Marijuana Addiction and Abuse

In 2020, over 14 million people suffered from marijuana addiction in the United States.1 This page will explore what marijuana is, what its effects are on the mind and body, and how marijuana affects people’s lives.
Did you know most health insurance plans cover addiction treatment?
What is Marijuana (Cannabis)?

Marijuana (often referred to as weed, pot, reefer, or dope) is a drug derived from the leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds of the cannabis plant family.2,3 Cannabis plants contain many chemicals, including THC, which is the chemical largely responsible for the desired effects that occur when marijuana is consumed.2 THC can be extracted from the plant and can be taken in many forms, including through vaping or edibles.2

Cannabis is legal in many states and is used for both medical and recreational purposes.2 However, it is nationally recognized as an illicit Schedule I controlled substance with no federally accepted medical purpose and a high potential for misuse.3

Different Ways Marijuana is Consumed

There are several ways to consume marijuana. When using the dried plant, people may smoke it from hand-rolled cigarettes (joints), pipes or water pipes (bongs), or filled-cigar wrappers (blunts).2 The effects of marijuana can also be achieved by vaping, which works by extracting THC from the leaves.2

In addition to inhaling the drug, many people incorporate marijuana into baked goods or candy (edibles) or brew the plant as a tea.2 Recently, smoking or eating resin extracted from the marijuana plant has become a popular way to ingest high amounts of THC in a short amount of time, also known as “dabbing”.2 These highly concentrated extracts are available in a number of forms, including the following:2

  • Hash oil (a thick liquid)
  • Wax/budder (a malleable solid)
  • Shatter (a hard, golden-colored solid)
Effects of Marijuana Use

Alongside the high that people feel when consuming marijuana, there are several additional effects that people may experience. The type and degree of effects experienced depend on several factors, including:

  • How quickly THC is absorbed.
  • How much marijuana is consumed.
  • The age and medical history of the individual using marijuana.
  • How often a person uses marijuana.

Smoking marijuana allows the body to absorb the drug very quickly, while eating or drinking it may take up to 1 hour to take effect.2 Various combinations of these and other factors may lead to numerous short- and long-term health effects.

Short-Term Effects of Marijuana

The short-term effects of marijuana can vary from person to person; however, they can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Dry mouth4
  • Nausea4
  • Feelings of sedation4
  • Distorted sense of time2
  • Altered senses
  • Problem-solving and cognitive difficulties2
  • Memory impairment2
  • Dizziness4
  • Euphoria4

When marijuana that is rich in THC is consumed, it is also possible to experience hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis.2

Long-Term Effects of Marijuana

The long-term health effects of chronic marijuana use can be dangerous and, in some cases, may be long lasting or even permanent.2 The long term effects of marijuana use are wide-ranging and include the following:2

  • Increased daily cough
  • More frequent lung illnesses
  • Regular intense cycles of nausea and vomiting
  • Impaired thinking
  • Decreased memory
  • Impaired learning ability
  • Worsening of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety
Is Marijuana Addictive?

Woman thinking

The use of marijuana can lead to the development of problem marijuana use, which is known as marijuana use disorder. In some cases, marijuana use disorder becomes addiction. Some data suggests that approximately 30% of individuals who use marijuana may have some level of marijuana use disorder.5 Additionally, because of its effects on brain development, people who begin to use marijuana before age 18 are 4 to 7 times more likely to become addicted than adults.5

Marijuana’s addictive properties are largely due to THC’s effects on the brain’s reward system.5 THC acts on the brain and signals certain neurons in the reward system to release dopamine, a chemical that is naturally released during pleasurable or rewarding activities.5 But, marijuana causes the brain to release more dopamine than what is normal. The rush of dopamine in the brain makes the brain “want” to repeat the rewarding behavior, which contributes to marijuana’s addictive effects.5

Signs of Marijuana Addiction

If you are concerned that you or a loved one may have a problem with marijuana use, there are some signs that may help you identify whether or not use is problematic and leading to marijuana addiction. Addiction is a chronic medical disease characterized by the continued, compulsive use of a substance despite significant negative consequences. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) provides 11 diagnostic criteria for medical professionals to diagnose an addiction to marijuana, which is known clinically as a cannabis use disorder. While only a professional can make a diagnosis, the criteria can be useful to recognize if you have a problem.

A few of the 11 DSM-5 criteria are:6

  • Taking cannabis in higher doses or for longer time periods than intended.
  • Having a persistent desire to cut back or quit weed, but being unable to.
  • Continuing to use marijuana despite persistent social or interpersonal consequences.
  • Giving up other previously important activities due to cannabis use.
  • Needing higher doses of marijuana for the same effect.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using marijuana.

A person must meet at least 2 criteria occurring within the same 12-month period to be diagnosed with cannabis use disorder.

Do You Need Rehab for Weed?

Professional treatment can be beneficial in overcoming marijuana addiction. Treatment can occur at an inpatient facility, such as at a hospital or residential rehab center.7 But, it is also possible to undergo treatment completely through outpatient programs without living at rehab.7

Substance use disorder professionals will help you develop skills to address underlying causes of addiction, as well as help you manage physical effects such as marijuana withdrawal symptoms spurred on by detoxing or abstaining from cannabis use. Rehabs are able to develop individualized treatment plans that provide solutions to address any needs you may have in addition to marijuana misuse.7

Whether or not you decide to go to inpatient rehab, getting professional marijuana addiction treatment can make the difference in achieving long-term abstinence and lasting recovery.

Finding Treatment for Marijuana Use

If you or a loved one need help with marijuana addiction, AdCare Treatment Centers can help you. Wherever you are coming from for drug or alcohol rehab, Rhode Island may be the place for you to start recovery. Admission counselors at AdCare are available by phone 24/7 to answer any questions you may have about rehab admissions, rehab insurance coverage (New England), or how to get the help you need. Call us at today for enrollment or to get the information you need to pursue recovery. AdCare Treatment Center staff are ready to help.

Take the first step in the treatment process by having your insurance verified and fill out our

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