Marijuana is the most widely-abused illicit drug in the United States. Marijuana is usually smoked; rolled up like a cigarette (called a joint), in a pipe, or from a water pipe (called a bong), which all effectively deliver smoke straight to the lungs. The drug can also be eaten or drunk as a tea to gain equal effects.
The active ingredient in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which gets into the bloodstream and is carried to the brain quickly. The effects are felt right away and can last up to four hours. The brain’s reward system is stimulated, the neurotransmitter, dopamine is released, and the user feels euphoric pleasure. The drug is also impairing thought, concentration, and perception of time while inducing the high.
The desire to escape from reality, to numb painful emotions, and to experience an altered perception, with less damaging effects that come with alcohol, cocaine, or heroin abuse, for example, make marijuana an attractive drug to many people. The problem is, frequent users are not aware of the drug’s true damage and potential dangers.
Marijuana was originally used as food and then as medicine before becoming popular for recreational use during the 1960's. Throughout the following decades, marijuana use continued, and is still widely used and abused today.
References to marijuana use, and its subculture, are found frequently in current pop culture through music and film, and celebrities often make headlines when arrested for possession of marijuana
Rates of Marijuana Use
According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, nearly 40% of the U.S. population over the age of 12 has tried marijuana at least once in their lives. With a population of 313.9 million, 125.5 million people have smoked this illegal drug.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that, each year, 8.9%, or 22.6 million Americans, aged 12 and over, use marijuana, and nearly half of all high school seniors have at least tried marijuana before graduation.
Since the drug is so frequently used by teenagers and young adults without an understanding for how marijuana stunts the emotional, physical, and mental development of adolescents, the problem needs to be addressed.
For more information, call Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731.
The Effects of Marijuana
While a marijuana smoker appears lethargic and lazy, the drug actually stimulates the respiratory and circulatory systems, making the lungs and heart work harder. Consequently, the drug can create depressant or stimulatory effects in its users.
Effects on the brain include:
- Memory problems
- Learning difficulties
- Lack of concentration
- Loss of coordination
- Increased paranoia
- Increased fear
- Emotional isolation
- Impaired judgment
The physical effects of marijuana are:
- Pain reduction
- Coughing (from lung irritation)
- Increased appetite
- Bloodshot eyes
- Faster heartbeat
- Intensified sensations
- Increased hunger
- Dry mouth
- Loss of bodily control and muscular coordination
- Loss of coordination
- Slowed reaction time
Psychological effects of marijuana are:
- A loss of self-identification
- Diagnosable psychosis
Chronic marijuana use makes the user very susceptible to health problems like heart attack, stroke, respiratory problems, and cancer of the lungs or throat. Further, since THC affects the same part of the brain that controls memory and focus, some people can become paranoid and anxious when high.
Studies show that 6% to 11% of all fatal accidents are attributed to the effects of marijuana. Other external marijuana side effects include legal problems, work and financial problems, and trouble sustaining healthy relationships.
Like any drug that affects the mind and body, marijuana can become addicting as the mind becomes dependent upon its presence. The brain adapts to the stimulation of its pleasure center and begins to rewire itself after repeated reinforcement in the form of marijuana use.
To find out more, call Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731.
The drug is used to treat the following medical conditions:
- Chronic pain
- Muscle tension or spasms
- Loss of appetite during cancer treatment or from HIV/AIDS
- Pain from cancer treatment
- Jaundice, beriberi, and ague
- Delayed childbirth
- Cough relief
- Opiate withdrawal
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Infection (as an antibiotic)
- Eye issues, like glaucoma
The average medical marijuana user is male (70%) in his 40s (70%), and does not have a true need for the drug. In the states where marijuana is legal, through a prescription, many people have figured out how to abuse the system and obtain the drug without proper doctor’s orders.
For further information on medical marijuana, call Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731.
