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Marijuana Addiction and Recovery

Marijuana is the most commonly used federally illegal substance in the United States, with around 49.6 million people saying they used it at least once in 2020.1, 2 If you or someone you care about is concerned about marijuana and addiction, this article will give you a greater understanding about marijuana and its effects, common signs and symptoms of marijuana use disorder, and how to find marijuana addiction treatment centers.

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana refers to the dried flowers, leaves, buds, and stems that are obtained from the cannabis sativa plant. The leaves, flowers, and buds contain high amounts of a chemical compound called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which produces many of the effects people desire when using marijuana.4, 5

People use marijuana in different ways, which include:

  • Smoking marijuana in joints (when rolled in cigarette paper), blunts (marijuana rolled in cigar paper), pipes, or bongs.4
  • Inhaling vapor through vaporizers/vape devices.2, 4
  • Drinking beverages like tea brewed with marijuana.3
  • Marijuana edibles like cookies and brownies, which are infused with marijuana extracts.3, 4

Marijuana can have a wide range of potency levels, with stronger forms typically coming from female varieties of the plant.4 Concentrated resin form, which can be smoked or eaten, is also high in potency. Using resin is becoming more common among marijuana users.3, 4

Marijuana can contain many different chemical compounds known as cannabinoids.5 Although there are many cannabinoids, the two most known are THC and CBD (cannabidiol).5 The “high” that comes from marijuana is due to THC, which is a psychoactive compound.4 Cannabidiol is often marketed in different products for a variety of purposes, most of which are not approved by the FDA.6

Are Marijuana and Cannabis the Same?

The terms marijuana and cannabis are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. The term cannabis can be used to refer to any of the products that come from the Cannabis sativa plant.5, 18 Marijuana refers to the parts of the Cannabis sativa plant that contain THC like the leaves, flowers, and buds.18

Street Names for Marijuana

Marijuana is referred to by many different street names. Some of these include:4

  • Weed.
  • Herb.
  • Dope.
  • Pot.
  • Grass.
  • Bud.
  • Ganja.
  • Mary Jane.

How Addictive Is Marijuana?

Regular marijuana use can become problematic and lead to marijuana use disorder (marijuana addiction).7 Marijuana addiction is a chronic and harmful pattern of substance use where people continue to use marijuana despite knowing that it can negatively impact their lives.7

Marijuana use can also cause dependence, which is not the same thing as addiction to marijuana, although it is a common feature of marijuana use disorder.7, 8 Dependence means that the body becomes so used to marijuana that it believes it needs this substance to function properly. When a person is dependent on marijuana and they reduce or stop marijuana use, they are at risk of developing withdrawal symptoms.7

Some research has shown that around 30% of people who misuse marijuana develop marijuana use disorder.1 Other studies have suggested that somewhere between 9% and 30% of people who use marijuana may have marijuana use disorder.3 The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that about 10% of people who use marijuana will get addicted to it.19 However, people who start using marijuana before age 18 can have a 4 to 6 times higher chance of becoming addicted to it in adulthood.7, 19

Signs of Marijuana Addiction

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has developed the criteria for marijuana use disorder, outlined in the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).9 Marijuana use disorder can occur on different levels of severity based on the number of marijuana addiction symptoms a person displays: mild means 2-3 symptoms, moderate means 4-5 symptoms, and severe means 6 or more.9

The criteria/signs of marijuana addiction include:8, 9

  • Using marijuana in higher quantities or more frequent doses than you originally intended.
  • Being unable to cut down on your marijuana use, even if you want to.
  • Spending a lot of time trying to obtain, use, and recover from the effects of marijuana.
  • Being unable to fulfill your responsibilities at work, home, or school due to marijuana use.
  • Experiencing marijuana cravings, which are strong physical/psychological urges to use the substance.
  • Continuing to use marijuana even though you experience social or relationship problems because of your marijuana use.
  • Giving up or stopping activities you once enjoyed because of marijuana use.
  • Using marijuana in situations where it’s hazardous to do so (such as while driving or operating machinery).
  • Continuing to use marijuana despite developing a physical or psychological condition that you know is probably due to marijuana use.
  • Experiencing tolerance, which means you need to use higher amounts to achieve previous effects.
  • Developing withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop using it.

American Addiction Centers has helped thousands recover from addiction and we can help you or your loved one too. Check your insurance to find out instantly if your insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies. You can also sign up 24/7 text support for addiction questions at your convenience.

