Overview, Signs, Symptoms & Treatment
Marijuana addiction can sometimes be a controversial subject. While marijuana may have less intense physical and psychological effects on users than some other illicit drugs (like methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, etc.), there is an argument over how harmful the drug can actually be and if marijuana addiction is even possible.
According to many studies, marijuana does cause tolerance, dependence, withdrawal symptoms, and many other issues that are associated with an addiction syndrome. The NIDA states, “Over time, overstimulation of the endocannabinoid system by marijuana use can cause changes in the brain that lead to addiction.” There are also signs and symptoms that are associated with marijuana addiction, and treatment may be necessary for those who experience severe addiction to marijuana.
Marijuana Addiction Overview
As stated by the NIDA, “It is estimated that 9 percent of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it.” Those who begin abusing marijuana when they were young, usually as teenagers, are especially susceptible to the possibility of addiction to and dependence on marijuana, as are those who abuse the drug every day. The numbers correspond to 17 percent and 25 to 50 percent of these specific users, respectfully.
Marijuana addiction does occur, and many individuals do experience issues as a result of their marijuana use and are still unable to stop abusing the drug, even when they want to. Most commonly, marijuana is smoked but it can also be ingested. “The main psychoactive (mind-altering) chemical in marijuana, responsible for most of the intoxicating effects sought by recreational users, is delta-9-tetrhydro-cannabinol (THC)” (NIDA). While the severity of marijuana addiction can vary depending on the individual, there are clear signs that point to marijuana addiction.
Marijuana Addiction Signs
If you’re concerned that your loved one might be addicted to marijuana, look for the clearer signs. A marijuana smoker may not be addicted just because they smoke or smoke often; addiction occurs when an individual cannot stop taking a drug without some sort of help. This is usually apparent when the person attempts to stop smoking marijuana and cannot do so on their own.
Some of the other signs of marijuana addiction are:
- Withdrawal syndrome
- The NIDA states, “Long-term marijuana users trying to quit report withdrawal symptoms including irritability, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, anxiety, and drug craving, all of which can make it difficult to abstain.” These kinds of issues which occur when an individual is unable to obtain or use marijuana are strong signs of dependence which, in recreational drug abuse, often occurs hand-in-hand with addiction.
- Cardiovascular problems
- If a person starts to experience cardiovascular issues as a result of marijuana use, it is likely that they are smoking too much and should consider treatment. According to the NIDA, “Marijuana… raises heart rate by 20-100 percent shortly after smoking; this effect can last up to 3 hours” (NIDA 3). In chronic use, high blood pressure, risk of heart attacks, and other cardiovascular issues are a strong indicator of chronic marijuana abuse. If the person refuses to stop smoking after an issue like this one (or is unable to stop), it is more than likely an addiction.
- Respiratory problems
- Marijuana addicts often exhibit many respiratory issues including chronic cough, lung problems, high susceptibility to chest colds, and a higher risk of lung infections.
- Mental health problems
- The Colorado Government website states, “There are also links between marijuana use and other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and personality disturbances, including a lack of interest in rewarding activities.” While these issues may be internal, they can also cause an individual’s behavior to change and for them to become more apathetic, unhappy, irritable, and depressed.
- Sexual dysfunction
- As stated by CESAR, “Sexual dysfunction and reproductive problems, including irregular sperm and lowered sperm count in men and menstrual and ovulatory disruption in women.” These issues may become especially obvious when an individual is attempting to become pregnant or have a child.
- Memory problems
- Sometimes, people who abuse marijuana chronically experience problems remembering things. Learning abilities can also become impaired as a result of long-term marijuana abuse which can be more apparent in those who are still in school.
These issues are all noticeable as long-term marijuana abuse signs. It is also important to watch for the signs of marijuana intoxication which, although by themselves are not a definite indicator of marijuana addiction, will likely be constant in someone who is addicted to the drug. These are:
- Impaired motor skills
- Giggling, acting silly
- Bloodshot eyes
- Short-term memory issues
- “Difficulty remembering things that have just happened” (CESAR)
- Increased appetite
- Marijuana smoke smell
- Many people who smoke consistently have the smell lingering on their clothes and other possessions. “Marijuana smells sweeter than cigarette smoke” (NIH).
Marijuana Addiction Symptoms
While the signs of marijuana addiction are important to note, there are also symptoms that can be more obvious to the individual who is addicted to the effects of marijuana. Marijuana addiction causes a person to become apathetic toward other aspects of their life as well as unable to stop abusing the drug.
Ask yourself if your marijuana use has caused any of the issues below to occur in your life, and then consider whether or not you may need formal addiction treatment for marijuana.
- Do you smoke every day?
- Have you been smoking chronically for several years or more or since you were a teenager?
- Do you feel that you smoke marijuana more out of habit some days than an actual desire to smoke?
- Do you feel apathetic, unhappy, or otherwise generally dissatisfied with the state of your life?
- Have you started to feel this way since you began smoking marijuana?
- Do you feel like you need marijuana in order to feel normal?
- Do you feel like you need marijuana in order to have fun?
- Do you smoke constantly, even when you are alone?
- Do you consistently decide not to go places because you know you will not be able to smoke there?
- Have there been several people in your life who have commented on the amount you smoke or the way it affects you?
- Are you only happy when you’re smoking?
- Have you ever experienced extreme problems or consequences as a result of your marijuana use, such as:
- Breakups or relationship problems?
- Losing a job?
- School-related issues (failing a test/class, being suspended, etc.)?
- Getting arrested?
- Despite these issues, do you still continue to smoke marijuana?
- Do you only want to spend time with other individuals who also smoke marijuana?
- Has your tolerance for marijuana grown to the point that you are unable to feel the same effects from the amount you originally smoked?
- Do you experience psychological withdrawal from marijuana when you are unable to get it?
- Are you unhappy with the amount of marijuana that you smoke but still feel unable to cut back?
If you answered yes to these questions, you may have an addiction to marijuana. The best course of action you can take is to ask your friends and family for their support and to seek out a treatment program that would be best for you.