Marijuana is one of the most popular drugs that can be easily accessed to due to its availability. Medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries can be found on nearly every corner, especially in states where it has been legalized. Because of this, as well as the lower social stigma for using it, many people have found themselves experiencing marijuana addiction. Many states within the U.S. have begun taking steps to — or have fully — legalized marijuana for recreational use. While there are plenty of medical cases where marijuana or cannabis were proven to be effective as a therapy, there is still a stigma attached to it and those treatment techniques come with a risk. Using marijuana is not exactly as life-threatening as cocaine or heroin, but developing marijuana addiction is very much possible. Because of its negative effects on the brain and body, it is not surprising that a lot of people are still against legalizing marijuana.

Can marijuana be addictive?

 This is one of the most controversial topics that many people and health care professionals have long discussed. According to research, scientific studies show that about 30% of people who have used marijuana have developed some sort of marijuana use disorder (keep in mind that dependence and disorders are separate from addiction). The possibility of dependence increases over time, especially if the individual began using this drug at an early age. One of the main substances found in marijuana is the mind-altering component called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or is commonly known as THC. This substance, when smoked by an individual, can pass through the lungs and into the bloodstream where it can then travel to the person’s brain. Once there, the absorption process is slow compared to other forms of drugs. It usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour before the person feels “high”.

If the individual ingests marijuana orally, then you can expect that the side effects will manifest a lot fast compared to when it is being smoked. Once this is processed in the brain, the receptors in the brain will then change the mood of the person and impair their memory and movement. This is why most marijuana smokers have difficulty thinking straight and have an altered sense of sight and time.

Tolerance to marijuana happens over time which means they have to use more of this in order to obtain the same effects. If the person continues to use marijuana, they will develop a dependence, and in rare cases, perhaps even an addiction if the use of the substance begins to routinely interfere with their life. This also happens when their brain is used to having THC in the system. If the person stops using marijuana on a regular basis, they will exhibit withdrawal symptoms. Addiction occurs when the body is physically dependent on this drug and craves it. The user will feel that they “need” to have marijuana in order to survive or function despite knowing its negative effects.

In some cases, other users do not exhibit the classic behaviors of someone who has a marijuana use issue. The National Institute on Drug Abuse or NIDA has reported that one out of seven users will have a problematic relationship with marijuana called marijuana use disorder. While those people who have been using marijuana since they were 18 years old will not develop this disorder compared to those who have used this after 18 years of age. There is also a report which states that marijuana has a higher potency rate in comparison to other drugs. This could also be one of the reasons why there is a rise in the number of people who have developed a dependency problem with it.

So is cannabis addictive? The presence of or dependence and withdrawal symptoms exhibited by users is not enough to conclude that marijuana is addictive. This is also because not everyone who develops some amount of dependence to this drug shows ways of compulsively using it. However, they are strong indicators that prolonged cannabis use can become problematic, which can also lead to substance use disorder.

The most common hallmark of an addiction is the user’s compulsiveness in the use of this drug despite it’s adverse effects. The user finds it impossible to control their drug use even if it is already causing problems in their life, ruins their relationships, makes them perform poorly in school or work and causes them to have trouble with the law.

The Classic Addictive Behavior

An individual dealing with marijuana addiction may have marijuana (or cannabis) use disorder. Once a person develops this disorder, they will show some of the classic behavioral symptoms found in many addictions. These are the following:

  • They begin to lose control of their use and need larger doses to satisfy their cravings.
  • Will deny any changes the people have noticed in them.
  • They will spend more time obsessing about how to get marijuana.
  • They will begin to spend more money and time in order to get marijuana.
  • Marijuana will take over their life.
  • They become agitated or irritable if their drug runs out.
  • They continue to use it despite the negative effects of it.

Physical Dependence

Newer marijuana varieties have higher levels of THC, which makes them more potent than ever. Studies have revealed that marijuana smokers can develop tolerance as well as withdrawal symptoms in some people who stopped using. Chronic cannabis smokers who quit can experience withdrawal symptoms and they are as follows:

  • Anxiety
  • Decreased pulse rate
  • Excessive salivation
  • Irritability
  • Increased aggressive behavior
  • Increased mood swing
  • Loss of appetite

Seeking Treatment for Marijuana Addiction

According to studies, the number of people getting help for marijuana use has increased over the last few years. Studies also showed that the number of children and teenagers who are being treated for marijuana addiction and abuse has increased by 42% since the early 90’s. In 2015, about 213,000 children aged 12 and older stated that marijuana is one of their primary drugs of choice when they were admitted for treatment. Because of this, cannabis is considered to be one of the most common drugs that people seek treatment for their substance abuse.

If you know anyone who may have a problem with marijuana, it’s best to contact experienced professionals at treatment facilities who can help them. Reaching out and asking for help is nothing to be ashamed about. Give them a call and save a life today.

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