closeup photo of cannabis plant
person holding paper on kush

Marijuana is a very popular substance. A large percentage of Americans use it regularly and it is legal in many states. However, there is a misconception that marijuana cannot lead to addiction and is free of dangers. Although many people use marijuana recreationally and it is legally acceptable in different states, there are still dangers that are often overlooked.

Like other substances, such as alcohol and opiates, marijuana has addictive characteristics. Many people can consume alcohol responsibly, but many others develop an alcohol dependence or addiction. It is the same principle with marijuana; some may use it responsibly, while many others will not. Click here for help with marijuana addiction.

Understanding Marijuana

Marijuana is also commonly known as cannabis or by street names such as, “weed,” or, “pot.” The drug itself comes from the dried leaves and buds of the plant. People commonly smoke marijuana in joints or with devices such as bongs and pipes. Some people also consume oil from the cannabis plant. There are several ways to consume this, such as through vaping, with a bong, or in food and drink. Marijuana contains a chemical called THC, which causes the, “high,” that people experience.

Some people use marijuana for medical purposes, but it is easy for people to misuse it. Marijuana is recognized for medicinal use, but it is important to remember that opioid-based medication also exists. Many people can become addicted to heroin after misusing prescription opioid-based medication. Therefore, it is crucial that people remember that just because something is legal, does not mean it is harmless.

Marijuana and Medical Use

The medical properties of marijuana relate to the chemical Cannabidiol (CBD), which is also found in the plant. THC is responsible for the, “high,” and CBD is the chemical with medicinal properties. Many people use CBD which is extracted from the cannabis plant and sold in oil, supplement, or edible form.

CBD can be useful for:

  • Pain management
  • Inflammation
  • The control of epilepsy symptoms
  • Treatment for certain mental health problems

There are some medicinal qualities relating to THC, but it is most commonly known for the, “high,” it produces. This is also what most people seek when they use marijuana.

When people use cannabis recreationally, they may experience:

  • Slower body movements
  • A different perception of time
  • Difficulty retaining information
  • Memory loss
  • Mood changes
  • Paranoia

In high doses, people can experience additional symptoms. These can include delusion, psychosis, and hallucinations. There are also many effects related to long-term marijuana use. These include:

  • Effects on cognitive function
  • Lung problems
  • An increased heart rate
  • Issues with childhood development for women that use marijuana during pregnancy

Long-term marijuana use can also increase the risks 1 becoming addicted to harder drugs. Although many people think it is impossible to overdose on marijuana, this is incorrect. A marijuana overdose can display the following symptoms:

  • Large pupils
  • A fast heart rate
  • Hallucinations
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Extreme fear
  • Intense paranoia
  • Shaking
  • Feeling generally unwell
  • Vomiting

It can be difficult to identify marijuana overdose; this is because users can display these symptoms after small doses. A person’s reaction to marijuana is often unpredictable and like most substances, it can depend on tolerance.

Understanding Marijuana Addiction

It is important to understand why marijuana can be an addictive substance; viewing addiction as a disease is essential. An addict’s brain becomes conditioned to compulsively use substances and builds a physical and/or psychological dependence on the substance, which means they can be at risk of addiction to marijuana. Although the rate of addiction is lower than with other substances, it is entirely possible.

The number of young people with addictions to marijuana is increasing2 Marijuana addictions are more likely to occur if one starts using a substance at an earlier age.

Addiction to marijuana can be difficult to define. However, there are many common signs of addiction that an individual may display. Some of these are:

  • Spending the majority of your time using marijuana, seeking it or recovering from using it.
  • Having cravings for marijuana and feeling an intense need to use it.
  • Withdrawing from activities because of marijuana use. For example, giving up sports or social activities.
  • Having trouble controlling your use and using more marijuana than you intended to.
  • Building a tolerance to marijuana, meaning you need to use more to feel the effects.
  • Missing work/school or performing at a lower standard than you usually would.
  • Continuing to smoke or consume marijuana even after experiencing health problems related to its use.
  • Feeling symptoms of withdrawal when not using marijuana.
  • Continuing your use of marijuana even after it has affected your social or personal relationships.