Addressing the Dangers of Marijuana
Based on SAMHSA’s annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, data from 2002 to 2007 helps explain the trend of marijuana use among the youngest members of our population. The survey found that the use of marijuana decreased among adolescents between each survey year. For all U.S. citizens between the age of 12 and 17, marijuana use went from 8.2% in 2002 down to 6.8% in 2005, which then remained constant through 2007.
The decrease in those smoking marijuana is attributed to the increase in knowledge and awareness of the drug’s true impact. When higher risk and long-term effects were better understood by the adolescent age group, fewer decided to try, or to continue using, marijuana.
SAMHSA reports that, in 2002, 32.4% of those between the ages of 12 and 17 understood the risk of smoking marijuana once a month and chose not to use the drug. One year later, 34.9% of that same age bracket accurately perceived marijuana’s risks, and even fewer teenagers used the drug. When the potential dangers are understood, less kids smoke marijuana.
Adverse Life Consequences
With all of the mental, physical, and psychological effects outlined above, additional dangers of marijuana include the impact on one’s daily life. While marijuana is often not seen as a highly-dangerous drug, the truth is that the repeated use of any mind-altering substance will create adverse life consequences.
Many pot smokers did not fully understand marijuana dangers as they began to smoke the drug early in life, and more frequently. Consequently, many marijuana users find that the drug is interfering with school or work performance, in relationships with family and friends, in the ability to stay financially stable, and in their physical and mental health.
Over time, individuals who have become physically and emotionally dependent on marijuana, find themselves falling behind on basic fundamental life skills that peers have appropriately developed. Self-esteem problems arise, self-reinforcement abilities deteriorate, and confidence is diminished.
Why Doesn’t Use Stop After Adverse Life Consequences?
The use of mind-altering drugs is progressive in nature, meaning use will continue when not properly intervened on and treated.
Psychological and emotional dependence on marijuana are common, but physical dependence can also happen when pot use has become regular. The drug then has a hold on the user’s mind, body, and soul.
Physical dependence is marked by withdrawal symptoms that occur when the use of the drug is stopped. The body and brain have adapted to the pain-reducing effects of marijuana, for example, and when stopped, all emotional pain seems overwhelming and impossible to face. The ability to sleep is disrupted when physical dependence has developed, and anxiety may greatly increase when marijuana is not being used to self-medicate.
If you see the dangers of marijuana use impacting your life, or the life of someone you love, call Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731.
Dependence on Marijuana
While marijuana does not have the same physical dependence as other drugs do (alcohol, cocaine, heroin), the substance is still highly addictive. A user becomes more psychologically than physically dependent on the high, yet the repeated use of marijuana can create the same adverse life consequences as any other substance.
When continued marijuana use creates a need for higher dosages to achieve the drug’s effects (the euphoria, the high, and the escape), dependence has developed. A desire to use more often, and the need for more marijuana in a single session to achieve the same effects (called tolerance), are the major symptoms of dependence.
Tolerance is yet another one of the marijuana dangers because it leads to smoking more often, and in larger doses, which causes more mental, physical, and psychological damage.
Are you dependent on marijuana, or do you know someone who fits the criteria? Call Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731 to seek appropriate information and help!
Withdrawal from Marijuana
Darryl S. Inaba, director of the Genesis Recovery Center and co-author of the book Uppers, Downers, All Arounders explains his take on marijuana dependence and withdrawal by saying,
Sometimes people who’ve been smoking for five years decide to quit. They stop 1, 2, 3 days, even a week, and they (especially those who think marijuana is benign), say, ‘Wow, I feel great. Marijuana’s no problem. I have no withdrawal. It’s nothing at all.’ Then they start up again. They never experience withdrawal. We see that withdrawal symptoms to marijuana are delayed sometimes for several weeks to a month after a person stops.
A sure sign of dependence on a drug is the presence of withdrawal symptoms when use of that drug stops. With marijuana, withdrawal does not happen immediately after cessation, as it does with other drugs, like heroin and alcohol. Instead, the symptoms present themselves more slowly, but for a longer period of time.
