People tend to have strong opinions about marijuana, or cannabis. There has always been lots of debate around this substance, such as whether marijuana should be legalized, if it should be considered a drug or a medicinal product, or how dangerous it is. One thing that is not debatable is the fact that regular marijuana leads to addiction in about 9% of regular users.
What is marijuana addiction?
Dependency to marijuana can develop when individuals use the substance on a daily basis. Marijuana produces anxiolytic effects, meaning it causes the individual to feel relaxed and mellow while under its influence. With continued use of marijuana, the brain makes adaptations in response to ongoing exposure to the substance. This may lead to chemical dependency.
Addiction is present when the individual’s use of a substance becomes compulsive. The individual addicted to marijuana continues to use the substance, despite the negative effects. These effects can include loss of ambition or drive, loss of productivity, cognitive problems, learning problems, interpersonal problems or career repercussions.
What does marijuana addiction look like?
Regular marijuana use can cause impaired daily functioning. When the individual is no longer able to resist using the drug, regardless of the ongoing negative consequences experienced, it is an addiction. These negative effects might include interpersonal problems, career stalling or job loss, loss of productivity, loss of ambition or drive, social problems and drug cravings.
Signs of marijuana addiction include:
- Compulsion to obtain and use marijuana
- Increased tolerance, leading to higher consumption of marijuana
- Engaging in risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence
- Becoming isolated
- Exhibiting secretive behavior
- Becoming socially withdrawn
- Legal problems
- Financial difficulties
- Unable to quit marijuana use
- Experience withdrawal signs when the effects wear off
Is marijuana dangerous?
Some individuals believe that marijuana is an innocuous substance, especially when they compare it to cocaine, heroin or meth. While those substances are undeniably dangerous, it is a mistake to assume that using marijuana comes without risks.
Today’s marijuana is nothing like the versions from decades ago, as cannabis products now contain a significantly higher concentration of the psychoactive ingredient called tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Today’s marijuana is about 65% more potent than it was in the 1970s. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that marijuana from the 1990s contained 3.8% THC, but by 2018 the THC levels were up to 15%.
Further, NIDA states that vaping products may be 50% to 80% THC. This highly concentrated cannabis product can cause distortion of time and perceptions, hallucinations, paranoia, confusion and unconsciousness. Prolonged use of these potent products are linked with lung damage and memory impairment.
What’s the treatment for marijuana addiction?
When marijuana use disorder takes hold, treatment to assist the individual in overcoming the disorder is available in either outpatient or inpatient settings. The inpatient treatment setting is recommended for individuals with a poly-substance use disorder, such as co-occurring marijuana and alcohol use disorders. If the individual has a co-occurring mental health issue, a program that specializes in dual diagnosis treatment is appropriate.
Marijuana use disorder is highly treatable. Marijuana treatment programs emphasize the use of behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational enhancement therapy and contingency management. These therapies are complemented by holistic activities that teach relaxation techniques, and the integration of Alcoholic Anonymous’ 12-step program into the treatment framework.
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.