Marijuana Abuse and Addiction Treatment Options
Marijuana has garnered a reputation as a casual drug. Indeed, as a culture, it seems that we are moving into an era where marijuana is becoming more commonly accepted and regarded as simply another vice.
Unfortunately, this shifting cultural perspective can mask some of the real dangers that marijuana poses to society. Consider the following:
- Long-term abuse of marijuana is associated with an array of physical, emotional, cognitive, and legal problems.
- Though it has been legalized in many places, marijuana use remains a crime in many parts of the country, one that can result in hefty fines or prison sentences.
- Marijuana is the second-most commonly abused substance in the United States, coming in behind alcohol. As such, millions of Americans find themselves at risk of suffering from a marijuana use disorder, even in places where the drug is legal.
The issues of marijuana addiction and substance abuse have only gotten worse thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result, more people are falling victim to the trap offered by substance use disorders. Though it can be addictive and highly problematic, marijuana addiction is eminently treatable.
Can You Get Addicted to Marijuana?
Individuals who favor more liberal marijuana laws will argue that marijuana has a different chemical formula than other, more addictive drugs. To an extent, this is true. Marijuana is not addictive in the same sense that other drugs, like alcohol or heroin, can be. However, that does not mean that it is not addictive at all, and it is very possible to get addicted to marijuana.
This is because marijuana users who use the drug often enough may develop a psychological dependence on the substance. People will use the substance in order to feel better or more relaxed and eventually, this can turn into a dependency on the drug. Some will continue using marijuana, even though it may be causing issues in other aspects of their life, such as interfering with work performance or making it more difficult for them to maintain constructive relationships with their families.
Marijuana users can develop a tolerance to the substance. This means that they have to use more and more of the substance in order to experience the same highs. Given marijuana’s dangerous impacts, this can cause serious physical and cognitive issues.
An addiction to marijuana is known as a marijuana use disorder. As of 2015, four million people met the qualifications for such a disorder, which amounted to 9% of all people who used marijuana.
What Is Marijuana?
Marijuana actually comes from the cannabis plant, and specifically, from dried flowers from the female plant. When processed accordingly, these flowers can be ingested by humans for a high.
Marijuana is comprised of over 500 different chemicals. The most well-known component of marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. THC is a cannabinoid and is responsible for the intoxicating effects that marijuana causes. THC will bind with your body’s cannabinoid receptors, producing marijuana’s pleasant and euphoria-inducing effects. These can include relaxation, happiness, and a general feeling of peace.
All marijuana is not identical. There are many different strains and strands of the drug. The past few years have seen a rise of more intense forms of marijuana that create more powerful highs. In some instances, marijuana can be laced with more powerful drugs, such as fentanyl. This can cause very dangerous and even deadly reactions.
Unlike other drugs, it is impossible for a person to overdose on marijuana – they would simply pass out before they could ingest enough of the substance.
Many studies have found that marijuana may have numerous medical applications when used appropriately. This includes areas like pain reduction, dealing with certain chronic conditions, seizure reduction, and addressing a variety of eye issues. This helps to explain why 36 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana.
How Is Marijuana Consumed or Used?
Marijuana is an extremely flexible drug, which helps explain why it is so popular. Ways it can be consumed include:
- Smoking. Smoking marijuana is probably the most popular way of consuming the drug. There are also many ways of smoking marijuana. Leaves can often be rolled with rolling paper and turned into marijuana cigarettes or blunts. Marijuana can also be smoked by being placed in a vape pen or a bong.
- Eating or drinking. Marijuana edibles have become extremely popular of late, particularly as the legal market for marijuana continues to grow. Marijuana can be placed in an array of sweet snacks, including brownies or cookies. It can also be placed in many drinks, like teas.
- Dabbing. Dabbing is when highly concentrated forms of THC are placed into a certain substance – like a wax – and then consumed. Dabbing results in much stronger highs, as the products typically contain much higher levels of THC than a marijuana cigarette.
