Marijuana Addiction Signs, Effects & Symptoms

Acadiana Treatment Center helps individuals struggling with marijuana addiction build a strong foundation for long-term recovery. Serving Louisiana, Acadiana is the premier provider of alcohol and drug abuse treatment for adults.

Understanding Marijuana Abuse

Learn About Marijuana Abuse

Marijuana is a mixture of dried shredded leaves seeds and flowers from the Cannabis sativa plant, also known as hemp. The plant is related to hops and nettles and can be found growing wild in many places in the world. Other names for weed include grass, pot, weed, Mary Jane, MJ and reefer. The leaves and flowers (buds) or the plant are dried and crushed. Most often they are rolled into handmade unfiltered cigarettes and smoked but some smoke it in pipes or water pipes called bongs.

Over 400 chemicals are found in the plant Cannabis sativa, which includes a chemical resembling a penicillin-like antibiotic. The derivatives from the plant can be used for medicinal or recreational uses. Recreational forms of the drug include:

  • Dried part of the plant (leaves and buds)
  • A resin
  • A crushed powder
  • An oil

The main active ingredients of the plant marijuana is derived from are:

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) which offer mild to moderate analgesic effects. THC is sometimes used to treat pain; though it’s not the first substance of choice for analgesia. This chemical compound increases hunger and produces a sense of relaxation, fatigue and in some cases can result in a decrease of aggression. Limited research also shows some support for the efficacy of THC in treating nausea and vomiting. In the few states in which it is legal, medical marijuana has been used to decrease the nausea in cancer and AIDS patients allowing them to remain well-nourished, an important physical component in maintaining strength and immune system functioning.

CBD (Cannabinoid) – Some studies show this compound to lead to alertness while others have demonstrated it causes a sedating effect. There has been some support indicating that CBD can relieve the symptoms of inflammation, nervousness, seizures and nausea. Some oncologists express the belief CBD may impede the advancement of cancer cells. More recent studies have also shown CBD may be helpful in treating atypical psychosis and schizophrenia along with dystonia, or involuntary muscle movements or contractions, sometimes exhibited by individuals with these disorders.

Fortunately, there are treatment options available that can help those addicted to marijuana overcome their addiction and rediscover a sober life.

Statistics

Statistics for Marijuana Abuse

Marijuana has the highest rates of use and abuse illegal (in most states) psychoactive substances in the U.S.  The 12 month prevalence rate of marijuana use disorder was estimated at 3.4% among 12-17 year olds and 1.5% among adults age 18 years and older.  Prevalence rates are lower in adult females (0.8%) compared to adult males (2.2%), with a similar pattern of differences by gender seen in adolescents with 12-17 year old females evidencing lower prevalence rates (3.0%) and same age males evidencing higher rates (3.8%). Prevalence rates in adults decrease with age. The highest rates are found in 18-29 year olds (4.4%) and the lowest rates were found in 65 year olds and older (0.01%).

It has been hypothesized however, that as opposed to the high rates of use reflecting a greater addictive potential, it’s more likely a matter of wide-spread use compared to other drugs.

Causes & Risks

Causes & Risk Factors of Marijuana Abuse

Genetic/Environmental: Children raised with parents or older siblings who frequently use marijuana openly grow up thinking this is a normal behavior and have no reason to believe there is any stigma attached to it. Since a large number of adolescents and college-age students smoke the substance it is further normalized. Thus, the genetic predisposition to use the substance, modeling from family members and viewing it as a normalized behavior based on coming into contact with a number of peers who also use the substance, combine to lead to an increased risk of the individual developing an addiction.

Brain Chemistry: Research has shown THC binds to specific receptor sites in the brain called cannabinoid receptors (CBRS). These receptors recognize the THC as a similar chemical compound which naturally occurs in the brain which influence memory, pleasure, sensory perception, concentration, coordination, thinking, and time perception. Sometimes individuals have difficulties with certain of these areas and when they come into contact with marijuana learning it helps to correct the problem. This hooks them and they continue to use it, not wanting to return to their previous state.

