Marijuana is a drug that is often smoked recreationally to create a relaxing effect. However, it can be abused to the point of addiction and other dangerous consequences, which is why users should be aware of the issues the drug can cause.
Understanding Marijuana Abuse
According to the National Library of Medicine, “Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mix of dried, crumbled parts from the marijuana plant.” Usually, the drug is smoked, and while some states have legalized its medicinal and/or recreational use, it can still cause serious side effects in those who abuse it consistently. It is important to be aware of these effects and to avoid marijuana abuse.
Like with all drugs and substances, there are certain side effects that can come from overindulgence in marijuana, and unfortunately, many individuals do not believe this is true. This is why understanding the consequences of marijuana abuse is so important and why one must stay informed about how the drug can affect them.
Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse
The signs and symptoms of a marijuana high are usually easy to spot. People will behave differently because of the effects of the drug, and there are even physical side effects as well. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, the short-term effects associated with marijuana abuse can include
- Trouble walking
- Red or bloodshot eyes
- Giggling for no reason
- Difficulty with memory, even remembering things that have just happened
- Increase in appetite
- The smell of smoke in one’s hair and on one’s clothes
A person who is high on this drug will act strangely, likely becoming very relaxed and sleepy or confused and paranoid. However, over time, a person’s behavior will change even more drastically if they smoke marijuana often, and they may exhibit other signs that go hand-in-hand with a substance use disorder. These can include
- A disinterest in things and activities that used to matter to them
- Apathy toward school, work, etc.
- More significant memory problems
- Learning problems
- Loss of motivation
- Disinterest in personal hygiene and appearance
- Using drugs even while alone
- Making excuses to smoke
These symptoms are likely to become more intense the more a person smokes. In fact, those who smoke every day put themselves at more risk of serious side effects as well as stronger signs and symptoms of use than those who smoke occasionally. Like other drugs of abuse, marijuana can cause dangerous consequences when misused.
Dangers of Marijuana Abuse
Many people do not realize that smoking this drug––or using it consistently in any capacity––can have dangerous and long-term effects, but unfortunately, it can. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Marijuana…. affects brain development,” especially in those who start abusing it at a young age. The ability to think critically, learn new things, and store memories weakens with long-term abuse.
Other possible dangers and consequences include
- A weakened immune system
- Breathing and lung problems, including irritation, chronic coughing, etc.
- An increased risk of cancer
- Although it is still unknown whether or not smoking marijuana increases one’s risk of lung cancer, it does seem to be a possible outcome of long-term use.
- Increased blood pressure, heart rate, and over time, risk of heart attack
- According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, “Marijuana users have a nearly five-fold increase in the risk of heart attack in the first hour after smoking the drug.” This is because the drug causes a serious increase in heart rate, which over time, puts extra, unneeded stress on the heart.
- Worsening of mental health issues
- People suffering from psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia often experience worsening symptoms after long-term use (NIDA).
- Sexual dysfunction, including a lowered sperm count and menstrual disruption
Marijuana, like many other drugs of abuse, can also cause an intense tolerance when abused over time, which makes users smoke more in order to experience the same effects. This can increase one’s need for the drug and make obtaining and using it more and more of a priority.
Dependence also occurs with consistent marijuana abuse, and many individuals who smoke every day experience some form of withdrawal effects when they suddenly stop. These can include
- Increased anxiety and worry
- Having problems sleeping
- Constantly feeling tired
- Losing weight and having no appetite
- Stomach pain
Who Abuses Marijuana?
According to the NIDA, “Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance.” People of all ages, genders, and other types of groups smoke marijuana in order to relax, be more sociable at parties, and experience other desirable effects. While the drug is considered beneficial for medicinal purposes in some states, its illicit use is still much more common than that of any other drug.
- 1 in 6 users who begin smoking as teens will become addicted to marijuana, as opposed to the 1 in 9 who begin as adults.
- Over the past decade, the prevalence of marijuana use among adults in the US has doubled, according to a study from 2015 (National Institutes of Health).
- Although people of all age groups abuse this drug, its abuse is most prevalent among individuals aged 18 to 25 “with 19.8 percent using it in the past month,” according to a 2015 study from the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).
Many people wonder if marijuana is actually addictive when there is so much contradictory information about this particular issue. In truth, the drug can be addictive, but especially to those who
- Abuse it every day
- Start out smoking in their teenage years
- Use other drugs in addition to marijuana (polydrug abuse)
The drug has the potential to cause tolerance, dependence, and uncontrolled use, which means it should be considered an addictive substance. Not every individual who smokes marijuana is addicted, but the longer you use it and the more often, the more likely this outcome will be.
Marijuana addicts often struggle with the other aspects of their lives because the drug causes them to become apathetic and disinterested in other activities. In most cases, they would rather smoke than do anything else. This behavior can start to affect a person’s entire life, and the dangerous psychological and physical effects the drug can cause become more likely to occur in someone addicted to it.
Am I a Marijuana Addict?
You may now be wondering if your marijuana abuse could have possibly become a full-blown addiction. To find out if this may be true, ask yourself the questions below.
- Do I smoke every day?
- Do I feel I cannot enjoy myself unless I am high?
- Have I tried to cut back on smoking and been unable to?
- Have my friends or family members expressed concern about my smoking?
- Have I ever experienced withdrawal effects when I was unable to smoke?
- Has my tolerance for the drug increased considerably?
- Have I experienced any consequences associated with my smoking, including
- Physical or mental health issues?
- Getting reprimanded at work or school, neglecting my work, etc.?
- Financial problems?
- Getting arrested or other legal issues?
- Losing an important relationship?
- Despite these issues, do I feel I cannot stop using on my own?
The strongest sign of addiction is an inability to control one’s substance abuse. But if you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to seek addiction treatment for marijuana.
Marijuana Addiction Treatment
Like with most other drugs, marijuana addiction should be treated in a rehab center where medical professionals can help you make a change in your life. There aren’t any medications currently approved to treat marijuana addiction, but some are being developed to help suppress withdrawal effects, according to the NIDA.
In general, though, behavioral therapies can be extremely helpful to recovery. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management, and family therapy help patients by
- Teaching them better coping skills for when they experience cravings or become stressed
- Allowing them to learn and be able to recognize their triggers so they can avoid them
- Reinforcing positive behaviors like abstinence
- Getting to the root of the problem by exploring why the individual began smoking in the first place
In addition, support groups like Marijuana Anonymous are often part of a well-rounded treatment program where patients can safely recover from their substance abuse and learn to avoid dangerous behaviors in the future.