Some users mistakenly believe that marijuana's legal status and medical benefits mean that it is safe. Any drug, though, is subject to compulsive use and can become addictive--marijuana is no exception. Current research suggests that between 5% and 10% of marijuana users will eventually become addicts--a figure that is similar to the alcohol addiction rate.
What is Marijuana Abuse?
Some users mistakenly believe that marijuana's legal status and medical benefits mean that it is safe. Any drug, though, is subject to compulsive use and can become addictive--marijuana is no exception.
Current research suggests that between 5% and 10% of marijuana users will eventually become addicts--a figure that is similar to the alcohol addiction rate.
Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse
Marijuana doesn't fit neatly into any drug category, and its effects vary depending on the user and the strain of marijuana he or she takes.
The addictive component of marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC accounts for the foggy thinking and euphoria, but other chemicals can produce a wide range of other effects--such as the reduction in nausea so many cancer patients report with this drug.
Some of the most common symptoms of marijuana use include:
- Red or droopy eyes.
- Increased giddiness and frequent laughing.
- Increased appetite.
- Decreased energy.
- Difficulty concentrating; people under the influence of marijuana often jump rapidly from topic to topic.
- Smelling like smoke or marijuana.
- Presence of marijuana paraphernalia, such as rolling papers or a water pipe in the house.
What Are the Effects of Abuse?
While this makes the drug slightly safer than some others, it also encourages users to take high doses.
For example, someone who smokes marijuana is more vulnerable to lung problems while someone who has a history of binge eating may binge even more while under marijuana's influence.
Some other long-term effects of marijuana abuse include:
- Cardiovascular problems, especially if you smoke the drug.
- Depression and anxiety.
- Difficulty feeling "normal" without marijuana.
- Decreased motivation.
- Career, medical, and relationship difficulties.
- Changes in libido or fertility.
- Stunted brain development among teen users.
- Weight gain due to marijuana-related appetite increases.
Combining with Other Substances
How is Marijuana Abuse Diagnosed?
If you go through withdrawal in between doses or experience intense psychological pain when you attempt to quit using, you may be addicted.Marijuana abuse tends to set in over time, so it can be tough to discern whether you're a recreational user, an addict or a person getting a legitimate medical benefit from the drug. In general, if you go through withdrawal in between doses or experience intense psychological pain when you attempt to quit using, you may be addicted.
Similarly, many addicts continue using even when the drug no longer gets them high or persist in abusing marijuana even when it yields unpleasant life consequences.
Who is at Risk for Addiction?
Research suggests that people with a history of mental illness are especially vulnerable to marijuana addiction. Marijuana helps ease feelings of depression and anxiety on a short-term basis, and this relief can be a tempting option for someone who does not want to try prescription drugs or for whom therapy has been unhelpful.
Some studies indicate that ADHD significantly increases your risk for marijuana addiction.
A host of other risk factors can also increase your odds of becoming an addict, including:
- Genetic legacy of marijuana addiction.
- Stressful home life.
- Family history of addiction.
- History of trauma.
Marijuana's use as a medical treatment is still relatively new, so it's not yet clear whether medical use of the drug increases the likelihood of addiction.
What is clear is that no one becomes a marijuana addict without trying the drug. Thus, the most significant risk factor for marijuana addiction is prolonged use at high doses. People with low body mass indexes and teens are especially vulnerable to addiction.
When to Seek Help
Admitting that you have a marijuana addiction can be embarrassing, especially in a culture that insists that marijuana is not addictive or dangerous. If marijuana use is interfering with your normal daily functioning, that alone could be reason enough to seek treatment.
Any drug that changes the way you think can turn addictive, though, and the longer you allow your addiction to progress, the more power it will have to control you and your life.
Addiction is a disease, not something you chose, and like other diseases, it will only get better with the right treatment.
Some signs that it's time to stop trying to fight your addiction on your own include:
- Experiencing legal, financial, medical, or relationship problems due to your reliance on marijuana.
- Using marijuana to cope with a health problem.
- Relying on marijuana to improve your performance.
- Depression, anxiety, or loss of motivation.
- Feeling like you can't be normal or yourself without marijuana.
- Loved ones requesting that you seek help or stop using.
- Difficulty concentrating without marijuana.
- Organizing your day or life according to when you'll next be able to use marijuana.
Help for Addicted Friends and Family
It's easy to dismiss marijuana addiction as somehow less severe than other drug addictions. After all, no one ever overdosed on marijuana, and plenty of people use the drug without a problem.
If someone you love struggles with a marijuana addiction, their struggles are just as real as that of any other addict. Addiction is not a choice, and derision will only alienate your loved one. If you want to help him or her get clean, the key is to offer support without enabling the addiction.
Help your loved one explore his or her treatment options, and highlight the ways in which marijuana has negatively impacted his or her life. If your loved one refuses to seek treatment, be prepared to set clear boundaries.
For many family members, an intervention affords the chance to encourage treatment while also setting limits. Whatever your boundaries are, you need to stick to them.
It might be hard not to help an addict you love, but giving money to an addict or offering them a place to stay when they refuse treatment only gives them an incentive to keep using. Some addicts have to hit rock bottom before they're willing to accept the treatment they need.
Rehab and Treatment Options
Marijuana addiction can leave you feeling despondent and worthless, but that's the addiction talking, not a reflection of the reality of your life. Addicts have a number of treatment options at their disposal, the most intensive of which is inpatient rehab.
Inpatient Marijuana Treatment Options
Outpatient Marijuana Treatment Options
An inpatient rehab, which requires you to live at the treatment facility, isn't workable for everyone. If you prefer outpatient treatment, some options include:
Teen Marijuana Abuse and Addiction
Marijuana is second only to alcohol as the most popular drug among teens. 44% of 12th graders have used the drug at least once, with 6% using it during the last month.
Parents who catch their teens abusing marijuana may be tempted to ban the drug and punish their teen. But if your teen is an addict, punishment won't work. Indeed, the stress associated with an angry parent might even encourage her to continue using.
44% of 12th graders have used the drug at least once, with 6% using it in the last month.
Marijuana use stunts brain development and can interfere with your child's well-being for the rest of her life. If your teen is an addict, the time to act is now. You can't force her to want to recover, but you can create circumstances that encourage her to seek help. Offer plenty of support and compassion, as well as an incentive for getting clean. If your child is still unwilling to seek help, it's your job to use your
authority as a parent to compel her to get the help she needs. Marijuana addiction is not directly fatal, but it has the power to sideline careers and relationships while destroying an addict's quality of life. Treatment works, and no addict deserves to suffer alone. By seeking treatment now, you take a powerful first step toward a better life for yourself or the addict you love.