Marijuana Use and Abuse 101

Table of Contents

Marijuana is a drug that goes by a bunch of other names, like cannabis, weed, dope, herb, pot, and ganja. It is usually smoked in a hand-rolled cigarette called a joint. Right now, this substance is legal in many parts of the United States, but people are still torn as to whether or not marijuana is actually addictive. In this article we’ll explore everything about marijuana use and abuse.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Yes. Marijuana is addictive – even the American Psychiatric Association thinks so. In the DSM-5, a diagnosis of Cannabis Use Disorder, also called Marijuana Use Disorder, is now included. The DSM-5 is the diagnostic criteria model that helps mental health professionals diagnose and treat disorders and issues of the mind. Cannabis Use Disorder, like any other diagnosable condition, includes a list of symptoms and the diagnostic criteria for addiction. Addiction is characterized by tolerance, withdrawal syndrome, craving, and persistent efforts to stop, quit or control use of the drug with little to no success.

In truth, contrary to popular belief, marijuana is addictive. Here are some more facts about addiction according to a National Institute of Health study. 

  • 1 in 6 people who start taking marijuana before the age of 18 report they are addicted to it, according to a study
  • 1 in 10 adults who use it say they are addicted

Studies have recently discovered the true prevalence of marijuana addiction. Here is what they found. 

Teenagers and Adolescents who Abuse Marijuana

Marijuana use and abuse in the adolescent and teenage population is a big problem. First of all, use is associated with altered brain development, poor academic functioning, and a decline in cognitive performance. Teens who use marijuana do worse on tests in areas like problem solving, memory, and learning. When these teens stay away from marijuana for a period of one month (or 28 days), there are still areas of diminished performance when it comes to verbal memory, complex attention, and planning. In other words, marijuana can have lasting effects on the minds of young people. Worse, marijuana is often used with other drugs, including alcohol. In fact, nearly 60% of young people who take marijuana also drink alcohol. Therefore, most young people abuse marijuana AND another drug at the same time, causing double the negative effects.

Does Marijuana Help or Hurt?

This is a great question: does marijuana in a medical setting help or hurt? The answer is complicated. 

Believe it or not, Marijuana is the most popular and frequently used illegal drug in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 18% of adults (or a whopping 42 million people), have used marijuana at least once. Legalization of the drug in some states is controversial. The debate is on whether marijuana is helpful or harmful to a person’s health. Often, marijuana is prescribed by a doctor to ease the discomfort of cancer. Proponents say marijuana helps people who are suffering from chronic diseases eat and function the way no other drug could or would. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) published a report in which scientists list the therapeutic effects of marijuana use. It can ease pain, stimulate the appetite, and get rid of nausea. Still, there are issues with marijuana. In another report found on NID, marijuana is correlated to lack of motivation, poor work performance, workplace accidents, and addiction. It is also said that marijuana can harm a person’s social life. Suddenly, all the person wants to do is smoke marijuana. Also, there are issues with cognitive abilities that arise from use. These issues lead to memory problems, slowed reaction, panic, and anxiety. Also, marijuana use can suppress the immune system and respiratory functions. It can also reduce fertility and sexual potency in men. In women, it may interfere with menstrual cycles. For pregnant women, THC, the active ingredient in marijuana is harmful. It can affect the development of a baby’s brain and cause other issues.

What are the Long-Term Effects of Marijuana on the Brain?

The good news is, many components of brain function recover over time. All the person has to do is quit taking marijuana and the brain will heal itself on its own. Some of the parts of the brain affected are the person’s decision making skills, planning skills, and idea or concept development skills. The people most likely to be negatively affected are those who began taking marijuana as young adults/adolescents and used heavily for a long period of time. When marijuana is used daily or persistently it can cause chronic issues. Some of these issues include problems with social functioning, holding relationships, poor work performance, and etc.

Treatment for Marijuana Addiction

If you think that someone you love is addicted to marijuana, the time to get help is now. Even though people think there is no withdrawal associated with marijuana use, they are sadly mistaken. Most heavy users say they have felt withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit abruptly. Some say that Marinol or dronabinol can be taken to treat withdrawal symptoms, but that has not been evaluated. Drug therapy isn’t necessary for marijuana withdrawal as it is for opioid addiction, alcoholism, or benzodiazepine addiction. The best way to go through marijuana withdrawal is with therapy. Some of the best ways to address marijuana addiction are with the following:

  • Relapse Prevention – helping you build clean time and avoid relapse
  • Contingency Management – a way of rewarding abstinence from the drug
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – this type of therapy teaches skills for dealing with addiction 
  • Mindfulness – teaches you to be aware of the moment you’re in 
  • Group Therapy – lets you know you’re not alone 
  • Inpatient Treatment – is done in a residential treatment center
  • Intensive Outpatient Treatment – is intensive but done from your own residential setting

In Conclusion

Marijuana is addictive. If you or someone you love is addicted, get help now. Marijuana is especially problematic for young people, including teenagers and adolescents.