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Marijuana is the most commonly used addictive substance after alcohol and tobacco. In the United States, 11.8 million1 young adults admitted to using marijuana in the past year in 2018. In 2019, 11.8% of 8th-grade students admitted to using marijuana. The percentage rose to 28.8% among 10th-grade students, suggesting there is increased marijuana use as teens grow up.

Research2 continues to show that marijuana negatively impacts learning, attention spans, and memory. Studies also show that regular marijuana users are less likely to graduate from high school and have a higher risk of becoming dependent on other, more addictive substances. This is why marijuana is often referred to as a “gateway” drug.

Is Marijuana Really Addictive?

The common misconception among teens and young adults is that marijuana is not habit-forming. About one in 10 marijuana users will develop a dependency on the drug. Though developing dependencies on other substances like tobacco, alcohol, or cocaine is much more common, marijuana can be addictive for some individuals. Young people are especially at risk for dependency because they quickly adjust to the euphoric feeling they get from the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Users are also at risk of developing an addiction to illegally obtained marijuana that may be contaminated with other substances. This is especially risky for young people who are still developing their inhibition control. In some cases, the use of marijuana can lead to cannabis use disorder (CUD). CUD affects a user’s ability to lead a normal life by affecting day-to-day activities. CUD may have psychological, physical, or emotional effects on the user that can impact their daily life.

During the brain’s development in the teenage years, marijuana use can be addictive. In other words, an adult with a fully developed frontal cortex may not develop a dependency on marijuana, but a young adolescent or teen easily can. The effects of marijuana on young people can be very harmful, opening up the door to more serious and life-threatening dependency issues.

How Does Marijuana Work?

When smoked or inhaled, THC enters the bloodstream and travels directly to the brain. THC then disrupts the way brain receptors communicate with the body. This can happen within minutes, causing delayed reactions, delayed reflexes, and feelings of euphoria. THC can overwhelm the body very quickly and very strongly. THC is one of the strongest psychoactive drugs out there, resulting in nearly immediate impairment.

When marijuana is consumed in food, it may take much longer to affect the brain’s receptors. It can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes to kick in. But, once it does kick in, it leads to the same types of impairment as when THC is smoked.

Essentially, the THC in marijuana blocks neurotransmitters from communicating with the brain and gives the user a relaxed, mellow feeling. This can impair coordination, memory, and even problem-solving skills. Users may feel like they are in complete control, but they are not. Operating a vehicle or being responsible for the care of another human being is significantly impaired when THC is flowing through the bloodstream.

The effects of the THC in marijuana are short-lived, so users may feel the need to do it more and more often to maintain those mellow feelings. Of course, repeated use may eventually cause permanent damage to neurotransmitters in the brain, impairing the use of certain parts of the brain permanently. This may be one of the reasons why frequent marijuana users find it harder to graduate high school.

What Are the Effects of Marijuana?

There are many negative effects that marijuana can have on the human body. As discussed above, there are several immediate, short-term effects of marijuana use, including memory problems and delayed reflexes. Marijuana can induce mellow feelings for some, but it may also induce feelings of panic, anxiety, or fear in others.

Because marijuana affects the brain’s neuroreceptors, it may impair judgment. This means users are more likely to make poor decisions and engage in reckless activity because the part of the brain that would normally be reluctant to do something unsafe is temporarily impaired. Marijuana users may feel fit to drive, but they are certainly not. Driving while under the influence of marijuana is highly dangerous. Delayed reflexes can cause serious accidents on the road.

Marijuana may also affect mental health for some users, particularly those who already suffer from mental health conditions. Marijuana can make anxiety or depression worse, increasing the user’s risk of developing an addiction to other, more addictive substances.

What Are the Symptoms of Marijuana Withdrawal?

Smoking marijuana a handful of times will not result in dependency or withdrawal. But continued use of marijuana may result in withdrawal symptoms when the user stops smoking it. Marijuana withdrawal can include a variety of symptoms, including uncontrollable mood swings, reduced appetite, irritability, insomnia, headaches, sweating, cold sweats, body chills, upset stomach, worsened depression, acute anxiety, and digestive troubles.

