Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse

Marijuana use is not usually associated with the typical dangers that are present in drug addiction. In many different states, marijuana is legal for recreational as well as medicinal use. But marijuana should be treated similarly to alcohol and prescription drugs. Despite its legality and its ability to manage certain health problems, marijuana can still be abused. But it can be hard to determine the signs and symptoms of marijuana abuse. If someone is abusing marijuana, do they still need drug addiction treatment? The following article with explore these complex issues.

What is marijuana?

Marijuana is a plant where the leaves are dried and burned to produce a high. The substance can be smoked or ingested. It is the most commonly abused drug in the United States, with a reported 11 million yearly young adult users.

The active ingredient in marijuana is a chemical compound called THC. The human brain contains receptors that react to THC. These natural THC receptors are a significant component of brain development and brain functioning. When smoked, eaten, or vaporized, THC in marijuana activates the parts of the brain that contain the highest amount of these receptors. People who use marijuana may experience the following effects:

  • Altered senses, such as hearing louder sounds or brighter colors
  • Changes in mood and time perception
  • Trouble with coordination
  • Problems concentrating
  • Delusions, hallucinations, and psychosis when taken in high doses
Marijuana Abuse

What happens when someone abuses marijuana?

The long term, psychological effects of marijuana abuse are not well understood. Some studies indicate that heavy use of marijuana by people in their teenage years can trigger mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, depression, and motivational disorder. It’s well-known that marijuana affects people’s short-term memory and their motivation.

When people start using marijuana in their teenage years, the drug will impair their ability to learn and retain information. The chemical compounds in marijuana are known to affect the areas of the brain that are necessary for memory and learning function. Because marijuana use has not been studied in depth, researchers are still trying to determine if these effects are permanent or can be reversed with cessation.

A study from Duke University found that people who had a history of heavy marijuana use in their teens lost an average of eight IQ points between the ages of 13 and 38. Those who quit using marijuana as adults did not see a reversal of this loss in IQ. However, people who didn’t start smoking marijuana until they were adults did not experience such declines. Preliminary research then indicates that teens should not inhale or ingest marijuana. But unfortunately, marijuana is often introduced to people when they are in their teen years.

The average age of first marijuana use is 16. A survey found that 14% of all people admitted to a drug or alcohol rehab center in the U.S. started using drugs, including marijuana, before the age of 13. The study also found that once marijuana users reach tenth grade, marijuana use is as high as 33% for children in the tenth grade.

Studies find that marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco are usually used first before a person tries other drugs. Research has also found that the THC in marijuana can affect how a person reacts to other addictive substances. It’s possible that early exposure and use of marijuana can lead someone to try harder drugs and become addicted to them.

How addictive is marijuana, and what are the signs of addiction?

Marijuana is not as addictive as drugs like heroin, cocaine, or crack. Long term use can lead to tolerance and psychological drug dependence. Some long term, heavy marijuana users have reported physical withdrawal symptoms.

What are the symptoms of marijuana abuse?

As with any substance, no matter how chemically addictive, there are similar symptoms of abuse and addiction:

  • Using more and more of the drug to get the desired effect.
  • Neglecting important activities and responsibilities in favor of drug use.
  • Experiencing negative consequences despite drug use.
  • Wanting to quit, but being unable to stop.
  • Not feeling “normal” unless using the drug.

If marijuana use is negatively impacting a person’s ability to function, then they have an addiction and possibly need outside support to stop the cycle of marijuana abuse.

What are the known short term and long term effects of marijuana abuse?

Short term, excessive marijuana use can cause the following symptoms:

  • Paranoia and panic attacks
  • Overeating
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Drowsiness and impaired motor functioning
  • Problems concentrating

Long term effects of marijuana are not as damaging as other drugs, especially for adults. However, adolescents can experience many negative consequences of abusing marijuana:

  • Lung infections
  • Mood swings
  • Problems learning
  • Panic attacks
  • Memory loss

People who smoke or ingest marijuana long term can develop a serious condition called Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome. Users who develop this disorder will experience cycles of severe nausea and vomiting which can lead to dehydration. The condition often requires hospitalization.

Why is it important for marijuana abusers to seek help for their addiction?

Surveys conducted on long-term marijuana abusers found that abusers experience lower life satisfaction, poorer physical and mental health, and relationship issues. Marijuana abusers also report lower levels of academic and career success than their non-addicted peers. Research has found that teenage marijuana users are less likely to finish school, and experience higher rates of joblessness, accidents, and injuries while working than their non-addicted peers.

Although marijuana is either legal or decriminalized in many parts of the country, it still has a high potential for abuse and should be treated similarly to alcohol. It’s possible to use the drug in moderation, but young people with developing brains should not use marijuana. Adults can also experience a dependence which can put them at-risk of lower life satisfaction and career attainment. They can even suffer long-term health consequences that are similar to tobacco smoking. Heavy marijuana users are at increased risk of lung issues from inhaling tar and other chemicals when using marijuana.

People need help for addiction when they experience negative consequences related to marijuana use but can’t stop using the drug. If you or someone you care about is abusing marijuana and can’t quit, please reach out to a drug abuse counselor at Mission Harbor to learn about ways to overcome this addiction. We have staff that is experienced and knowledgable who are ready to answer questions and get you or your loved one back on track.

The facilities at Mission Harbor are staffed with trained experts to best assist patients with their mental health issues. We are capable of dealing with any and all cases with a licensed staff, equipment, and approved techniques. Our mission is to help those who want to help themselves, and we support your decision in seeking help.

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