Substance Use

Your Guide To Marijuana Addiction

man smoking marijuana joint blowing smoke

Table of Contents

Get Help Now

check insurance
Check your insurance by using our Online Form
call us
Talk to someone now.
Call (855) 430-9439

Once considered a relatively benign substance, marijuana has become the center of increased attention and discussion, particularly concerning its potential for addiction. In the evolving landscape of marijuana use, understanding the nuances of marijuana addiction is very important for individuals, healthcare professionals, and society at large.

Below, we will expand on the specifics of marijuana addiction. This guide is an essential resource for those seeking to comprehend the nature of marijuana addiction, aligning with both national guidelines and the ever-changing realities of American perspectives on substance use.

Call us
Ready to get help?
(855) 430-9439
Why call us? Why call us

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana, often referred to as weed or cannabis, is a plant known scientifically as cannabis sativa. It has been used for various purposes for thousands of years, including for medicinal, recreational, and industrial uses. The plant contains hundreds of compounds, with the most well-known being delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). (1)

THC is the psychoactive compound responsible for the “high” people experience when using marijuana, while CBD does not produce the same intoxicating effects and may have potential therapeutic benefits. (2) Marijuana can be consumed in various forms, including smoking, vaping, edibles, and tinctures. (1)

It has a wide range of effects on the mind and body, leading to both recreational and medicinal use. However, its legality varies greatly worldwide, and its use comes with potential risks, including addiction, impaired cognitive function, and negative health consequences, which should be carefully considered when using marijuana. (1)

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Although marijuana is legal in several states for both recreational and medicinal use, regular and heavy use of marijuana can lead to addiction. The DEA still considers cannabis a Schedule 1 substance because of the addiction risk, and its therapeutic effects are still in dispute on a federal level.

While marijuana is not as dangerous as drugs like meth or cocaine, it can cause some long-term health effects in certain individuals.

Marijuana is one of the most popular drugs used in the U.S., with more than 94 million people admitting to using it at least once. At the time of arrest, up to 40% of all male arrestees test positive for the drug. Marijuana is the second-most frequently found drug in the bodies of drivers involved in deadly car crashes. 

Despite how glamorized marijuana is in pop culture and the therapeutic qualities it may have, no substance, including marijuana, is 100% safe.

What Are the Addictive Qualities of Marijuana?

Marijuana is also called cannabis, and it’s a plant that produces more than 100 cannabinoid chemicals that interact with the human body when ingested. The health supplement CBD is one of these cannabinoid chemicals, but it is not addictive and isn’t the chemical in marijuana that gets a person “high.” The cannabinoid chemical in the cannabis plant is THC, which stands for tetrahydrocannabinol. (2)

THC impacts the sympathetic nervous system, increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and the body’s need for oxygen. It acts as a vasodilator and is the chemical in marijuana that makes a person high. THC is known to increase feelings of anxiety and paranoia if too much is consumed and can even induce a panic attack in an at-risk user. (2) (3)

Almost half a million people are admitted to emergency rooms in the U.S. each year because of this side effect. (4)

The cannabinoid compound THC is the addictive part of the plant. People who regularly and heavily use marijuana can become both physically and mentally addicted to the effects of THC. When they stop using marijuana or try to cut back, they will experience withdrawal symptoms

Who Is At Risk for Marijuana Addiction?

Anyone can become addicted to drugs or alcohol, and there is no concrete way to predict why some people can try a drug and become hooked while others can try a substance once and never feel a compulsion to use it again. 

However several risk factors can increase a person’s chances of cannabis addiction and drug abuse. (5)

  • Having a mental health disorder
  • Having a close relative with a substance use disorder
  • Being from a lower socioeconomic group
  • Obtaining lower levels of education
  • Young people being between the ages of 18 and 25 (6)

When it comes to cannabis addiction, being a young male and trying the drug for the first time before age 18 are associated with a higher risk of addiction.

Additionally, studies on adults older than age 26 who abused drugs shed light on the following marijuana statistics: (7)

Other surveys on marijuana use have found that 30% of regular marijuana users have some form of cannabis use disorder. A cannabis use disorder is when someone is dependent on the drug to various degrees. 

Cannabis dependence occurs when a person stops using the drug or cuts back and experiences withdrawal symptoms. These cannabis withdrawal symptoms compel them to start using marijuana again to alleviate the effects and to feel normal. (8)

A marijuana use disorder is a full-blown drug addiction when a person can’t stop using the drug even if using it causes severe and adverse consequences in their life. When people start having financial, legal, and relationship issues because of marijuana use but won’t quit, it indicates addiction disorder. 