Effects of Marijuana

People who use marijuana may consume it to feel euphoria, pleasure, or to experience relaxation. These sensations are known as a “high.” People may also use it to deal with pain, sleep problems, or psychological symptoms.9, 10 People may experience various sensations perceived as pleasurable, such as increased sensory perceptions (like seeing brighter colors), frequent bouts of laughter, or an altered sense of time.10

The way you use marijuana can impact its effects and onset. Smoking marijuana passes THC through the lungs and into the bloodstream, producing effects almost immediately.10

People who use edibles or drink beverages that contain marijuana may experience a slower onset of effects, which can take 30 minutes to an hour on average.10 Slower onset is due to the body processing THC through the digestive system. Less THC is delivered to the body when you eat or drink marijuana.10 However, the slower onset may lead people to take more THC than intended and produce potentially adverse effects.10

The effects of marijuana can vary based on several additional factors, including:8, 11

  • The potency of the marijuana you use.
  • How much of it you use.
  • How often you use it.
  • Your unique biological and genetic makeup.
  • Your sex. For example, women may experience dizziness more often than men after using marijuana.
  • Whether you use it with other substances.

If you smoke marijuana, the effects usually last 1 to 3 hours. If ingested, the effects can last for several hours.10

Potentially adverse effects associated with marijuana use can include:3, 10, 12

  • Impaired body movements.
  • Mood changes.
  • Impaired thinking and problem-solving abilities.
  • Poor memory.
  • Hallucinations (you see, feel, or hear things that aren’t there). This can occur with high doses of marijuana.
  • Delusions (believing things that aren’t true). This can also occur with high doses.
  • Psychosis, which can have the highest risk of developing in people who use marijuana chronically and in high doses.
  • Worsening of symptoms for people with schizophrenia.
  • Lung/breathing problems, such as a higher risk of lung infections or chronic cough.
  • Heart problems, such as increased heart rate, which can raise the risk of a heart attack.
  • Severe nausea and vomiting.
  • An increased risk of poisoning, especially if using edibles. This can occur because edibles take time to produce effects; when people don’t feel immediate effects, they might consume more to get high faster, which can cause poisoning or THC overdose risks.

Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal can occur when a person who is dependent on a substance suddenly cuts down or stops using it.7 Marijuana withdrawal is not typically dangerous. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most people who are chronic marijuana users tend to experience mostly mild withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it.3

Common withdrawal symptoms include:3, 13

  • Irritability.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Anxiety.
  • Low appetite.
  • Marijuana cravings.

While anyone who uses marijuana for a long period of time can develop withdrawal, heavier marijuana use may be more frequently associated with the development of withdrawal symptoms.3, 14 Some people, particularly heavy users, may also develop less common but somewhat more severe withdrawal symptoms that can include:14

  • Tremor.
  • Elevated heart rate.
  • Sweating.
  • Gastrointestinal problems like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Depression.

No known medical complications are associated with marijuana withdrawal.14

There are no FDA-approved medications for marijuana withdrawal.3 Behavioral support, supervision, and symptomatic treatment, which are offered at marijuana detox, can help people manage withdrawal so they can remain abstinent and prevent relapse.3, 14 Detox can also help you become stable and prepare you to enter a marijuana addiction treatment program.14

Can You Overdose on Marijuana?

It’s unlikely to suffer from a fatal overdose solely due to marijuana; however, there are still potential overdose risks.11 You can have an increased risk of overdose if you use too much marijuana, use a product that is laced with other (known or unknown) substances, or use it in combination with other substances, including alcohol.11

Typically, people who use too much marijuana experience symptoms similar to the effects of using marijuana but on a more severe scale.11 Some possible signs of overdose can include:2, 11

  • Extreme confusion.
  • Anxiety.
  • Paranoia.
  • Panic.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Delusions.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Elevated blood pressure.
  • Severe nausea or vomiting.

Accidents and uncomfortable symptoms of overdose can occur as a result of using too much marijuana, especially when using edibles because overconsumption is more likely.11 Additionally, people who vape marijuana should know that using vape products that contain vitamin E acetate (or other chemicals) has been linked to serious lung illnesses and death.2

Marijuana Addiction Treatment Near Me

Treatment for marijuana addiction should be personalized and tailored to your unique needs. Many people with marijuana use disorder may have co-occurring psychiatric disorders or are misusing other substances.15 These and any other medical, psychological, social, vocational, or legal problems should be considered before and during rehab for marijuana addiction.16

Marijuana addiction treatments may involve different therapies and interventions, such as:9, 15, 17

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can help you identify and change unhealthy or negative thoughts and behaviors that contribute to substance abuse.
  • Contingency management (CM), which is a form of behavioral therapy that uses positive reinforcement to help increase motivation to achieve target behaviors.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET), which is a systematic intervention designed to promote internally motivated change. It aims to accomplish this by helping you identify your internal resources so you can make changes and remain in treatment.
  • Mutual support groups such as Marijuana Anonymous, which provide support and camaraderie from others in marijuana addiction recovery to help prevent marijuana relapse.
  • Dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorder treatment, which addresses both the substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health disorder(s). The APA reports that marijuana users often present with co-occurring mood disorders like major depressive disorder, anxiety disorders, and bipolar I disorder, and personality disorders like antisocial, obsessive-compulsive, and paranoid personality disorders.