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Marijuana Addiction

The decriminalization and/or legalization of marijuana are hot topics for many individuals. In fact, it is legal to purchase marijuana in four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — as well as in the District of Columbia.[1] Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 25 states.[2]

Despite these changes, marijuana abuse is still a rampant problem in the United States.There are many drugs that carry both significant benefits and risks. For example, Valium, hydrocodone and Xanaxtreat both psychological and physical conditions. However, these drugs are also some of the most abused drugs on the market today.

Marijuana is different from these drugs because there is no consensus that marijuana has any legitimate medical use.There have been studies that show some benefit from marijuana. This drug treats nausea as a result of chemotherapy, ocular pressure, increasing appetite and provides pain relief. Despite these potential benefits, it is not recommended to use marijuana in its current form due to the health risks and risk of addiction.

What Is Addiction?

Smoking marijuanaAccording to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease.[3] The primary symptom of drug addiction is the continued use of a drug despite harmful consequences to family, social obligations, work and school. Long-term use of marijuana is addictive.

According to national figures, 4.2 million Americans met clinical criteria for dependence or abuse of marijuana in the past year.

This is more than twice the number for dependence/abuse of prescription pain relievers (1.9 million) and nearly five times the number for dependence/abuse of cocaine (855,000).[4]

If an individual starts marijuana use in their teens, they have a one in six chance of becoming addicted.[5] In addition to the continued used of any substance despite harmful effects, there are other symptoms that can indicate an addiction to marijuana. For instance, a person may show a lack of interest in any activity other than smoking marijuana, or only be concerned with obtaining or smoking it. Someone who is addicted to marijuana may constantly crave it when they are not high.

Marijuana Affects the Way the Brain Thinks

The main psychoactive component in marijuana is the chemical THC or tetrahydrocannabinol. THC attaches itself to cannabinoid receptors in the brain that control pleasure, pain, memory, concentration, appetite, and sensory and time perception.When an individual uses marijuana, their brain is not thinking correctly. One recent study an individual follow hands-on instructions on a simple driving course. After completing the course sober, the individual used marijuana. Ten minutes after the exercise the intoxicated volunteer could no longer find the beginning of the course.

Permanent Brain Damage

Long-term marijuana use multiplies the cognitive effects of marijuana abuse. In some cases, the effects of marijuana use can become permanent.The risk of prolonged or permanent brain damage increases when the individual uses the drug is in their teens. Marijuana use can stunt brain development and prevent the individual from reaching their potential.

Another risk factor is the effect of marijuana use by or near pregnant women. Perinatal and prenatal exposure to the compounds found in marijuana dramatically affects the brain development of a child.This can alter mood, reward and the ability to learn.

Physical Effects

Brain damage and decreased brain function are not the only negative effects of long-term marijuana abuse. Because marijuana is primarily smoked, the most significant damage is to the lungs. The chemical composition of marijuana is complex and not fully understood.However, the damage to the lungs can include lung cancer, emphysema, chronic cough, pneumonia and bronchitis. In addition to damaging the lungs, the inhaled smoke can lead to mouth or throat cancer.

Psychological Disorders

Marijuana jointIn many cases, an individual may use marijuana to self-medicate for conditions that may or may not have been properly diagnosed. When this happens, the individual places himself at risk for the long-term negative effects of marijuana. For instance, when marijuana is used to treat anxiety or aggression instead of proven therapeutic techniques, it can increase the anxiety and aggression issues when the drug is not available.

When an individual chooses recovery, the proper diagnosis of any underlying psychological conditions can greatly increase the chances of long-term success.

Withdrawal Symptoms

The first step in any recovery program begins with detoxification.When an individual’s body and mind are addicted to any substance, including marijuana, there is a period of time after the introduction of the substance has ceased during which the mind and body will rebel. This is known as withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms vary by the type of substance used.How long withdrawal symptoms last depend on the frequency of drug use and the severity of addiction.

The symptoms of withdrawal for marijuana are more psychological and emotional than physical, unlike many other drugs. Some common conditions during withdrawal include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Decreased appetite
  • Cravings
  • Irritability
  • Inability to sleep

Once the detox phase is complete, the treatment process continues. Treatment depends on the needs of the individual. After treatment is complete, the recovering addict will need to commit to a change in lifestyle. This means making wise choices regarding friends and associates. The support phase of recovery should include daily meetings such as Narcotics Anonymous or similar groups.This helps bolster the recovering addict’s ability to fight lingering cravings or simply falling into old routines.

It is possible to recover from marijuana addiction.Please contact us at The Canyon and you will learn better, healthier ways to enjoy your life.


[2] The Lobby Against Medical Marijuana. Frances, Allen. September 13th, 2016.

[3] Drug Facts: Understanding Drug Use and Addiction

[4] DrugFacts: Nationwide Trends.

[5] Marijuana Facts for Teens.