Is Marijuana Addictive?
Tolerance is a symptom of dependence, and it’s also one of the criteria for marijuana addiction. It’s possible for a person to be dependent on weed but not addicted. Addiction happens when a person who’s using the drug starts experiencing problems related to the drug. They will also have difficulties in quitting.
For example, a person who is addicted to weed might start showing the following behaviors and symptoms:
Marijuana and Depression
Marijuana use is commonly present among people who suffer from depression. People suffering from depression are twice as likely to be using weed than those who aren’t depressed.
One annual government survey on drug use in 2017 reported that 19% of people suffering from depression reported having used weed in the last month. The percent of use in people who weren’t depressed but had used weed in the past month was 9%.
Some studies suggest that weed may have antidepressant properties. But many people say that it can also have significant adverse effects. Moreover, 7% of people with depression reported using weed daily, compared to 3% of those without depression.
According to experts, marijuana use is more likely to worsen depression than offer relief. Instead of relieving people from depression, the drug can produce depression in healthy people. For example, marijuana is believed to intensify some symptoms of depression, including:
•Lack of motivation
•Lack of interest in things
Researchers are also concerned about the impact of marijuana on the adolescent brain. The majority of them warn that teenagers should give their brains a chance to develop fully before engaging in drug use.
The human brain is still in development when the person reaches the age of 20. The region that develops last is the prefrontal cortex. It’s the area responsible for decision-making, planning, problem-solving, and controlling impulses. Marijuana use at a young age can negatively affect the development of this region.
Brain imaging studies discovered that people who began using it frequently before the age of 16 had less-developed white matter. White matter is the tissue through which messages from one area of the brain to another are transmitted.3
Marijuana and Driving
Another reason for concern is the fact that millions of Americans are driving while under the influence of marijuana. According to a 2018 study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 million drivers aged 16+ reported having driven while high. Men were more likely to drink after using marijuana (6%), compared to 3% of women. Driving a vehicle while stoned can have serious consequences due to the driver’s impaired response time, which can lead to crashes.
Emergency Department Visits
The number of emergency department visits possibly related to weed has also increased. Compared to 2009, the number of ER visits increased by 21% in 2011. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, in 2011, there were around 456,000 weed-related ER visits in the US.
How is Marijuana Used?
It’s not uncommon for people to add marijuana to edibles, especially in states that have legalized the recreational use of the drug. Vendors in states where it’s legal can sell:
•Marijuana oil is also added to teas, sodas, and even beer
The cannabis plant has around 66 chemicals that are called cannabinoids. The most well-known cannabinoid is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. THC is the primary psychoactive component that is responsible for some of the effects of marijuana, including the feel-good “high.”
Another important ingredient is cannabidiol or CBD. Cannabidiols make up roughly 40% of the plant resin extract. CBD is thought to have anti-anxiety effects, and possibly counteract the psychoactive effects of THC.
The most common short-term effects include:
•Short-term memory loss
•Altered sense of space and time
•Loss of control of motor skills
There is no proof that smoking weed can damage lung health in the same degree as cigarettes, but the American Lung Association believes it does pose risks to the lungs. The reason for concern is the fact that the smoke is heavy with the same chemicals that are present in tobacco smoke. Some of the chemicals include ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, and formaldehyde.
Apart from chemicals in the smoke, the manner of smoking weed also poses a risk. Compared to tobacco smokers, weed smokers inhale the smoke more intensely and hold their breath longer. This leads to greater exposure to tar per breath. Research has found that people who smoke weed show signs of damage and precancerous changes in their lungs. The risk is higher in people who also smoke cigarettes.4
Smoking marijuana can injure the cell linings of the large airways, resulting in:
Marijuana can have other long-term effects beyond the lungs and the heart. These include:
•Suicidal thoughts in teens
•Impaired cognitive functions
•Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (intense nausea and vomiting)
There are no reported deaths from marijuana. However, people who take the drug in larger amounts have reported feeling very uncomfortable overdose effects, including anxiety and paranoia.
The risk of experiencing strong and uncomfortable overdose effects is higher when the person consumes edibles. Edibles take longer to process, and the person might not feel the effects immediately. So, in many cases, they would continue eating more to get high, which can lead to an overdose. Emergency room employees say that they have seen a rising number of cases that involve edibles.
There are also reports of people experiencing anxiety and paranoia when using marijuana products with high THC levels.
How Do I Stop
People who are severely addicted to weed may not be able to stop using the drug on their own. They may need professional medical help at a rehab facility.
During rehab, the person will safely detox from the drug in a comfortable and secure environment. Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs also include individual counseling and group therapy to teach how to function in life without the drug.
Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms
People who have used the drug regularly and trying to quit will experience a range of withdrawal symptoms.
The most common withdrawal symptoms include:
•Intense cravings for marijuana
The withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe. The severity depends on how long the person used the drug, how often they used it, and the method of use.
Treatment for Addiction
Some people try to quit marijuana on their own. However, those who have a severe addiction to the drug will have better chances of getting clean if they have guidance and medical assistance.
Detox is the first step in a treatment program. It’s a short-term program that helps the body remove the drug before joining an inpatient or outpatient program. During detox, a medical team of professionals supervises the patient 24/7, treating individual symptoms and providing support.
Inpatient care is recommended for people who are suffering from a severe addiction. It’s the best type of treatment if the person needs a safe and comfortable place to get sober. Most inpatient programs last from 21 days to several months.
During inpatient care, patients live on-site and participate in:
individual therapy sessions
group therapy sessions
Every day at an inpatient program is carefully structured and planned so that the patient has no time to think or get drugs. A patient’s schedule might look something like this:
The focus of an inpatient treatment program is to help a person quit and manage the underlying mental issues that led to drug use.
An outpatient program is more suitable for people who are suffering from a milder addiction and have a safe place to stay. During outpatient care, the patient lives off-site but attends on-site meetings for several hours each day.
The patient will participate in 12-step meetings and individual therapy sessions. They might also attend holistic classes such as meditation and yoga. At the end of the day, the patient returns to their own home or a sober living home.
Many people find help by joining a support group. Others transition to these groups after completing a rehab program as part of their aftercare. People can benefit from connecting with other individuals who have faced the same scenarios and experienced the same negative effects of drug use. The most popular support group is Marijuana Anonymous, which is a 12-step recovery.
Marijuana has been legalized and widely used for its medicinal purposes, but its negative effects on the heavy and regular user have been proven in a range of studies. Studies show that unchecked, long-term use can lead to cognitive dysfunction, damaged lung health, and increased risk of other health problems later in life. Addiction is another possible side effect of regular use. The person addicted to weed will experience many problems related to the drug and will have difficulties quitting.
If an addiction develops, the safest way to sobriety is a medically supervised detox and an effective inpatient/outpatient care. Ongoing recovery efforts, including aftercare, are also critical for a successful and long-term recovery.
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