Marijuana (Cannabis) Use Disorder: Effects & Treatment

Marijuana is the most used illicit substance in the United Sates.1 There is a common belief that marijuana is safe, especially in comparison to substances like alcohol or cigarettes, but cannabis use has a number of risks.
What Is Marijuana?

What Is Marijuana (Cannabis)?

Marijuana is the dried stems, leaves, seeds, and flowers of Cannabis plants.1 Marijuana contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which produces intoxicating mind-altering effects (i.e., a “high).1

Marijuana has many street names, including:1

  • Ganja.
  • Weed,.
  • Bud.
  • Pot
  • Herb.
  • Mary Jane.
  • Grass.

In 1970, marijuana was listed as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act.2 This meant it was considered to have a high abuse potential and no medical applications. In view of public support of the legalization of marijuana, many states enacted new laws to recognize specific medical uses or decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana.2

The current legal status of marijuana in the United States varies by state. States may have policies for medical vs. recreational use, cultivation restrictions, how it can be sold, and who can use it legally, if at all.2

Different Forms of Marijuana (Weed)

There are several different forms of marijuana. The plant’s flowers, seeds, and leaves can be crushed up and smoked in a hand-rolled form known as joints using cigarette papers or as blunts using cigar papers.3  It is smoked through water pipes known as bongs, used to brew tea, consumed through foods called edibles, and inhaled through vaporizers.3

In some instances, the resin is extracted and turned into a number of products, including: 3

  • Budder – a solvent-made cannabis extract that has the consistency of butter. A small amount (a “dab”) is heated and the vapors are inhaled.
  • Wax – a solvent-made cannabis extract that is harder than budder and resembles candle wax.
  • Shatter – a solvent-made cannabis extract (usually made with butane or other solvent) that appears glass-like and shatters when broken apart.

What Is the Difference Between CBD vs. THC?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid that is not impairing, meaning that it does not cause a “high.”4 CBD is derived from hemp, which is the part of the cannabis plant that contains less than 0.3% of THC.4  Despite Congress passing a law that removed hemp from the federal Controlled Substances Act in 2018, the legality of CBD still differs across states.4 In states where CBD is legalized, it is marketed in foods, lotions, oils, cosmetics, and capsules.

Not all marketed uses of CBD are FDA-approved as scientists are still researching its effects on the body and using CBD may not be risk-free.4  Some potential side effects may include:

  • Irritability.
  • Sleepiness.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Liver damage.
  • Interference with other drugs.
Marijuana Effects, Withdrawal, and Signs of Addiction

What Are the Effects of Marijuana Use?

Marijuana affects people differently and not everyone will experience the euphoric high typically associated with marijuana.3 Generally, short-term effects of marijuana use include:1

  • Changes in mood and sense of time.
  • Paranoia.
  • Increased appetite (e.g., munchies).
  • Impaired physical movement.
  • Sensitivity to light, color, and sound.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Tachycardia.

Long-term effects of marijuana use include:

  • Impaired thinking.
  • Impaired memory.
  • Decreased learning function.
  • Declined general knowledge and verbal ability.
  • Breathing problems.
  • Fatigue.

Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

Stopping after prolonged and regular use or marijuana misuse can result in withdrawal symptoms. These can include:5

  • Irritability, anger, or aggression.
  • Nervousness or anxiety.
  • Sleep difficulty (e.g., insomnia, disturbing dreams).
  • Decreased appetite or weight loss.
  • Restlessness.
  • Depressed mood.
  • Physical discomfort (e.g., abdominal pain, shakiness/tremors, sweating, fever, chills, headache).

Symptoms typically have their onset within the first 24-72 hours after cessation, peaking within the first week, and lasting approximately 1-2 weeks, while sleep difficulties can persist for 30 days or more.5 Withdrawal symptoms are more common in adults, likely due to more prolonged use, but symptoms have been documented in adolescents as well.5

Is Marijuana Dangerous?

There are some dangers associated with the use of marijuana. The marijuana that can be found today is three times more concentrated with THC than cannabis from 25 years ago, which can lead to increased risks.6 Some of the risks are:7

  • Cannabis addiction.
  • Chronic and acute health concerns.
  • Emergency visits due to anxiety, tachycardia, and lethargy.
  • Precipitated and exacerbated physical and mental health disorders.
  • Motor vehicle accidents.
  • Cannabis-induced psychiatric disorders.

Adverse mental health experiences like psychotic symptoms and suicidal ideation account for 25-30% of marijuana-related emergency department visits.8

When cannabis use begins at a young age, it can cause a permanent loss of IQ that cannot be recovered even once weed use has ceased.9

When used during pregnancy, cannabis use has been linked to stillbirth, poor fetal growth, premature birth, and problems with fetal brain development, all of which can impact the future development of the child.9

Can You Overdose on Marijuana (Weed)?

Overdosing on marijuana is rare, but it is possible to consume too much. In the case of overconsumption of a high-potency strain, medical attention may be required. Long-term and regular use can lead some people to develop a condition called cannabis hyperemesis syndrome (CHS). CHS causes intense nausea and vomiting and can lead to dehydration, requiring hospitalization for some.

Is Marijuana (Weed) Addictive?

Yes. Marijuana can be addictive. Some people develop a dependency on marijuana and qualify for a diagnosis of cannabis use disorder, which may require marijuana rehab. This disorder is defined as “a problematic pattern of cannabis use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress” within a 12-month period.5

Of people who use marijuana, approximately 1 out of 10 will become addicted, and the odds of addiction increase if marijuana use begins before the age of 18.9

Signs of Cannabis Use Disorder

There are 11 criteria that healthcare professionals use when diagnosing a cannabis use disorder. Signs of marijuana addiction include:

Signs of marijuana addiction include:

  • Cannabis being used in large amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  • Having a persistent desire to cut down or control cannabis use but being unable to do so.
  • Spending a great deal of time getting, using, or recovering from cannabis.
  • Cravings, or a strong desire or urge to use cannabis.
  • The failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home due to cannabis use.
  • Continued cannabis use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by its effects.
  • Giving up Important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of cannabis use.
  • Recurrent cannabis use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
  • Continued cannabis use despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by such use.
  • Tolerance, which is defined by either a need for markedly increased amounts of cannabis to achieve the desired result or a markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount.
  • Withdrawal, as manifested by either the characteristic syndrome for cannabis withdrawal or by using cannabis to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Getting Help for Marijuana Addiction

Treatment for Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana misuse and weed addiction can cause distress and may require the guidance of professionals through formal treatment. People with marijuana use disorder often struggle with other mental health disorders (comorbidity) and may struggle with the use of other substances (polysubstance misuse).10 There are several effective treatments for marijuana use disorder, including:10

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of therapy approach that teaches how to improve thought patterns and behaviors that result in continued use.
  • Contingency management, an approach that uses rewards to motivate and sustain change.
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET), a technique that assists people with learning and leveraging their own strengths and internal motivation to seek desired change.

If you or someone you know are struggling with weed addiction and would like support, there is marijuana addiction help available. Get started on your journey toward treating marijuana addiction by checking out types of addiction treatment, including rehab for marijuana at our inpatient rehab in Las Vegas. Assistance is available to help with things like paying for rehab and using insurance to pay for rehab. Don’t wait to get weed addiction help. Start treatment today.

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