Marijuana (Weed) Misuse: Signs, Effects, & Treatment
Marijuana legalization for medical or recreational use in the majority of U.S. states and territories has caused marijuana use to increase.1 Despite its state legalization, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning that at a federal level there are no recognized medical uses and a high potential for misuse.2
This page will cover what marijuana is, how it affects a person, and information about marijuana addiction.
What Is Marijuana (Weed)?
Marijuana is a substance comprised of various botanical components of the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plants.3 Though marijuana plant products may contain hundreds of chemical compounds, the key active components of the drug are known as cannabinoids.4 The primary psychoactive component of marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol, or more simply, THC.4, 5
After tobacco and alcohol, marijuana is the most commonly used addictive drug in the United States.3 In 2019, 48.2 million people—roughly 20% of the US population—used it at least one time.6 It has several informal names that encompass its various forms, including, but not limited to:7
- Mary Jane.
Forms of Cannabis
There are several ways to use marijuana and other cannabis related products. Some methods of use can expose you to extremely potent levels of THC, and can impact how rapidly a high is achieved. Different forms of marijuana can be consumed by:
- Smoking. This is accomplished by using the crushed and dried leaves, stems, or flowers of the plant. The dried plant parts can then be hand-rolled into cigarettes (joints), used to fill empty cigar wrappers (blunts), or in pipes or water pipes (bongs).
- Vaping. Vaping devices can be used to inhale the isolated, active THC component of marijuana, liquid marijuana extracts, or other cannabis products as a vapor instead of smoke.3
- Eating. Consuming food (brownies, cookies, or other baked goods) or candy with marijuana mixed into it (sometimes known as “edibles”).3
- Drinking. Drinking tea brewed from marijuana plant parts is one form of consuming this substance.3
- Dabbing. Dabbing is a practice of smoking THC-rich resins extracted from the marijuana plant. The extracts may come as a thick liquid (hash oil), a soft solid (wax), or a hard, amber-colored substance (shatter).3
Signs of Marijuana Use
Marijuana can have noticeable effects on the people using it. If you are concerned that a loved one is using or misusing marijuana, you may notice things such as frequent signs of acute intoxication, signs of long-term use, or various drug paraphernalia among their possessions.
Potentially noticeable signs of acute marijuana intoxication:8
- Bloodshot eyes
- Dry mouth
- Increased appetite
Noticeable changes after prolonged use or cannabis withdrawal:8
- Depressed mood
- Loss of motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Trouble with sleep
Possible marijuana paraphernalia:
- Dried marijuana plant
- Paper or cigar paper (for making joints or blunts to smoke)
- Water pipe (bong)
- Marijuana grinder (to break up the dried plant parts and make them suitable for smoking)
- Marijuana dab rig ( made for smoking the plant extracts)
Alongside the euphoria and relaxation that are sought by many people who use marijuana, weed has many additional effects. The marijuana effects a person experiences may depend upon:
- Frequency of use.
- How long they have been using.
- How it is consumed.3
- Dose of THC in their products.3
Short-Term Effects of Marijuana
In the short-term, marijuana use is associated with several potential physical, mental, and behavioral effects. These marijuana effects can include:3
- Changes in sense of time.
- Mood alterations.
- Impaired body movement.
- Impaired cognition.
- Diminished memory.
- Increased heart rate.4
- Panic / anxiety.4
- Dry mouth.4
Long-Term Effects of Marijuana
There can be long-term effects of marijuana misuse and addiction. For example, people with certain pre-existing health conditions may be at increased risk of certain harmful effects, including worsening of mental health issues.4
Long-term risks of marijuana use may include:3,4
- Increased likelihood of psychotic episodes.
- Recurrent episodes of nausea and vomiting.
- Periodontal disease.
- Increased lung complications in emphysema and COPD.
- Impaired brain development and associated issues with cognition, memory, and learning (especially when use begins relatively early in life).
- Increased likelihood of preterm birth (with maternal use).
- Physiological dependence, withdrawal, and addiction development (i.e., cannabis use disorder).
Does Marijuana Cause Withdrawal?
In people with significant physiological dependence, withdrawal symptoms can arise after abrupt cessation of chronic marijuana use.8 Within a week of quitting, a person may experience cannabis withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, insomnia, depression, anxiety, irritability, and decrease in appetite.8
Effects of Weed on the Mind & Body
Both long-term and short-term marijuana use have been linked with certain mental health issues.3
There is evidence that connects marijuana use to temporary symptoms of psychosis (such as hallucinations, paranoia, delirium), and worsening of existing conditions. Such risks may be most pronounced with regular use of highly potent marijuana/THC.3 Also, studies have shown links between new cases of long-term psychotic conditions (such as schizophrenia) and marijuana use in adolescents.4 Other studies with varying levels of support have found possible links between marijuana use and depression, anxiety, and suicidality in teens.3
While most studies show links between mental illness and teen or adolescent use, adult users are not exempt. With long-term use, people who use marijuana may experience an increase in anxiety or depressive symptoms.8 Additionally, depression is a common experience when a person who used marijuana chronically abruptly stops.8
Marijuana use can have adverse effects on cardiovascular and pulmonary health. For example, the side effect of increasing your heart rate can put a person at greater risk for a heart attack or other complications depending on their other conditions.3 The irritation from marijuana smoke in the lungs can increase a person’s daily cough and phlegm, increase the risk of lung infections, and cause more frequent lung illnesses (such as the common cold).3 Many marijuana effects on the lungs are similar to the effects experienced by those who smoke cigarettes (versus marijuana) regularly.
Is Weed Addictive?
With marijuana legalization occurring across the country, many people wonder, “is marijuana addictive“? Yes, marijuana is highly addictive, with some estimates indicating as many as 30% of people who use it have marijuana use disorder.9 With their developing brains, people under age 18 are four to seven times more likely to become addicted to marijuana than adults.3
Exactly how THC acts to cause addiction in the brain isn’t entirely understood. Though THC may be responsible for producing reinforcing effects within the brain’s reward system, it may do so somewhat differently than other addictive substances such as opioids and stimulants.4,8 With increasing numbers of high-dose THC marijuana products (such as potent cannabis extracts and high-dose vapor), these reinforcing effects and associated risk of addiction may be increased.3
Treatment for Marijuana Misuse
There are several benefits of quitting marijuana. If you or a loved one are experiencing marijuana misuse or marijuana use disorder and looking for an inpatient rehab in New Jersey, Sunrise House may have what you need. Our Northeast treatment center offers a variety of levels of addiction treatment to meet your needs. Does insurance cover rehab? Call today and find out how Sunrise House can help you discover the answer. Friendly admissions navigators can also guide you through rehab admissions, rehab payment options, and how to get started. Make a call or visit online today, it may be the step that saves your life.
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