Withdrawal from marijuana includes the following symptoms:
- Aches, pains, and chills
- Inability to concentrate
- Slight tremors
- Sleep disturbances
- Decreased appetite
- Stomach pain
- Cravings for more marijuana use
A 38-year-old recovering marijuana-dependent man shares his experience with withdrawal:
I would break into a sweat in the shower. I could not maintain my concentration for the first month or two. To really treasure my sobriety, it took me about three or four months before I really came out of the fog and really started getting a grasp of what was going on around me.
If you see the signs of withdrawal in yourself or someone else, call Recovery Now TV at 800-281-4731 to find out the next step!
Treatment for Marijuana Abuse & Addiction
When any form of dependence on marijuana has occurred (physical, mental, emotional, psychological), treatment is necessary to stop the progression of use to abuse or addiction.
Recreational use of marijuana has progressed to abuse when one or more life consequences, directly connected to the drug’s use, have occurred and the person has still not changed marijuana-using behaviors. For example, if a college kid is smoking marijuana very often and starts missing classes and noticing his grades drop, yet he does not cut back on the amount of marijuana he is smoking, then he is abusing the drug.
The indicators used to determine when abuse has progressed further to diagnosable addiction are the presence of dependence in one form or another, the presence of withdrawal symptoms when marijuana use fully stops, and the following five criteria:
- Loss of control over marijuana use
- Obsession with using marijuana
- Continued use despite adverse life consequences
- Denial of a problem with marijuana use
- A high likelihood of a relapse, or a return to marijuana, after a period of quitting.
When marijuana use can be defined as abuse or addiction, treatment is needed. The first step in the process toward recovery with any mind-altering substance is detoxification.
The body and brain must first rid itself of all traces of marijuana before formal treatment, true healing, and official recovery can begin.
With a trained staff of physicians, substance abuse counselors, and other medical personnel, marijuana detox is successful. Appropriate medications and therapeutic techniques make the detoxification process more pleasant.
Once the body has cleared out the remaining THC, formal treatment can begin.
The greatest problem with marijuana is the way it impacts its users’ lives. When the mind, body, and soul are all affected by a substance, that drug is dangerous. Treatment for marijuana dependence, abuse, or addiction helps those who are suffering from the consequences of marijuana.
To heal from the disease of addiction, people from all generational, economic, and racial backgrounds need formal treatment. Addiction is an ailment of the mind and body. In addition to dependence on the drug, the brain’s natural system of chemicals is disrupted. Continuous marijuana use has created new neurological pathways that affect the pleasure centers. When attempts to quit using marijuana are made, the chemical imbalances can cause major depression or anxiety. When not properly treated, users can return to marijuana abuse, or may also turn to other drugs, for relief. Treatment must address the many mind and body changes that occurred during active addiction in order to be effective.
After the completion of a medically-monitored detox program, entry into an inpatient, residential program is recommended. With twenty-four-hour care and accountability, recovering marijuana abusers and addicts live and participate in treatment in one location. An inability to leave the facility, paired with constant care, peer support, and individual counseling works well to begin a life without mind-altering substances.
After 30, 60, 90, or 180 days in inpatient treatment, most recovering addicts participate in an outpatient program. At this level of care, the same principals of recovery, and the same therapeutic approaches are utilized, but now the client has more autonomy. The commitment to stay clean and sober is needed because there is no longer around-the-clock accountability and monitorization. Clients typically do not live on-site as they did in residential treatment, so daily choices to stay clean are up to each individual.
A commitment to not using is all that is needed to begin detox, treatment, and recovery. Choosing a life without substances is not easy, but the staff at Recovery Now TV is here to help. Our team has been consistently matching marijuana users, abusers, and addicts with appropriate treatment successfully.
The daily life of someone dependent on marijuana can change. Call Recovery Now TV to find out how: 800-281-4731.