Did you know that although several states in the US have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational purposes, the use and possession of the substance for any purpose is illegal under federal law as determined by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA)? 1
Marijuana, also known as cannabis or weed, is the dried leaves and flowers of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The product is widely ingested for its psychoactive or psychotropic (mind-altering) effects. Marijuana is usually presented in several potency strains and ranges. Stronger forms of the drug include sinsemilla and hashish, called hash, for short.
Marijuana is considered an addictive product because it triggers dependency with frequent use despite the knowledge of its negative consequences. There are more than five hundred different chemicals in marijuana, but delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most active and is responsible for the mind-altering effects. THC is also the compound that triggers dependency on the product over time, as it is common to long for its psychoactive effects.
Studies show that between 9% and 30% of cannabis consumers may develop some degree of cannabis use disorder. Furthermore, consuming marijuana before eighteen can make young persons four to seven times more likely to develop cannabis addiction than adults. 2
Marijuana addiction is the repeated use of the substance despite being aware of its negative impact on health and physical, social, and mental behavior. Although marijuana is not the highest habit-forming substance, it has significant potential for dependence and addiction.
While there are no medications to treat cannabis use disorder, behavior support and the right kind of therapy have proved effective.
Marijuana is consumed in different ways, often leading to marijuana abuse. Popular amongst the ways marijuana is consumed are:
Joints are perhaps one of the most popular marijuana abuse techniques. Joints are hand-rolled cigarettes made by replacing some or all of the tobacco with marijuana.
Blunts are quite similar to joints in that the tobacco content of smoked products is replaced with marijuana. However, blunts are made with cigars rather than cigarettes.
Bongs are water or glass pipes through which marijuana is inhaled.
Recently, marijuana edibles are becoming common and have been touted as a healthy way to consume marijuana. Marijuana edibles are food and drinks that include marijuana leaves or cannabis extracts, such as teas, food, and, more commonly, candies, brownies, and cookies.
It takes longer to feel the effects of marijuana in edibles since the food has to be digested first. Because of this, there is a tendency to consume more marijuana to feel the effects faster, which may lead to dangerous results.
All drugs trigger one effect or the other in the brain by altering the way nerve cells communicate. Some of these effects are beneficial, while others are harmful. More often than not, the beneficial effects of drugs can become harmful or addictive when they are taken repeatedly or beyond medically recommended doses.
Marijuana abuse and dependency come with associated health risks, most of which are classified as marijuana use disorders. As marijuana enters the body, the THC quickly passes into the bloodstream through the lungs. The circulating blood carries the active compound throughout the body, including the brain, where it is most active.
A few minutes after consuming marijuana via smoking, the heart rate speeds up, the bronchial passages relax and become enlarged, the blood vessels of the eyes expand (causing the eyes to appear red), and several other activities rapidly occur within the body system.
THC tampers with several nerve endings in the brain, resulting in some or all of these marijuana side effects:
Marijuana intake can trigger an altered sense of smell, taste, touch, and sight, such as seeing brighter colors, perceiving smells that are not there, and hearing sounds louder than they actually are. Altered senses make it harder to focus while performing activities, affecting movement and other motor skills.
Altered Sense of Time
While drugs such as cocaine and alcohol appear to speed up time, others like marijuana seem to make time slow down. An altered sense of time occurs as the different substances affect the internal clock and the amount of attention being paid to time, despite the external clock always moving at a fixed rate. Multiple studies focusing on the perception of time when under the influence of marijuana have shown that people’s ability to estimate, produce, and compare durations become skewed. 3
Marijuana use can make individuals feel like they have existed longer than expected in a limited amount of time, a term called overestimation. Generally, an altered sense of time would lead to underproductivity or an inability to perform a task.
Difficulty Thinking or Solving Problems
Marijuana intake makes it harder to think, learn or concentrate. This makes it challenging for concerned persons to think critically or solve problems. In the long run, cannabis intake could cause general unproductiveness, misbehavior, and dependence on other persons to make simple decisions.
Researchers found that memory loss is triggered by chemicals from marijuana (cannabinoids) that activate CB1 receptors in the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory. Thus, when these receptors are activated, memory is altered. Memory loss no longer occurred when the research team eliminated the CB1 receptor from mitochondria in hippocampal neurons. 4
The substance may temporarily affect short-term memory processing, making it harder to remember things that happened recently, such as what is taught at school or instruction from work. This short-term memory loss could trigger a lack of interest in studies, as it greatly impacts learning and concentrating.
Mood changes are another common effect associated with cannabis intake. The alterations in the brain caused by cannabinoids may cause increased changes in mood, such as anger, sadness, and irritability. Additionally, recent studies suggest that a high intake of marijuana could be linked to psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. 5
A combination of all the effects of marijuana use, such as distortions, short-term memory loss, mood changes, and inability to think rapidly, can cause great levels of confusion. These symptoms could cause a perpetual state of confusion until the momentary effects of the drug have passed.
As mentioned above, marijuana use has been associated with schizophrenia, which causes psychosis, a symptom that induces delusions and hallucinations. Psychosis alters a person’s reality, heavily creating feelings of confusion.
Hallucinations are characterized as seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, or tasting something that is not real. For example, someone may hear the sounds of a door banging or footsteps approaching or see another person who is not there.
Paranoia is a common experience associated with substance use disorder. Distorted senses can create the feeling of constantly being watched or followed. Paranoia may be quite significant, causing frequent panics, lack of trust, dissocializing, and inability to concentrate.
Despite how addictive this psychoactive product can be, overcoming weed addiction is possible. Marijuana addiction occurs when the body becomes dependent on the product after repeated use. Dependence can trigger withdrawal symptoms during the early periods of quitting.
