Marijuana Addiction | Abuse, Effects, & Treatment

Between 10 to 30 percent of people who smoke marijuana develop a marijuana use disorder at some point in their life.

Marijuana addiction is a mental health condition where you are unable to stop smoking marijuana, despite negative consequences on your health and lifestyle. It is also known as marijuana use disorder or cannabis use disorder.

Marijuana is a popular drug throughout the United States. Advocates of the drug may argue that marijuana is less addictive than other illicit drugs, but uncontrolled use of marijuana can alter your brain chemistry and lead to dependence, two signs of addiction.

Some states, such as Colorado and California, have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana use, but use of the drug still has a potential for abuse, addiction, and dependency.

How Marijuana Abuse Can Lead To Addiction

Between 10 to 30 percent of people who smoke marijuana develop a marijuana use disorder at some point in their life.

Marijuana’s main ingredient, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), binds to cannabinoid receptors in parts of the brain associated with pleasure, memory, concentration, and movement. Marijuana also releases dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter that encourages repeated drug use when released.

Repeated use can lead to marijuana dependence, where your body physically needs the drug to release dopamine in the brain.

Marijuana Addiction Among Young Adults

Smoking marijuana as a young adult increases the risk of developing a marijuana use disorder later on in life. Marijuana use before the age of 18 can make you 4 to 7 times more likely to have a marijuana use disorder compared to adults who start smoking marijuana.

Effects Of Marijuana Addiction

The effects of marijuana on your body and brain can extend into the long-term. Negative health effects may not be reason enough for some people to quit, especially those suffering from a substance use disorder.

Medical marijuana use can have positive health effects, but recreational, unregulated marijuana use may increase your health risk in the long-term.

Physical Effects

Marijuana causes many short-term effects, such as red eyes, increased appetite, trouble with concentration and coordination, changes in perception, impairment, and sluggishness. A person showing these symptoms frequently may be constantly smoking marijuana.

Marijuana also has long-term health effects. Respiratory problems have been observed due to long-term marijuana use.

Mental Health Effects

Marijuana can alter your brain chemistry in the long-term, leading to mental health effects such as:

  • an increased risk of depression
  • smoking marijuana despite problems in your personal or professional life
  • continued use despite ongoing health problems
  • trying and failing to quit smoking marijuana
  • experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit, such as cravings or sleep problems

Some studies suggest marijuana use in adolescents can affect their brain development, leading to permanent changes in memory, cognition, and IQ. More research may be needed to determine whether marijuana is a definite cause of memory loss.

​Treatment For Marijuana Addiction

Treatment options for marijuana addiction are similar to treatments for opioids, stimulants, and other forms of drug addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management, and motivational interviewing can be effective in treating marijuana use disorder.

There are no approved medications that can treat marijuana addiction in the U.S. However, studies have been conducted on sleep aids, anti-anxiety medications, and drugs that interact with cannabinoid receptors. More research may be needed on all of these medications.

If you or a loved one live with marijuana use disorder, call Northeast Addictions Treatment Center for a treatment program that puts your needs first.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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