Other signs can include repeated attempts to quit marijuana without success. An addiction may mean you neglect your own self-care and cleanliness and cannot meet your responsibilities or commitments.

Like many other substances, there are withdrawal symptoms linked to marijuana. You may feel these after discontinuing use. Some common withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Shaking
  • Appetite changes
  • Trouble sleeping or having night terrors
  • Headaches
  • Fever-like symptoms
  • Mood swings or feeling angry/irritable

Common physical symptoms relating to marijuana addiction:

  • Tiredness
  • Co-ordination issues
  • Increase in appetite
  • Balance problems
  • Bloodshot whites of the eyes

Many marijuana addicts display behavioral and social symptoms relating to their substance use. These are often the signs that are most noticeable and can cause friends and family members to have concerns about their use. Some of these are:

  • Having a lack of motivation and struggling to keep on top of responsibilities.
  • Behaving in a risky manner when under the influence of marijuana.
  • Isolating from family and friends and avoiding certain social situations.
  • Only socializing with others that use marijuana.
  • Losing interest in activities and hobbies that you used to enjoy.
  • Struggling at work or in school.
  • Using marijuana when it is dangerous to do so. For example, smoking it before driving, swimming or operating heavy machinery.
  • Consuming substances in combination with marijuana.

Long-Term Impact

Many people forget about the long-term impact of marijuana addiction. However, an individual with a substance use issue will often see this manifest in different areas of their life. Usually, an addiction will get worse over time, which is why it is important to get treatment as early as possible. There are several long-term effects that include:

  • Health issues such as lung and heart problems.
  • Problems maintaining and developing relationships.
  • Unemployment, often long-term.
  • Financial problems often relating to debt.
  • Low confidence and self-esteem.
  • Sexual problems.
  • Difficulty processing and retaining information.
  • Finding it difficult to learn new things.
  • Injuries resulting from poor judgment while under the influence of marijuana.
  • Family breakdown and homelessness.

Concerns Over a Loved One’s Marijuana Use

Seeing a loved one struggling with addiction is not easy. You may have an suspicion that a friend or family member has an addiction issue but are unsure. There are a number of things you can look out for if you are worried about a loved one. Some of these are:

  • Noticing that they start to withdraw socially.
  • Talking about marijuana often.
  • Smelling strongly of marijuana.
  • Losing interest in their favorite things.
  • Spending time with others that use marijuana over family and friends that do not.
  • Having dilated pupils or bloodshot eyes.
  • Having marijuana paraphernalia such as rolling papers and pipes.
  • Displaying mood changes, such as acting down or becoming aggressive.
  • Seeming distant or emotionally withdrawn.

Encouraging a Marijuana Addict To Get Help

If you do have concerns over your loved one’s marijuana use, you may want to encourage them to seek help. This can be very difficult, often more so than with those with addictions to other drugs. The misconception that marijuana is not addictive can mean that those struggling with an addiction to marijuana may minimize this addiction. It can be difficult to show someone that their marijuana use is problematic without overt consequences. If you want to encourage someone, the best chance is to have a calm conversation with them, ensuring that you are not shaming them or casting judgment.

Be sure that your loved one is coherent, not, “high,” or recovering from a high. It is important that your loved one is clear-headed when you have the conversation. Express your perspective about their behavior and talk about behaviors that you have seen them display that may signal an addiction or have raised concern.

Talk to your loved one about the treatment options that are available to them and how you will be supportive throughout their recovery. Sometimes, having a conversation like this can result in your loved one taking offense, becoming defensive, and/or denying that their substance use is a problem. Remember that this is a common response to this conversation and many addicts are in denial about their addictions for a long time.

If you cannot have a successful conversation with your loved one about their addiction, do not push it.; sometimes it can be best to leave the conversation and revisit it. It can also be helpful to use an intervention approach either with family members or with an addiction professional. Bringing other family members into the conversation can be a powerful way to get through to your loved one. If more than one person agrees that they have seen a problem, they may be more likely to listen.

