Marijuana is quickly becoming legalized in many states, and abuse and addiction reflect its increased availability. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that as of 2014, over 1 million people in the U.S. are medical marijuana users. It’s difficult to track the amount of medical marijuana abuse. Both medical marijuana and marijuana that is used recreationally have the same appeal – it improves mood and lessens pain. Medical marijuana is typically prescribed for patients diagnosed with cancer, AIDS, ADHD, Crohn’s disease, neurogenic pain, migraines, arthritis, or multiple sclerosis.
Even though medical marijuana does have some medical benefits, its abuse, and subsequent addiction is increasing. Some doctors will prescribe marijuana for very minor complications, so it is easily obtainable and shareable.
Risks of Marijuana Abuse and Addiction
Although the risks associated with marijuana abuse are not as severe and life-threatening as with some other drugs, they are real.
Behavioral risks that occur with marijuana abuse and addiction include:
- Problems with memory and learning
- Poor decision-making
Physical and health risks include:
- Hunger, weight gain
- Addiction, and cross-addiction
Because marijuana use can cause problems with memory, decision-making, and social behavior, it can interfere with personal relationships with family, performance at school and work, and other daily activities. Marijuana’s negative impact on memory can last long after the acute effects of the drug wear off – from several days to a few weeks. That means that a daily pot smoker is likely functioning at a reduced intellectual level all of the time.
The biggest risk for marijuana users is an addiction. Long-term use and abuse can lead to dependence on the drug. Addicted people often exhibit negative behaviors as a result of drug seeking, putting their relationships at risk, as well as running the risk of having legal ramifications.
Another risk is cross-addiction. Marijuana is commonly called a “gateway drug” that lessens a person’s inhibitions when it comes to using other drugs, making marijuana users more susceptible to abuse other drugs like alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines.
A contributing factor to long-term marijuana use is the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. When a person tries to stop using marijuana, the withdrawal often leads then back to use and abuse. Symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include:
- Mood swings
As marijuana withdrawal symptoms progress, they will usually be the worst around the third or fourth day without smoking. Within a couple of weeks, the physical symptoms of marijuana addiction will be gone, but the mental and psychological effects can last for a prolonged period of time. These symptoms require treatment to overcome.
Treatment for Marijuana Abuse and Addiction
Some people struggling with marijuana use choose to seek outpatient treatment, while others prefer residential rehab. There are benefits to inpatient treatment for marijuana addiction such as: getting away from triggers to use, no availability of the drug, more individual and group therapy, and more medical and peer support. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used with marijuana addicts to help them learn to control urges to use and to learn coping skills for relapse prevention. Many people who abuse pot and try to quit on their own fail many times before they seek treatment. Here at His House, we encourage you to not go it alone, we are here to help you get on the road to recovery.
Marijuana addiction, while not as dangerous and extreme as some other addictions, is still difficult and it takes time, effort, and patience. Let us help you navigate the ups and downs of early recovery.