Signs & Effects of Marijuana Abuse

Understanding Marijuana Addiction

Learn About Marijuana Abuse & Addiction

Marijuana is by far one of the most commonly abused substances within the United States. Also referred to by a number of slang terms, such as pot, herb, and weed, marijuana is comprised of dried up flowers, stems, and leaves from the cannabis sativa plant. Within marijuana is the psychoactive component, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which is also known as THC. When an individual consumes marijuana through smoking it, adding it to food and eating it, or brewing it within tea and then drinking it, the sudden short-term effects of the use of this substance can include mild pain relief, relaxation, and perceptional distortions.

While many states throughout the country have legalized and/or decriminalized marijuana so it can be used for specific purposes, these changes in legislation do not mean that the use of this drug comes with no negative effects. Continued abuse of marijuana has been linked to a number of dangerous outcomes, including possible irreversible changes within the functioning and structure of the brain.

When an individual’s use of cannabis brings about a severe amount of distress along with the inability to control how much and how often they are using, it is likely that he or she has developed cannabis use disorder. Fortunately, there is comprehensive care available to help provide individuals with the skills needed to overcome marijuana use disorder and make the changes necessary to support long-term recovery.


Statistics of Marijuana Abuse

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that roughly 19.8 million people within the country have abused marijuana within the past 30 days. NIDA also states that each year, roughly 2.4 million people use marijuana for the first time, with about 78% of those individuals being between ages of 12 and 20. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports that, in 2011, there were 465,000 emergency room visits related to the abuse of marijuana.

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes & Risk Factors of Marijuana Abuse

There are a variety of genetic and environmental factors that can impact an individual’s chances of abusing marijuana or developing cannabis use disorder, including:

Genetic: Research regarding the heritability of substance use disorders shows that those who have parents or siblings with a chemical dependency problem are at a greater risk for developing one themselves. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that genetic factors can make up for almost 80% of an individual’s likelihood of developing cannabis use disorder.

Environmental: Numerous environmental factors, such as struggling in school, tobacco use, having an unstable and/or abusive home life, hanging out with individuals who abuse marijuana, or having access to this substance can all increase one’s likelihood of abusing marijuana or developing cannabis use disorder. Additionally, those who have family members who abuse this drug can also be more easily influenced to abuse it as well.

Risk Factors:

  • Being abused, neglected, or otherwise exposed to trauma
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Early involvement with substance abuse
  • Personal history of conduct disorder and/or antisocial personality disorder
  • Having access to and being able to afford marijuana
  • Family history of mental illness, substance abuse, and/or addiction
  • Prior substance abuse

Signs & Symptoms

Signs & Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse

The abuse of marijuana and cannabis use disorder can cause a number of signs and symptoms to develop, including:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Prioritizing marijuana abuse over friends, family, and significant activities
  • Social withdrawal
  • Declining performance at work
  • Possession of rolling papers, water pipes, and other drug paraphernalia
  • Acting secretively or deceptively regarding one’s activities and/or whereabouts
  • Multiple unexplained absences from work
  • Engaging in risky, reckless, or otherwise dangerous behaviors
  • Having an odor of marijuana on one’s body or clothing
  • Use of incense to hide the smell of marijuana

Physical symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Delayed reaction time
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Impaired balance, coordination, and motor skills
  • Increased cravings for food

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Poor decision-making skills
  • Impaired ability to concentrate or focus
  • Memory problems
  • Impaired ability to perceive the passage of time

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Fear and/or paranoia
  • Unstable mood
  • Agitation


Effects of Marijuana Abuse

Long-term marijuana abuse and allowing a cannabis use disorder to go untreated can cause an individual to suffer physical, socioeconomic, and emotional effects. Some of the most common effects of marijuana abuse can include:

  • Arrest and incarceration
  • Financial damage
  • Breathing problems, including bronchitis
  • Compromised immune system
  • Diminished sexual functioning
  • Heart damage
  • Social isolation
  • Injury from impaired coordination and recklessness
  • Strained interpersonal relationships
  • Abuse of other substances
  • Family discord
  • Diminished cognitive functioning
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Academic failure

Co-Occurring Disorders

Marijuana Abuse & Co-Occurring Disorders

Many people who struggle with marijuana abuse or cannabis use disorder might also battle symptoms of the following co-occurring disorders:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Other substance use disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar I disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Antisocial personality disorder

Effects of Withdrawal & Overdose

Effects of Withdrawal & Overdose From Marijuana

When an individual has been heavily abusing marijuana and suddenly tries to stop or curb his use, he or she can go through many uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Impaired ability to concentrate
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Strong cravings for marijuana
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Appetite suppression
  • Agitation and irritability

I started smoking pot in high school as a recreational thing but once I entered adulthood I realized I couldn't relax unless I smoked. The thought of being dependent on a drug for my happiness led me to look into rehab and that's when I found WTC. I learned more than I could've imagined and can finally cope with life's stress on my own! I owe so much to this place.

– Matt F.
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