Marijuana is one of the most commonly used drugs

Marijuana Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Risks, and Treatment Resources

Marijuana is among the most commonly used illegal drugs in the United States. While it might seem relatively harmless compared to other drugs, it can still be addictive and dangerous. If you suspect a loved one has a marijuana addiction, learn more about the signs, symptoms, risks, and what you can do to help them get treatment.

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a plant that is commonly smoked for recreational purposes. More than 52.5 million people used marijuana in 2021.[1] Marijuana is a Schedule I substance, meaning it is considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, according to the DEA. It is federally illegal, though some states have legalized it. Common street names include grass, weed, Mary Jane, dope, and pot.

Side Effects of Marijuana

The active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for its psychoactive effects. Common side effects of marijuana use include impaired memory, altered judgment, coordination issues, dry mouth, and increased heart rate.[2] Some may also experience more severe effects, such as psychotic symptoms in predisposed individuals, cardiovascular issues, and respiratory problems when smoked over long periods.

How is Marijuana Taken?

Marijuana is a dried flower commonly ground up and smoked. Some edibles are taken orally. Smoking the drug causes an instant high, while taking it orally may take up to an hour for the effects to begin.

Marijuana Quick Reference

LACED WEED IS MARIJUANA CONTAINING ANOTHER SUBSTANCE

Drug Category

Cannabinoid, with depressant, stimulant, and hallucinogenic effects

Commercial & Street Names

Dope, pot, grass, Mary Jane

DEA Schedule

Schedule I

Administration

Smoking, oral

Statistics on Marijuana Use, Misuse, and Addiction

Around 52 million people used marijuana in 2021.[3] Marijuana is often used recreationally, but despite its Schedule I status, it is used for medicinal purposes in states where it is legalized, such as for relieving chronic pain. Because marijuana is legalized on the state level in several states and generally thought of as harmless, many people who use it don’t realize the potential adverse effects. While marijuana is not as addictive as opioids and other drugs, it still has the risk of dependence and addiction.

Effects of Marijuana Abuse

The THC in marijuana produces psychoactive effects, but different strains of marijuana can have unique properties. Indica strains are often relaxing and may cause drowsiness or dizziness, while sativa strains are more energizing and can increase the heart rate or cause anxiety. Hybrid strains (a blend of sativa and indica) may mix these effects.

Remember that these categories and strains aren’t always consistent. In addition, the effects can vary by user, sometimes creating opposite reactions to those intended. For example, a strain may be known for increasing alertness, but it can make a particular individual drowsy.

Can You Overdose on Marijuana?

No one has ever died from overdosing on marijuana alone. However, some people have experienced fatal outcomes when mixing marijuana with other illicit drugs or alcohol.[4] There are also indirect deaths from behaviors under the influence of marijuana, such as driving.

While overdosing on marijuana may not be a concern, it can still make people sick when taken in large quantities.

Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Overdose

Mixing marijuana with alcohol or other depressant drugs may cause an overdose. This slows the heart and breathing and may cause a person to pass out. People who mix marijuana and other drugs may also experience nausea, dizziness, and fatigue.

What to Do If You Suspect Someone Is Overdosing on Marijuana

While rare, severe adverse reactions to marijuana are possible. If you suspect someone is experiencing a severe reaction to marijuana, call 911. Stay with the person until emergency medical services arrive. If they are unconscious, roll them on their side to ensure they don’t choke if they vomit.

Dangers of Long-Term Marijuana Use

Marijuana carries risks with long-term use. Smoking marijuana can cause respiratory issues, but there is limited evidence directly linking it to lung cancer, like smoking cigarettes. Long-term use of marijuana may trigger or exacerbate psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, especially in those predisposed to such conditions.[5] This may be more likely among those already vulnerable to developing the condition.

Marijuana Addiction and Abuse

While marijuana is not as addictive as certain hard drugs, it can still cause habitual dependence and addiction. Once a person gets used to using marijuana all the time, it may be hard to stop without help. Eventually, marijuana interferes with day-to-day life and may disrupt work, school, or family.

Signs of Addiction to Marijuana

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), marijuana addiction is known as marijuana use disorder or cannabis use disorder, which includes the following signs:

  • Trying to quit marijuana unsuccessfully
  • Using more marijuana than intended
  • Experiencing intense cravings for marijuana
  • Spending an exorbitant amount of time obtaining or using marijuana
  • Using marijuana despite problems at work, home, or school
  • Continuing to use marijuana despite health or relationship problems
  • Using marijuana in high-risk situations like driving
  • Needing to use more and more marijuana to get the same effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping marijuana use[6]

Marijuana Addiction and Mental Health

Long-term, frequent marijuana use can cause mental health effects like anxiety, paranoia, and disorientation. People who use marijuana are more likely to develop temporary psychosis, hallucinations, and severe paranoia, which could progress into long-lasting mental disorders like schizophrenia. Marijuana use has also been linked to depression, social anxiety, and suicidal thoughts or actions.[7]

Marijuana Addiction Treatment

Marijuana addiction can be treated successfully using treatments similar to those for other substance use disorders. Treatment is always individualized and may include various therapies according to your needs.