Marijuana withdrawal symptoms could range from mild to severe, depending on the person and duration and frequency. Irrespective of the challenges to stopping marijuana addiction, doing the following can help overcome cannabis use disorder faster:
The process of quitting the use of weed should be more than just the desire to end marijuana addiction. A working plan includes the reasons for quitting, a timeline, and the steps to achieve that plan.
Like any other goal, having a plan makes everything easier and is the first step toward success. It is also essential to share the plan with others who would serve as an accountability structure and support when withdrawal symptoms surface.
One thing that helps quit marijuana intake is getting rid of paraphernalia used for consumption. Tools like pipes, vapes, cigarette packs, and so on should be far away from individuals coming out of marijuana addiction.
Circumstances that trigger marijuana abuse differ from person to person. When working towards quitting, note those triggers and strategize ways to deal with them healthily. For example, stress from taking on too much at work may trigger using marijuana, so going to therapy and reducing workload could be an effective plan to handle the situation.
Everyone could make do with support, especially during recovery. It is important to have understanding and supportive people around at this time. This could be family members, friends, or behavioral therapists. They can provide encouragement, help track the process, and prevent relapse.
A weed replacement is anything that would provide a distraction from the pleasurable effects of marijuana. It helps to replace these cravings with doing other meaningful activities such as yoga, sports, hanging out with friends, or exercising.
Frequent marijuana use can make some behaviors become a perpetual attribute. Hence, it can be easy to identify addiction based on the repetition of certain characteristics. Some of the prevalent attributes in people with cannabis use disorder are:
As we have already explained, marijuana use can cause momentary memory loss. However, frequent substance use may create a constant state of forgetfulness. For example, forgetting to pick up the children from school, switch off the stove, or submit an assignment.
Another attribute of marijuana use disorder can be a constant feeling of hunger. Hunger is a well-known side effect of marijuana consumption. Various studies have a different approach to this and provided several reasons why hunger becomes a potential side effect of consuming marijuana.
One study from 2014 suggests that there may be more willingness to eat heavily after consuming cannabis because the senses of smell and taste have been heightened. 6
Further findings have noted that cannabis intake releases dopamine, which makes eating more rewarding. Others have highlighted that the feeling of hunger is the direct effect of some appetite-increasing neurons that are triggered. 7
Dizzy spells are another common marijuana side effect. There may be a sudden spinning sensation with dizziness, causing funny head movements, clumsiness, or even tripping. Dizzy spells affect balance, increasing the likelihood of falling or fainting.
It is common to notice bloodshot eyes in persons with marijuana use disorder. This is because some of the changes that occur in the body system due to marijuana intake are enlarged blood vessels in the eyes. Because the blood vessels have become more prominent, it gives the eyes a reddened effect. Consuming marijuana often can leave the eyes in a perpetual state of redness, which is one of the ways to identify marijuana usage.
Cannabis use increases blood flow to the brain’s temporal and frontal lobe and the release of dopamine, which are all responsible for laughter. In addition, the distortion associated with marijuana abuse may make it harder to know when to laugh and when not to laugh, and the lack of impulse control would make laughing at odd times a frequent behavior.
There are quite a number of risks associated with marijuana abuse aside from the effects on health. Some of them are highlighted below:
In several countries, possessing psychoactive substances like marijuana is banned, with different levels of punishment attached to it. In the US, cannabis remains an illegal drug at the federal level, although several states have fully or partially legalized possession, administration, and use.
Possessing or consuming marijuana exposes people to a high risk of legal actions. These range from several years of imprisonment to fines and confiscation of property.
A large study found that persistent marijuana use beginning during adolescence can result in a loss of six to eight IQ points in adulthood. Those who heavily used the drug during their teen years and quit as adults never recovered the lost IQ points. In addition, several studies suggest that marijuana use disorder can lead to impaired cognitive abilities and decreased volume in areas of the brain responsible for memory, learning, and impulse control. 8
The significant negative effects on the brain put individuals at risk of performing below expectations in school. Also, most of the symptoms associated with cannabis use disorder can impact students’ ability to focus.
Marijuana intake may cause less productivity at work. The substance disturbs the ability to concentrate and think properly, affecting decision-making. Other effects such as mood changes, memory problems, and altered senses add to possible drawbacks at work.
More so, frequent use of psychoactive substances like marijuana may negatively affect the way colleagues view them or potentially result in getting fired.
Cannabis use disorder can leave a lasting effect on the ability to learn, especially in young people, due to concentration impairments and memory loss. As a result, it becomes more challenging to cope at school, learn a skill, or do well as an apprentice.
Quitting heavy marijuana smoking can be difficult to achieve alone. Therefore, getting professional help is the safest and fastest way to overcome substance abuse disorder.
Genesis Recovery has a team of experts who offer various marijuana addiction treatments and help clients recover quickly and healthily. Available treatment options at Genesis Recovery are:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a proven method for the psychological treatment of disorders such as depression, eating disorders, and substance use disorders.
The core principles of CBT state that psychological problems are based on learned unhelpful behaviors and ways of thinking that can be changed. Treatment usually includes learning better ways to cope with unwanted thoughts and behaviors and overcoming negative thought patterns.
This is a method for treating marijuana abuse by using motivational incentives. Treats and rewards are awarded for abstaining from marijuana intake or completing a target within the time frame. Contingency management can encourage recovery and reinforce positive behaviors.
Motivational enhancement therapy induces change by bringing negative behaviors to light, showing why these behaviors should be stopped, and teaching how to embrace positive ones. This treatment method raises a desire from within to end weed dependency.
The most effective means to overcome marijuana addiction is under the supervision of experts. Genesis Recovery provides a safe and supportive environment to recover from substance use disorder. Contact us today to discover more about our treatment programs and how to begin the journey to a healthy and substance-free life.