- Sprays. Sprays are a newer method for marijuana use. They can be used by spraying the substance into a users’ mouth.
- Tinctures. Tinctures are distilled, concentrated THC. Typically, the THC is joined with some other substance like oil, allowing individuals to administer and absorb it under their tongues. Alternatively, the tincture can be mixed with another food or drink.
What Are the Risks and Causes of Marijuana Abuse?
Many individuals are can use marijuana recreationally, from time to time, without ever worrying about abusing it. Unfortunately, for some people, marijuana use quickly turns to marijuana abuse.
Some people are more at risk of abusing marijuana than others. These include:
- Using marijuana as a teenager. 17% of all people who use marijuana in their teenage years will develop a marijuana use disorder.
- In general, teenagers are more likely to use marijuana than older adults, with three times as many 18-to-25-year-olds saying they use the drug than older adults.
- Men are more likely to use and abuse marijuana than women.
- Marijuana is the second most abused drug. According to a 2016 survey, 26% of adults had engaged in binge drinking in the past month, compared to 9% of adults who had used marijuana. The next closest drug was opioids, which was at 1.4%.
- While marijuana use remains a problem, its use today is still not as high as it was during the 1970s.
- Individuals who are white or African-American are roughly as likely to have used marijuana, with Hispanics trailing behind these two groups in terms of overall marijuana use.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse?
As with almost all drugs, there are a variety of indications to demonstrate when someone has become addicted to marijuana.
- A loss of interest in any activity that doesn’t involve marijuana.
- A change in social groups, as people and individuals who are addicted begin to hang out more and more with friends who are also using marijuana.
- Strong cravings for marijuana and a loss of interest in activities that don’t involve marijuana.
- The development of certain physical symptoms – such as irritability and mood changes – occurs when someone doesn’t use marijuana.
- Increased tolerance for marijuana, meaning an individual must use more of the substance to experience the same mood changes.
If you believe that a loved one is abusing marijuana, the best thing you can do for them is get them into treatment as early as possible. Zinnia Health is an excellent treatment center with a wide array of treatment programs designed to meet your substance use disorder needs. You can contact us today by visiting our website or calling at (855) 430-9439.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Marijuana Abuse?
Sadly, individuals who abuse marijuana long-term are at risk for a variety of negative consequences. These include:
- Adverse brain changes. Numerous studies have found that abuse of marijuana is associated with a variety of negative changes to the brain structure. This can impair an array of cognitive and physical functions, including coordination, cognition, memory, concentration, and more. These changes do not typically occur with occasional use but are instead more likely to occur with abuse.
- Fetal defects. Pregnant women who consume marijuana have been found to have children who are more likely to suffer from an array of difficulties. Marijuana use during pregnancy can repress the production of necessary hormones, restrict the growth of the baby, damage the brain development of the baby, cause anemia and result in premature birth.
- Lung issues. The dangers caused by cigarette use have long been known, but the dangers of marijuana use to your lungs are less discussed. Many studies have found that marijuana abuse can cause serious lung issues and increase the potential for damage to a person’s ability to breathe. Marijuana also contains numerous chemicals that may cause lung cancer, although more information is still needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn here.
- Cognitive impairment. As noted above, marijuana can change the physical brain structure, resulting in numerous cognitive issues. Studies have found that marijuana causes a cognitive and intellectual decline in users who abuse the substance over the long term.
- Psychological problems.Some studies have found that individuals who abuse marijuana have an array of psychological problems and are more likely to develop certain psychological defects. These include higher rates of paranoia, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
- Loss of motivation. One of marijuana’s more studied features is a loss of motivation. Because of the way marijuana alters your brain structure and the motivation center of your brain, the substance has been found to decrease motivation in regular users, making them less likely to engage in challenging activities or advance their careers.