Fortunately, there is help for marijuana use disorder and marijuana addiction.

Signs of Marijuana Abuse and Addiction

Recognizing signs of marijuana abuse and addiction is essential in helping individuals seek the necessary support and addiction treatment. (9)

Some common signs include the following: (10)

  • Increased Tolerance: Needing more marijuana over time to achieve the desired effects indicates a potential escalation in use.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Experiencing irritability, anxiety, or restlessness when not using marijuana, suggesting physical and psychological dependence.
  • Frequent and Compulsive Use: Engaging in marijuana use regularly and compulsively, even when it interferes with daily responsibilities or obligations.
  • Neglecting Responsibilities: Ignoring important aspects of life, such as work, school, or relationships, to prioritize marijuana use, reflecting a potential imbalance in priorities.
  • Difficulty Controlling Use: Struggling to control or limit marijuana consumption despite intentions to do so, indicating a loss of control over one’s use.
  • Unsuccessful Attempts to Quit: Experiencing multiple unsuccessful attempts to quit or cut down on marijuana use, highlighting the challenging nature of addiction.
  • Excessive Time Spent on Marijuana-Related Activities: Investing a significant amount of time in obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of marijuana leads to neglect of other interests or activities.

Being vigilant about these signs is crucial for recognizing when marijuana use evolves into problematic patterns. Identifying these indicators can serve as an early intervention opportunity, prompting individuals to seek substance abuse and mental health services administration treatments.

Effects of Marijuana

The effects of marijuana, also known as cannabis, can vary depending on several factors, including the individual’s tolerance, the strain of the plant, the method of consumption, and the dosage. (11)

Marijuana contains compounds like delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which interact with the brain’s cannabinoid receptors.

The immediate effects of marijuana use may include feelings of relaxation, euphoria, increased sensory perception, and altered perception of time. Some users may experience heightened creativity or introspection.

However, marijuana can also have adverse effects, including:

  • Impaired memory and concentration
  • Increased heart rate
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Coordination problems

Long-term or heavy marijuana use can lead to more significant negative consequences, such as addiction or dependency, decreased motivation, and impaired cognitive function, particularly in adolescents and young adults. Some even report experiencing impairment or marijuana withdrawal.

What is the Difference Between Cannabis and Synthetic Cannabinoids?

The primary difference between cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids lies in their origin and composition. Cannabis, often referred to as marijuana, is a naturally occurring plant that contains various compounds, with the most well-known being delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) for higher potency. (12)

These compounds interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system and produce various effects, including relaxation, altered perception, and increased appetite. Cannabis has been used for both medicinal and recreational use for thousands of years and has a long history of human consumption. 

In contrast, synthetic cannabinoids are human-made compounds designed to mimic the effects of THC by binding to the same receptors in the brain. (13)

They are often created in laboratories and sprayed onto plant material to be smoked or vaporized. Synthetic cannabinoids are typically much more potent than natural THC, which can lead to unpredictable and often dangerous effects.

Because they are often produced illegally, the composition of synthetic cannabinoids can vary widely, making them a significant public health risk.

Synthetic cannabinoids have been associated with severe adverse reactions, including:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Death in some cases of prevalence

Distinguishing Between Marijuana and Medical Marijuana

The primary distinction between marijuana and medical marijuana lies in their purpose, composition, and legal status.

  1. Purpose:
    • Marijuana: Generally used recreationally for its psychoactive effects, marijuana is consumed for pleasure or relaxation. It is commonly associated with the recreational use of cannabis to achieve a “high” or dopamine hit. However, some will feel a physical dependence on this if used too much.
    • Medical Marijuana: Specifically prescribed to address medical conditions, medical marijuana is used for its therapeutic properties to alleviate symptoms and improve the well-being of patients. Its purpose is rooted in medical treatment rather than recreational use.
  2. Composition:
    • Marijuana: Typically contains higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound responsible for the psychoactive effects that induce the “high” associated with recreational cannabis use.
    • Medical Marijuana: Formulated to have varying ratios of THC and cannabidiol (CBD), with a focus on therapeutic benefits. CBD is known for its non-psychoactive properties and potential medicinal applications.
  3. Legal Status:
    • Marijuana: The legality of marijuana varies globally and is often subject to recreational use regulations. In many places, marijuana is still considered illegal or subject to restrictions.
    • Medical Marijuana: Legalized in various regions for medical purposes, medical marijuana is prescribed by healthcare professionals to patients with qualifying medical conditions. The legal status often depends on meeting specific medical criteria and adhering to regulatory frameworks. (14)
  4. Prescription and Oversight:
    • Marijuana: Generally obtained through unofficial channels for recreational use, without specific medical oversight or prescriptions.
    • Medical Marijuana: Requires a prescription from a qualified healthcare professional. The process involves thoroughly assessing the patient’s medical condition, and the prescription is tailored to address specific symptoms or conditions.