Symptoms of marijuana withdrawal may vary by individual. Not everyone will experience withdrawal in the same way. Some may experience very few symptoms, and others may experience many symptoms. For the most part, marijuana withdrawal is unpleasant, but in some cases, it can be very severe and dangerous. Users should seek immediate medical attention if they experience worsening symptoms and are unable to keep down any food or liquid.

How Long Does Marijuana Withdrawal Last?

It takes about 30 days for the body to rid itself of residual marijuana, but this does not necessarily mean withdrawal symptoms will last for the full 30-day period. Most people will experience the bulk of their withdrawal symptoms for the first two to three weeks, and symptoms should slowly improve over the course of the entire three weeks.

The effects of marijuana may wear off within a few hours, but if the user is a frequent marijuana user, it may take their body longer than expected to rid themselves of the craving to use marijuana. Residual marijuana can remain in the system for as long as three months if the user is a heavy marijuana smoker. If marijuana is in the body, it may encourage cravings, but the withdrawal symptoms shouldn’t last that long.

How Do I Quit Marijuana?

If you or someone you love is addicted to marijuana, the sooner you can kick the habit, the better. Prolonged regular use of marijuana can have serious effects on the body and the brain. Plus, it can increase the risk of developing an addiction to other substances. It is always recommended to quit marijuana as early as possible.

If you are struggling with marijuana addiction, there are some things you can do to quit. Cold turkey is the best way to quit your marijuana addiction, but this is often easier said than done. If you find yourself addicted to regular marijuana use, here are some things you can do to ensure you kick the habit.

Make a Plan

Saying you’ll quit cold turkey and actually doing it are two different things. To make the process easier, make a game plan first. Who will your support system consist of? What is your target quit date? Setting yourself up a list of goals can help you attain your goal quicker.

Toss Marijuana Paraphernalia

Get rid of anything that reminds you of your marijuana use. Anything you use to consume marijuana should be out of sight. Seeing these items will trigger your craving and your need to use them.

Identify Your Triggers

What makes you want to use? Identify the feelings, places, or people who trigger you to use and write them down. Once you know what triggers you, you will be in a better position to avoid those triggers or mentally prepare yourself for them if you cannot avoid them.

Ask for Support

If you have friends and loved ones around you who care about your sobriety, ask them to support you. They can help you by talking to you when you are feeling low or feeling like using, or they can help you avoid the triggers that make you want to use. Love and support are key elements in ditching any addictive behavior.

Get a Hobby

If you are gearing up to quit marijuana for good, you will need to find something to take your mind off of your addiction. Whenever a craving hits, fill that time up with a hobby that you enjoy. Ideally, a hobby that involves physical activity. Increased physical activity can increase endorphins and put you in a happier mood. Keeping your mind, body, and soul busy with a healthy activity can make all the difference in staying sober.

When Do I Need Help?

The misconception that marijuana is not addictive can stop people from reaching out to rehab centers like Windward Way Recovery. But the truth is, addiction is a disease and it can happen with marijuana as well. If you are suffering from marijuana addiction and haven’t been able to quit on your own, you can and should reach out to Windward Way Recovery for help. Battling addiction is a physically, mentally, and emotionally draining fight. In many cases, it just can’t be done alone, and that’s OK.

If you or a loved one is suffering from marijuana addiction, seek help as soon as possible. Windward Way Recovery offers a wide range of outpatient and inpatient treatment programs. These programs can help addicts with different types of addiction and help them find their path to sobriety. The journey to recovery is a complex one and is unique to each individual. To maximize your results and reach a healthy lifestyle sooner rather than later, reach out to Windward Way Recovery for help.

Choose from one of the many therapy programs available to meet with like-minded individuals in your same situation. Know you are not alone, and you can find your path to healing. At Windward Way Recovery, we understand the importance of kicking marijuana dependency. Before marijuana affects your life any further or pushes you into a more serious habit, seek help.

There is no shame in seeking help for marijuana addiction or any other addiction. In fact, it is the first decision you can make on your path to recovery. Are you battling an addiction to marijuana that is affecting your life and reducing your ability to keep a job, get an education, or stay safe? Now is the time to ask for help. You are not alone on this journey. Windward Way Recovery is here with you every step of the way.

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