For a long time, marijuana has been considered by many to be a harmless substance. In more recent years, people are beginning to realize that today’s marijuana is significantly more potent than the product of decades ago. The main psychoactive compound in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is currently found at concentrations five times the potency of THC levels from the 1990s.
Marijuana use disorder, including marijuana abuse, marijuana dependency and marijuana addiction, affects approximately 6 million Americans each year. Marijuana is a designated Schedule I controlled substance due to its high potential for abuse and addiction. An individual may form a daily marijuana habit to self-medicate such conditions as insomnia or anxiety or use it recreationally in combination with other substances like alcohol.
Marijuana dependence can develop over time, as habitual use results in chemical changes in the brain. When dependency occurs and the individual attempts to stop using the substance, a cluster of marijuana withdrawal symptoms will emerge. Continue reading to learn more about the dangers of marijuana and what to expect during marijuana withdrawal.
Dangers of marijuana
In the past, the main concerns about marijuana revolved around its possible role as a gateway drug, which would potentially lead users to explore harder drugs. Today, there are several dangers associated with marijuana use disorder:
- Lung damage: Vaping of highly concentrated liquefied THC products has been linked to a type of lung damage called EVALI, which has been implicated in dozens of deaths. Symptoms include:
- Wheezing during exercise
- Sleep disruption due to wheezing
- Dry cough at night
- Wheezing or whistling in the chest
- Psychotic symptoms: Ingesting high quantities of THC, in natural or synthetic marijuana, THC oils for vaping and edible products, has been found to cause short-term psychotic symptoms. While psychosis is not a mental illness, the symptoms mimic those of certain psychotic disorders, like Symptoms of psychosis caused by marijuana include:
- Irrational fear
- Mood swings
- Reduced brain volume: Studies have shown that continued marijuana use during adolescence can result in reduced volume of certain brain regions.
- Respiratory problems: Exposure to long-term marijuana use is associated with large airway inflammation. This results in lung infections, bronchitis, and respiratory disease.
- Mental health disorders: Marijuana use disorder is often associated with co-occurring depression, social anxiety, and schizophrenia.
- THC toxicity: While an overdose death due to marijuana is highly unlikely, it is possible to ingest a dangerous level of THC. Symptoms include:
- Extreme confusion
- Nausea and vomiting
- Extreme anxiety
- Loss of coordination
- Rapid heart rate
- Panic attack
- Cognitive impairment: Marijuana can have a negative impact on memory, attention, thought processing, and learning.
What is marijuana withdrawal?
When an individual seeks treatment for marijuana dependence, they have likely been using the substance for many years. According to the National Institutes of Health, the majority of individuals seeking treatment have used marijuana for ten years or more. Many have a co-occurring alcohol use disorder, as the two substances are often used simultaneously.
Treatment for marijuana dependence or addiction begins with detox and withdrawal management. Marijuana withdrawal symptoms include:
- Stomach pain
- Cold sweats
- Body aches
- Mood swings
- Decreased appetite
For most, the marijuana withdrawal process takes about two weeks to complete, although lethargy, insomnia, and fatigue may persist for about a month. To maximize recovery success, withdrawal management should be followed by a comprehensive treatment program and continuing care actions.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders. Our programs are accredited by The Joint Commission, and result in frequent publications of ongoing research into effective treatment methodologies. We offer holistic care that encompasses the mind, body and spirit through inpatient and outpatient treatment, provide drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s unique needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to transform and save lives through the science of medicine, the art of therapy and the compassion of spirituality, and is complemented by our philosophy of healing with respect and dignity. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call 866-313-6307.