Environmental: The more individuals smoke marijuana, the higher the likelihood they will need more of the drug to induce the desired effects. Studies suggest as the strength of THC and CBD in marijuana rises – increasing the amount in the person’s system – so does the risk for addiction. Individuals who begin using marijuana in their teen years are more likely to develop a problem with marijuana addiction later in life due to the length of time they have been using it. Unfortunately, once an addiction to marijuana has developed, it can be extremely challenging to overcome without effective professional help.

Psychological: Marijuana causes intense paranoia and delusions while the user is stoned which can exacerbate psychotic behaviors. Since they don’t know their beliefs are delusional, they continue smoking the substance so as not to alter their experiences in order to be certain they can predict their actions and know how to handle the situations they believe are occurring.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs & Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse

Psychological/mood symptoms:

  • Feeling “stoned” or “high”
  • Feelings of unreality
  • Dissociation of the sense the individual is not really there or that they’re watching themselves from outside their bodies
  • Feeling serene or calm
  • Sense of well-being
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Impaired judgment
  • Trouble making decisions or seeing the need to make decisions
  • Paranoia
  • Impaired cognitive ability
  • Confused thinking
  • Memory loss
  • Laughing for no reason
  • Increased sensory perception
  • Altered perception of time
  • Inability to plan actions to time to meet a schedule
  • New memories are confused or fragmented
  • Delusions
  • Loss of sense of personal identity without concern
  • Hallucinations
  • Distrust
  • Frequent fear in the absence of threat cues
  • Inability to problem solve
  • Trouble learning new information or remember information previously learned

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Slowed speech and physical movement
  • Poverty of speech
  • Losing the track of a conversation
  • Bizarre behavior
  • Impaired ability to sleep
  • Social withdrawal
  • Lacking the desire to interact with others
  • No longer caring what others think or how they judge you
  • Impulsive behavior

Physical symptoms:

  • Intense hunger
  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness, fatigue
  • Decreased reaction time
  • Respiratory infections
  • Impaired coordination
  • Bronchial passages relax and enlarge, making it easier for bacteria and other infectious agents to invade the body
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Hyper or hypotension
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Tolerance

Effects

Effects of Marijuana Abuse

  • Magical or “random” thinking
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Red eyes
  • Constant, mucus-filled cough
  • Decreased respiration rate
  • Dry mouth
  • Inability to appreciate the consequences of one’s actions

Marijuana has sometimes been referred to as a “gateway drug,” meaning those who begin using marijuana before any other substance have a high likelihood of moving on to abuse more serious and harmful substances. It is not unusual for other substance abuse disorders to co-occur with marijuana addiction. Other disorders co-occurring with marijuana use include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Tobacco abuse
  • Cocaine abuse
  • Methamphetamine abuse
  • Heroin or other opiate addiction
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Dysthymia
  • Panic disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Social anxiety
  • Social phobia
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Bipolar I disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Intermittent explosive disorder
  • ADHD
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoid personality disorder
  • Psychotic disorders
  • Dissociative disorders

Withdrawal Effects

Effects & Symptoms of Withdrawal from Marijuana

  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger outbursts
  • Severe depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Sleeplessness
  • Disordered eating
  • Psychological and physical cravings

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An assessment is an important first step toward treatment of and recovery from addiction and co-occurring mental health issues.

My daughter and her friends started smoking dope. After her grades started slipping and she missed a couple shifts at work, I became concerned and looked for help. I found Acadiana and their admissions team was extremely thorough in explaining how the program worked, what is was like, etc. I placed my daughter in one of their treatment programs and slowly she changed back to her old self -the daughter I raised. I'm so happy I made the choice to get her into rehab at Acadiana, I would recommend it to anyone in need.

– Susan L.