.

A sudden need for money. Either the person may ask for money frequently, with no suitable explanation for why it is needed, or money and valuables may disappear after he or she leaves.

Secretive behavior. Teens and kids may exhibit a sudden unwillingness to let parents or siblings in their rooms. Adults may suddenly spend lots of time alone in the garage, out with friends, or other obscure locations without a satisfactory answer for where he or she is going, or why.

Additionally, you can spot a frequent user by the way he or she acts or looks. There are different ways in which marijuana affects the body and mind. Some famous telltale side effects of marijuana, such as paranoid behavior or bloodshot eyes, can help you spot a user right away.

Additional Warning Signs Include:

Increased appetite/frequent snacking
The inability to focus or remain focused on a particular subject or conversation

Forgetting the basis of a conversation
Forgetting what they were going to say next
Failure to participate in activities
Decreased coordination

Marijuana and Synthetic Marijuana Statistics

Nearly 95 million people in the US have reported using marijuana at least one time
75% of the emergency room visits in 2010 due to synthetic marijuana were by people aged 12-29
Among young adults and high school students, synthetic marijuana is commonly the second most abused drug
Marijuana is the #1 most commonly abused drug among high school students and young adults

Weed Abuse Treatment

Some who use marijuana will find they can quit without additional help. For those with long-term use addiction, outside help is almost always needed

Support groups and “12 step” programs are one option for getting clean. These involve users interacting with other users in order to hold each other accountable and offer moral support. A counselor or group leader is also usually available.

Outpatient counseling is another option. Patients may see a counselor with special training in drug abuse intervention once a week or more, depending on needs. The counselor will help the user avoid pitfalls and setbacks while getting the root of the drug problem. For instance, some individuals begin using drugs as a form of self-medication.

Inpatient Rehabilitation facilities are another option. These usually involve some combination of counseling and peer support, combined with detoxification for the drugs and close supervision to ensure patients stay on track at all times. These facilities are usually ran by experienced medical personnel. Inpatient facilities are the best option for those suffering severe addiction.

Have more questions about getting help? Have a look at our guide for finding the best addiction recovery and drug rehabs.

Marijuana Addiction: Signs, Effects, and Treatment

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