Is it possible to be addicted to marijuana?

Marijuana is the dried flowers of the cannabis sativa plant. This plant is made up of psychoactive compounds, specifically delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis plants can also be concentrated into a resin (e.g., hash, hash oil). Marijuana is the most frequently used illicit substance in the United States. It is typically smoked in a rolled cigarette (i.e., joint), in a pipe, in a water pipe (i.e., bong), or in a cigar that has been emptied of tobacco and refilled with marijuana (i.e., blunt). Marijuana typically has a very sharp scent that is distinctive. Marijuana is currently classified by the government as a schedule I substance.

Schedule I substances are drugs that have a high risk for abuse and do not have any medical uses. When an individual smokes marijuana, THC moves quickly from the lungs to the bloodstream. THC is then carried through the bloodstream to the brain and other organs. THC is usually absorbed much slower when ingested as a drink or food. No matter the way THC is ingested, it acts primarily on the brain’s cannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoid receptors, which are typically activated by chemicals that are produced by the body naturally, make up a neural connection network called the endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system has an important part in normal brain functioning and development.

How Marijuana Effects the Body

The highest level of cannabinoid receptors are located in parts of the brain that impact memory, pleasure, concentration, thinking, time perception, sensory perception, and coordinated movement. Marijuana use over-activates the endocannabinoid system, which causes the high and other effects including:

  • Impaired coordination
  • Altered perceptions
  • Difficulty with cognitive tasks
  • Altered mood
  • Decreased appetite
  • Issues with memory
  • Problems with learning

Marijuana is often associated with a variety of health issues, specifically issues related to the lungs, heart, and brain. Smoke from marijuana irritates the lungs and individuals who frequently smoke often experience the following symptoms:

  • Daily phlegm production and cough
  • Higher risk of developing lung infections
  • Chronic acute chest illnesses
  • Immune system damage
  • Central Nervous system damage
  • Brain cell death
  • Increased heart rate
  • Issues with fertility
  • Increased blood pressure

Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana use can lead to the development of an addiction, or marijuana use disorder. Individuals who begin using marijuana prior to age 18 are seven times more likely to develop a marijuana use disorder than those who begin after age 18. Addiction to marijuana is often associated with dependence, or the withdrawal symptoms a person may feel when they are not taking the substance. Individuals who frequently use marijuana report withdrawal symptoms including irritability, decreased appetite, mood changes, disturbed sleep, physical discomfort, and cravings. These withdrawal symptoms often peak the first week after the use of marijuana is discontinued. Withdrawal symptoms from marijuana may last approximately 2 weeks. Dependence on marijuana arises due to the brain adapting to large amounts of marijuana by reducing the sensitivity and production of endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.

Marijuana addiction occurs when an individual cannot cease use of the substance even when it interferes with their life. According to research, approximately 9% of individuals who use marijuana will develop dependence, and 17% of individuals who begin using before age 18 will become dependent. In 2015, approximately 138,000 individuals sought treatment for their marijuana dependency and addiction. Genetics are linked to the development of an addiction. This is supported by studies of identical twins raised in different homes and environments. They have higher levels of an addiction co-occurring. This means that if one of the twins develops an addiction, the other is at a greater risk for developing one when compared to fraternal twins.

Marijuana addiction can exacerbate or cause issues with individuals’ daily activities and routines. Individuals who use marijuana heavily often report lower satisfaction in life, higher levels of relationship difficulties, poor physical health, poor mental health, and less success in academics or work. Abuse of marijuana is also linked to higher levels of school dropouts. Further, marijuana use is associated with increased tardiness, job turnover, absences, accidents, and workers’ compensation claims. If you or a loved one would like more information regarding marijuana addiction, please contact us today at 833-497-3808. Our highly qualified staff looks forward to speaking with you and assisting you with your needs.