Arranging an intervention with an addiction professional is often the best method of helping an addict understand their problem. A professional is experienced in talking to people with addictions and helping them to recognize this while supporting the family as a whole.

Supporting a Family Member Through Recovery

Your loved one’s addiction has likely affected your relationship with them. Often, the impact of addiction on the family members and friends of the addict is overshadowed. Family therapy can be beneficial and help you to support your loved one through the addiction. It can also give you the opportunity to work on the issues with them. You can do this by creating healthier behaviors with them to ensure their addiction is not given the opportunity to flourish again.

Learn About Addiction

Addiction is challenging for all that are involved, but it can help to understand the complexities that surround it. Many family members and friends of addicts do not have a lot of knowledge about addiction. Therefore, it can be difficult to get through to a loved one about the severity of their use. If you educate yourself about substance withdrawal, the effects substances have on the body, and the behaviors that often come with addiction, it can be easier to show empathy to your loved one. Remember that your loved one likely feels a lack of control of their addiction; at its worst, it consumes them in every way. Look into the specific issues that your loved one faces daily by learning about the substance they use.

Establish Your Role in Your Loved One’s Addiction

It is not easy to accept that you may be part of the problem. However, recognizing the role you play is key to your loved one’s recovery. Do you make excuses for their behavior? Do you give or lend them money regularly? Think about whether you have been helping them fund their addiction. Although it can be scary to take these things away from an addict and worry about what may happen to them, you do yourself (or them) no favors by enabling the patterns. If you take away funding (or anything else) that is enabling your loved one, be sure to clarify that you will offer support through their recovery if they choose to take it.

You may need to reframe your role and go from an enabler to a supporter. A supporter ensures they have boundaries in place and commits to supporting their loved one through their recovery journey while also protecting themselves. A supporter positively encourages their loved one to accept treatment without enabling their addiction.

Treatment For Marijuana Addiction

Unlike many other substances, marijuana addiction treatment does not require medication. However, some people may benefit from certain medications when withdrawing from marijuana. These can include anti-sickness drugs or SSRIs to help with the low mood or anxiety that can come with withdrawal. Like any addictions, one who is addicted to marijuana will experience a detoxification from the drug. Withdrawal throughout detoxification is often less severe than with drugs like heroin or alcohol, but this doesn’t mean it is easy for the individual. The withdrawal symptoms that someone with a marijuana addiction experiences entirely depends on the individual.

Treatment for marijuana addiction is primarily therapy-based. It is important to recognize the impact addiction can have on an individual’s brain and behaviors. Rehabilitation is important to manage an addiction successfully. A marijuana addict may not require inpatient support and may benefit more from outpatient rehabilitation. However, this depends on the individual and their needs.

Things To Remember

Entering treatment for a marijuana addiction can be difficult. You may have struggled to come to terms with your addiction and admit that you have a problem with substances at all. However, you should praise yourself for recognizing your addiction and seeing it for what it is.

Sometimes, your peers may not understand your decision to enter treatment. This can be disheartening, but do not let it discourage you. One common reason for this is the misconception that marijuana is not an addictive substance. Another reason may be that your peers have addiction problems of their own and are in denial about these, or they may not want you to stop using marijuana because they may enjoy your company and using the drug with you. However, these are not reasons to not enter treatment.

Remember the reasons you wanted to enter treatment initially. These can help you throughout the treatment process and be a motivator if you have difficulty during the process. You likely noticed substantial impacts in your life due to your marijuana use and chose to seek treatment because of this. Entering treatment will allow you to gain control over your addiction. For many people, they have spent years at the grips of addiction and entering recovery can give them a sense of hope for the future.

Reach Out

If you feel ready to take the next step and arrange treatment for yourself or your loved one, reach out to us. You can email or call us whenever you are ready. We know it can be scary and that it is a big step, but we help families and individuals in the same position as you all the time. There is hope — a happy and substance-free life is possible.

Reach Out For a Loved One

If you are worried about a loved one and think they need to enter treatment, reach out to us. We are always happy to provide advice and support to family members and friends of addicts and point them in the right direction. We can assist with intervention and give you resources to help your loved one get the treatment they deserve.

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