Valium® Misuse Recovery
icon
01

Marijuana Addiction Treatment Levels of Care

icon
Valium® Misuse Recovery

Addiction treatment often involves a continuum of care, which ensures that people get treatment that aligns with their needs then. Typically, addiction treatment transitions from intensive, structured environments into more flexible environments as you gain control over your addiction.

Medical detox is often the first step in the addiction treatment process. Though marijuana withdrawal is not life-threatening, it can be intense and uncomfortable to the point of prompting relapse. Experiencing withdrawal in a detox program ensures that you are as safe and comfortable as possible while the drug exits your system.

After detox, you may enter inpatient or residential rehab programs or outpatient rehab programs. The former is a hospital or residential environment with 24/7 care and supervision from a comprehensive care team. Inpatient treatment is ideal for people who need to remove themselves from external triggers and environments to support recovery.

Outpatient treatment programs are a little more flexible. You don’t have to stay overnight at the facility. Instead, you attend treatment sessions during the day and work around your responsibilities to work, school, or family. In the evening, you can return home to spend time with family and sleep in your bed.

Therapies Used in Marijuana Addiction Treatment

Evidence-based therapies are essential in treating marijuana addiction. Regardless of the level of care, these therapies may include behavioral therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or motivational enhancement therapy. These treatment options are highly effective at identifying unhelpful behavioral patterns and relapse triggers and developing strategies to overcome them.

Motivational Interviewing

This therapy inspires self-motivation to overcome addiction.

Contingency Management

This therapy provides incentives for abstinence.

Experiential Therapy

This therapy lets you express your feelings and thoughts through activities and tools.

Relapse Prevention

This therapy teaches management strategies to avoid relapse.

DBT

Dialectical behavior therapy helps those who struggle with intense emotions.

Twelve-Step Facilitation

This therapy involves engaging in a structured 12-step program with mutual-help groups.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring disorders are the presence of one or more substance use disorders and mental health disorders that occur simultaneously. In many cases, people with co-occurring disorders use substances like marijuana to self-medicate for other conditions, such as anxiety or depression.

Common co-occurring disorders with marijuana include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Impulse control disorder
  • Substance-induced psychosis

Marijuana Detox and Withdrawal Management

Detoxing on your own can be extremely uncomfortable and, in rare cases, dangerous. Medical detox provides a safe place and a full medical team to monitor your health and manage your symptoms to keep you as comfortable as possible until withdrawal is complete.

Learn more About Drug Withdrawal

Frequently Asked Questions

01

Is Marijuana Addictive?

icon

Marijuana can be addictive, leading to habitual dependence rather than the purely physical addiction seen with harder drugs. A habitual addiction can still be harmful and difficult to stop, especially for those with co-occurring disorders.

02

What Does Marijuana Do to the Brain?

icon

Marijuana use directly affects the brain’s function, including the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, emotional regulation, reaction time, and coordination.[8]

03

What Does Marijuana Do to the Brain?

icon

Marijuana use affects brain function, impacting memory, learning, attention, emotional regulation, reaction time, and coordination. It is also used for medicinal purposes like relieving pain or combating anxiety. Though more research is needed, many states recognize marijuana as a medicinal drug. In some cases, marijuana may be used to induce euphoria and escape unpleasant thoughts or emotions.

Sources
icon
[01]

Cannabis facts and stats. (2024, February 22). Cannabis and Public Health. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/cannabis/data-research/facts-stats/?CDC_AAref_Val=https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/data-statistics.htm on 2024, June 6.

[02]

Turner AR, Agrawal S. Marijuana. [Updated 2022 Aug 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430801/ on 2023, July 5.

[03]

SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (n.d.). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/reports/rpt39443/2021NSDUHNNR122322/2021NSDUHNNR122322.htm#illi2 on 2024, June 6.

[04]

Injury and death – the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids … (n.d.-c). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/books/NBK425742/ on 2023, July 5.

[05]

Hall, W., & Degenhardt, L. (2008). Cannabis use and the risk of developing a psychotic disorder. World Psychiatry/World Psychiatry, 7(2), 68–71. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2424288/ on 2024, June 6.

[06]

Patel, J., & Marwaha, R. (2024, March 20). Cannabis use disorder. StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538131/ on 2024, June 6.

[07]

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: the current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2017. Retrieved from https://nap.nationalacademies.org/catalog/24625/the-health-effects-of-cannabis-and-cannabinoids-the-current-state on 2024, June 6.

[08]

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020a, October 19). Brain health. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/health-effects/brain-health.html#:~:text=Marijuana%20use%20directly%20affects%20brain,%2C%20emotions%2C%20and%20reaction%20time on 2023, July 5.

Begin Your Recovery Journey Today