- Increased risk of car accidents. Numerous studies have found that the use of marijuana is associated with an increased risk of having a car accident, including a fatal one. While these increases certainly occur while someone is actively intoxicated on marijuana, they have also been found to occur when someone isn’t high, as marijuana is associated with numerous coordination and motor skill challenges.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Withdrawal?
There are a variety of symptoms that can be experienced by people who have developed a marijuana use disorder and have not been able to access or use marijuana. These symptoms can occur for a variety of reasons and often occur as someone tries to quit using marijuana. They include:
- Irritability and other mood changes
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Changes in appetite
- Physical discomfort
These symptoms can last for as long as two weeks after someone attempts to quit using marijuana.
What Are Treatment Options for Marijuana Abuse?
Marijuana has been around long enough that real options have been developed to treat its abuse.
Among the most popular forms of treatment for marijuana abuse are a variety of forms of talk therapy. These therapeutic approaches can help an individual determine why they became addicted to marijuana in the first place and help them find more appropriate ways of managing their stress and recovering from their addiction.
Furthermore, a variety of specific therapeutic modalities have been developed that can help someone further dig into their marijuana addiction and find productive ways of recovering. These include:
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET): This is a type of drug treatment therapy that concentrates on helping a person change their motivation. Often, individuals who are abusing drugs or alcohol struggle with identifying what is wrong with their abuse and don’t find a reason to change. Under Motivational Enhancement Therapy, a person will be assisted in changing their motivations and becoming truly engaged in the therapeutic process. This involves reviewing the scope of an addiction problem and increasing an individual’s motivation to reduce their addiction.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT):Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a very common type of therapy that applies to a wide array of situations. It involves an individual identifying their thought process, then connecting how those thought processes result in different and maladaptive behaviors. Under Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, a person is taught to examine the ways that they think and has various cognitive biases pointed out to them. They then relearn the way in which they are thinking and connect these more positive, productive ways of thinking to better behaviors. This can help a person identify why they smoke, the feelings and behaviors that lead to them smoking and then better ways that they can cope with whatever negative emotions they are experiencing.
- Contingency Management (CM): This is a form of treatment in which behavior is monitored and rewarded. It often involves the use of virtual currency or other rewards that are real and tangible. By providing people with these rewards, individuals’ rewards centers can be “rewired,” allowing them to seek the rewards that come from Contingency Management, rather than the positive feelings that they experience while using or abusing marijuana.
It is important to note that none of these modalities are mutually exclusive. Indeed, all three are often used together as part of a comprehensive treatment plan to reduce and eliminate marijuana abuse.
There are currently no medications that have been developed that can help ease marijuana abuse symptoms.
Treatment can be offered in a variety of settings. Most of the time, outpatient treatment is more than adequate to handle any potential marijuana addiction issues. This means that a person should be able to attend therapeutic appointments but maintain their normal life, meaning that they will still be able to attend work or school. In-patient treatment for marijuana addiction is usually not necessary. This is because of the specific chemical make-up of marijuana. While marijuana can easily be abused, it is virtually impossible to overdose on the substance. Thus, unless someone is regularly engaging in dangerous activities while intoxicated on marijuana, or abusing another drug, they are not going to be an active danger to themselves or others while abusing the substance.
Co-occurring disorders with marijuana abuse are very common. This means that an individual who suffers from a marijuana use disorder is also very likely to also suffer from another psychological addiction, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. The existence of a co-occurring disorder can make treatment more complicated, as an individual will need to be treated for both their marijuana abuse issues and the other psychological disorders from which they may be suffering. However, the good news is that simultaneously addressing both issues is likely to lead someone to recovery.
If you need treatment for marijuana abuse, remember: The longer you wait, the harder treating your marijuana abuse issues can get. As such, consider getting help today. At Zinnia Health, we offer world-class treatment facilities, an array of treatment options, and support for you and your family. Find out more about how we can help you by visiting our website or calling us at (855) 430-9439.