What Are the Benefits of Medical Marijuana?

Medical marijuana, or medical cannabis, has garnered attention for its potential therapeutic benefits. Some of the potential benefits of medical marijuana include pain management, especially for chronic pain conditions like arthritis or neuropathy.

Medical marijuana has emerged as a subject of significant interest due to its potential therapeutic applications. Looking into the nuanced landscape of medical marijuana reveals a range of potential benefits, with a growing body of research shedding light on its diverse uses.

  1. Pain Management: Medical marijuana is recognized for its potential efficacy in managing chronic pain conditions, such as arthritis and neuropathy. The active compounds in marijuana, particularly cannabinoids, interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system, offering a potential avenue for pain relief and health problems. (15)
  2. Nausea and Vomiting Relief: A notable application of medical marijuana is in alleviating the symptoms of nausea and vomiting, particularly in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. The antiemetic properties of certain cannabinoids can provide much-needed relief during challenging treatments.
  3. Muscle Spasms and Stiffness: Research suggests that medical marijuana can help reduce muscle spasms and stiffness associated with conditions like multiple sclerosis. This potential benefit can enhance the quality of life for individuals dealing with the debilitating effects of neurological disorders. (16)
  4. Ongoing Research and Promise: While current evidence points to promising outcomes, ongoing research continues to explore additional therapeutic applications of medical marijuana. Neurology, psychiatry, and pain management are active fields of study, contributing to a deeper understanding of its potential benefits.
  5. Individual Variation and Effectiveness: The effectiveness of medical marijuana can vary significantly from person to person. Factors such as individual physiology, the specific medical condition, and the formulation of the medical marijuana product all contribute to the variability in response.
  6. Side Effects and Legal Considerations: Like any medication, medical marijuana is not without potential side effects. These may include dizziness, dry mouth, and altered cognitive function. Understanding and mitigating these effects is crucial in optimizing its use.
  7. Medical Supervision and Responsibly: It is imperative for individuals considering medical marijuana to seek guidance from healthcare providers. A thorough assessment of their medical history, current medications, and the nature of their condition is essential to determine if medical marijuana is a suitable treatment option.
  8. Quality of Life Improvement: Despite potential variations in effectiveness and considerations, medical marijuana has demonstrated promise in enhancing the quality of life for individuals facing specific medical challenges. 

What Happens When a Person Who Is Dependent on Marijuana Stops Using It?

Withdrawal symptoms occur when someone is dependent or addicted to a drug.

With marijuana addiction, the following effects of cannabis withdrawal will occur within two days after cessation: (8)

  • Intense cravings to use
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Stomach ache
  • Headache

These cannabis withdrawal symptoms tend to peak within a week or two after cessation and gradually taper off. Withdrawal symptoms will subside for most people and disappear within one month after they quit using marijuana. However, some users will go on to experience intermittent cravings for marijuana.

If a person is abusing marijuana as a way to alleviate mental health disorder symptoms, they are at risk of relapse or using a different substance to cope if they don’t get outside medical help.

How Can Someone Get Help for Marijuana Addiction?

Drug rehab centers can put addicts in touch with a team of qualified therapists and drug abuse counselors who can help them overcome marijuana dependency. People who develop an addiction to drugs and alcohol have specific triggers for drug use that counseling and rehab can help them uncover.

During cognitive behavioral therapy, patients can create a plan for avoiding certain triggers or learn how to cope with them in ways that don’t include using marijuana for relief. This contingency management will ensure that the road to recovery is present.

Attending a rehab center for detox and withdrawal also keeps patients in a safe, drug-free environment so they aren’t exposed to drugs or harmful influences while trying to get through the withdrawal process. This lessens the chance of relapse and increases the chances of success and achieving sobriety.

If you or a loved one are struggling with marijuana dependency, there is help. Please contact the drug abuse counselors and therapists at Zinnia Health to explore your treatment options or call (855) 430-9439


Call us
Ready to get help?
(855) 430-9439
Why call us? Why call us