Marijuana Addiction and Abuse

The most common method for using marijuana is to place the dried leaves, stems, and flowers of this plant onto rolling paper and make it into a cigarette, to be smoked. It can also be smoked in a waterpipe or "bong", or other metal or glass pipe. This drug can also be put in food products or mixed with coffee or tea. 

What is Marijuana Addiction?

A person who is living with an addiction to marijuana is unable to stop using it, even when they want to. The urge to use is simply too strong. Couple the dependence on the drug with the fact that it is cheap and relatively easy to get, and you will see why so many people become addicted.

Signs of Marijuana Dependence

Signs that use of marijuana has moved from the recreational stage to a more serious problem are similar to those of other addictions, and include:

  • Spending a large portion of time thinking about marijuana
  • Focusing on getting more and finding the money to get it
  • Need to use a larger amount to get the same effect

Causes of Dependency

An individual who is addicted to marijuana becomes dependent on the drug because it affects the pleasure centers in the brain. Repeated use makes it more difficult for the person to remember events, learn new ideas or skills, and adapt to changes appropriately. This impairment can lead to depression, and the marijuana addict may continue to use the drug as a way to deal with the feelings of emptiness and hopelessness that accompany this disorder. The side effects of marijuana use may also lead to anxiety when the person tries to quit.

Effects of Use

Marijuana addicts claim that using the drug gives them these effects, which last for two or three hours after the drug is ingested:

  • Ease in social situations
  • Euphoria
  • Feeling of relaxation
  • Sexual arousal

Learn more about the effects marijuana produces.

Complications and Long Term Effects of Marijuana Abuse

Using marijuana produces a sense of fuzziness in the brain, which has led to a number of accidents involving motor vehicles and in the workplace. Marijuana abuse during pregnancy leads to low-birth weight babies, and puts the child at increased risk for a form of blood cancer.

Marijuana doesn't contain nicotine, but it does have more tar than tobacco products do. Repeated use increases the addict's risk for:

  • Bronchitis
  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • Emphysema
  • Lung cancer
  • Respiratory tract infections

Help and Treatment for Marijuana Addiction

Drug rehab centers offering programs for substance abuse are able to provide help and support to marijuana addicts. They can assist the addict through marijuana withdrawal symptoms, which include:

  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Weight loss

After the withdrawal phase of marijuana addiction treatment is completed, individual and group therapy can be used to help the person successfully quit marijuana. Clients are taught to recognize the triggers that make them want to use the drug as part of marijuana addiction treatments. Once the triggers have been identified, the addict can learn effective strategies to deal with them. Screening for other addictions and psychiatric disorders should be part of the services offered, since marijuana is often used with other substances, such as alcohol, or as part of self-medicating for mental illness.

Beyond Quitting: Marijuana Recovery and Rehabilitation

Follow-up care for those who have been addicted to marijuana may include a referral to a 12-step program, such as Marijuana Anonymous, or a recommendation to enter a sober living house. Any psychiatric issues must be monitored, and medications or appropriate therapy given to avoid a relapse.