The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 17 percent of teenagers who use marijuana – also known as weed or cannabis – will become addicted to it. After the teen years, marijuana addiction may continue through adulthood. Mental illness, stress, or genetic predisposition can also affect whether a person will become addicted to marijuana after use.
Marijuana is generally considered an illicit drug, and of the 6.9 million illicit drug abusers in the United States, 4.2 are marijuana users, making it the most widely abused illicit drug in the United States and one of the largest drug issues in the country. Interestingly, reports show that the potency of marketed forms of the drug are rising, leading to a higher risk in the use of the drug than was understood to be present in the past.1
Marijuana use among adolescents and young adults is particularly dangerous because young brains are still growing and developing every day. A young person who abuses the drug might cause irreversible brain damage. The hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory, learning, and impulse control is not able to mature as normal when an individual engages in continual marijuana use.
Marijuana use is not always addictive. Using marijuana recreationally, however, often leads to the abuse of other illicit drugs that generally do result in addiction. Marijuana use can also become emotionally addictive. It is important to detect any present signs of possible marijuana abuse.
Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse
As marijuana can be abused in leaf or liquid form, the presence of crumbled dry brownish-green leaves, powder, or small bottles of brownish colored liquid can indicate use of marijuana. In addition, finding the following items, which are associated with the use of marijuana, can indicate illicit drug abuse:
- Small metal clips
- Papers small in size (for rolling cigarettes)
- Smoking pipes
- Mixtures of butter for baking
- Having trouble keeping time
- Losing interest in studies or work
- Talking excessively
- Showing an inability to focus
- Becoming secretive
- Having an increased heart rate
- Getting hungry often, frequently wanting to snack
- Feeling lethargic and sleepy
- Eyes looking bloodshot
Consuming especially potent forms of marijuana can result in hallucinations, causing a person to see and hear things that do not really exist. Paranoia and delusional expressions are also common. If a person is new to marijuana abuse, he or she may show increased anxiety. Usually this is because he or she is fearful about being discovered.
Integrated Treatment for Marijuana Abuse and Addiction
Marijuana may affect an individual’s ability to reason and solve problems effectively. A person who continues to misuse marijuana will have a diminished ability to reason. Talk therapy may help restore thinking ability after detoxification has been pursued.
The detoxification process of marijuana is not usually harsh. Most people can stop using the drug without many physical discomforts. The most difficult block to get past is often a psychological or social dependence on the drug.
Most people can stop using marijuana without many physical discomforts. The most difficult block to get past is often a psychological or social dependence on the drug.
Marijuana addiction causes a person to compulsively seek the drug for use despite causing damage to his or her life through the drug use. Hence, he or she might put family members in danger in order to acquire what is needed to satisfy the cravings. Family tension can develop, especially if secrecy develops around marijuana use. Conflict and secrets may lead to trust issues that erode the natural loving atmosphere that a family needs to emotionally thrive. Treatment should include family therapy that will show the entire family system how to cope with potential family conflict in a reasonable, responsible, and productive way.
The Process of Treatment for Marijuana Addiction
Many people contest the dangers of marijuana use, but scientific evidence points to multiple hazards of the use of this illicit drug substance. The dependence and abuse symptoms of marijuana use disorder mimic those of more intense illicit drugs.
The average adult who seeks treatment for marijuana abuse disorder will have seriously attempted to quit at least six times, perhaps after passing through the detoxification stage with each attempt. With treatment, not only will a person withdraw from marijuana safe from relapse risk, but he or she will be equipped to stay away.2
Treatment can help both marijuana use and the causes behind that use. Emotional or mental health concerns such as depression, PTSD, anxiety, or bipolar disorder can be managed effectively without the use of marijuana. Attempting to self-medicate with marijuana does not effectively relieve the causes behind mental health conditions, but a comprehensive treatment program can make a big difference. Integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders is very effective at treating both substance use and conditions that frequently accompany it.
1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Marijuana. Is marijuana addictive?” Found online 2/16/16 at: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive.
2. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia . “Marijuana dependence and its treatment.” Found online 2/16/16 at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2797098/.