It’s one of the most commonly debated topics in the political arena as more and more states put legislation on the ballot that would legalize marijuana for medicinal and/or recreational use. One of the greatest myths perpetrated by proponents of legal use of the drug is that its use is not only safe but that it is non-addictive as well.
The fact is, however, that marijuana is addictive, and every year the plants are grown to be increasingly more potent. It is estimated the nine percent of people who try the drug will end up dependent upon it, according to a study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence. When someone starts using marijuana in their teens, the rate of addiction goes up to 17 percent. Among those who use the drug every day, the rate of addiction is between 25 and 50 percent. The development of marijuana addiction is thus a risk that every person who uses the drug takes.
Marijuana Is Addictive
Regular use of marijuana means regular stimulation of the endocannabinoid system. This can translate into brain changes that lead to an inability to stop using the drug despite negative life changes caused by its use. Additionally, should the person try to stop using the drug abruptly, he or she will experience physical and/or psychological withdrawal symptoms as a result – another sign of addiction. These may include:
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Mood swings
- Disrupted eating patterns
These withdrawal symptoms usually peak within the first week after stopping use of marijuana and may last for up to two weeks or longer.
Signs of Marijuana Addiction
Signs of marijuana abuse are often obvious. The user often has blood shot eyes, laughs about things that aren’t that funny, fades in and out of conversations, and is often unmotivated to do more than sit on the couch and play video games or watch movies. But how can you know when use of the drug has crossed over into dangerous territory and become an addiction? Here are a few of the signs that can indicate marijuana dependence:
- The person opts to use marijuana rather than take part in other activities or refuses to engage in activities where he will be unable to use marijuana.
- The marijuana user begins to lose ground at work or in school.
- Legal issues due to use of marijuana (e.g., driving under the influence, selling or using the drug illegally or in places where it is not allowed, etc.) threaten the addicted person’s freedom.
- Financial problems are often an issue.
- Relationships with others who do not use marijuana become difficult.
Treatment: The First Step to Freedom from Addiction
According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), about 4.2 million of the 6.9 million US residents believed to be living with a substance abuse or addiction problem are using marijuana as their primary drug of choice. When addiction is the diagnosis, treatment can truly help. Undergoing detox is one part of a comprehensive treatment program, but long-term psychotherapeutic intervention can help people to not only stop using marijuana physically but to also learn how to not need marijuana in the long term. Learn more about your loved one’s options in marijuana recovery and treatment when you contact us today.
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David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton