Marijuana, also known as cannabis, weed, grass, and pot, is a recreational and medicinal drug derived from the Cannabis plant. The two main ingredients in Marijuana that are responsible for its desired effects are tetra-hydra-cannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
CBD is the part of the cannabis plant that is extracted for medical use due its ability to relieve pain and reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Users consume recreationally to achieve the pleasurable effects of THC, which include a sense of mild euphoria, relaxation, and sensory amplification.
Marijuana can be consumed by smoking, vaporizing, or through edibles.
Marijuana is usually smoked, either in hand-rolled cigarette form known as joints or in pipes or bongs. A blunt is an emptied cigar wrap filled partly or completely with marijuana.
It can also be vaporized to avoid smoke inhalation. Vaporizing is the heating of marijuana in an electrical device, through which the main psychoactive ingredient, THC, is extracted and inhaled in vapor form.
Marijuana can also be consumed in food, known as edibles. These could be brownies, cookies, cakes, and candy.
Another popular form of consuming marijuana is “dabbing,” where users inhale the byproduct of burned THC-rich resin.
Marijuana is one of the most commonly used illicit drugs worldwide.
The percentage of past year marijuana users aged 12 and over rose from 11% (25.8 million people) in 2002 to 17.5% (48.2 million people) in 20192
The same survey reported that in 2019 there were approximately 3.3 million marijuana users aged 12-17
In adults aged 18-25, there were approximately 12 million marijuana users
In adults aged 26 and over, the approximate number of marijuana users in 2019 reached 33 million
We have naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors in the brain that exist in a communication system known as the Endocannabinoid System. When we consume marijuana, the THC attaches to these cannabinoid receptors and influences our brain activity.4
These cannabinoid receptors are distributed throughout the entire brain. When THC binds to these receptors, users are subject to a wide range of effects, including5:
Slowed reactions and responses
Impaired focus and concentration
Reduced sensitivity to pain
Furthermore, research has found that marijuana use during the adolescent increases the likelihood of Marijuana Use Disorder later in life and negatively impacts cognition and academic performance.7
Marijuana Addiction, or Marijuana Use Disorder, is characterized by dependence on marijuana, an inability to stop using, and the onset of withdrawal symptoms when use is stopped.
In recent times, marijuana has been legalized for medicinal use in a number of states and for both medicinal and recreational use in a number of others. However, medical marijuana’s main ingredient is CBD, which is far less damaging to the brain than marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient THC.
Many believe that marijuana is not addictive, in part due to its legalization and decriminalization across the country. However, marijuana consumption can be addictive. Addiction is not always based on the substance itself; it can occur due to the results one gets from consumption. Some people are more prone to addiction than others and can get caught up in addiction to other “non-addictive” substances and processes, as is seen in those addicted to gambling, shopping, sex, and food.
The causes and risk factors for the development of Marijuana Use Disorder can be speculated but generally fall under the following categories:
Those with a history of substance abuse or addiction in the family are more likely to develop an addiction to marijuana than those without.
Consuming marijuana for a prolonged period of time increases the likelihood that a person will develop an addiction. As the brain and body become accustomed to the presence of marijuana, tolerance builds and more is needed to get the same effects. This results in a physical dependence to marijuana, from which an addiction is likely to occur.
Environmental factors also contribute to the risk of marijuana addiction. If a child or adolescent is exposed to marijuana use in the home, it becomes normalized. This means that a person may not see any issue with consuming marijuana, which increases the likelihood that they will use and develop a dependence and eventually an addiction. Adolescents in particular are subject to peer pressure, so if their friends or classmates are smoking, they will be more likely to follow.
As mentioned earlier, marijuana use does not always equate to addiction. However, if you suspect that your loved one is using marijuana and may be addicted, watch out for the following signs8:
Absence and/or neglect related to school or work
Dishonesty and secrecy about behavior
Continued use despite health consequences
Use of marijuana where it is prohibited
Possession of marijuana paraphernalia (grinders, papers, bongs, etc.)
Anxious tendencies and increased irritability when use is stopped
Frequently talking about marijuana
Financial and legal issues related to marijuana use
Withdrawal symptoms as a result of marijuana dependence and abuse are believed by some to be non-existent, but just like any substance abuse, there are side effects. Those who consume marijuana on a regular basis are likely to experience the following withdrawal symptoms following cessation of use, according to Harvard Health9:
While marijuana itself does not pose the same health risks as other substances of abuse such as alcohol, cocaine, and heroin, it is still a psychoactive substance and can exacerbate underlying psychological health conditions, including schizophrenia, anxiety, and psychosis.
At Heather R. Hayes & Associates, we specialize in guiding our clients safely along the recovery journey through intervention, case management, exploration of treatment options, and recovery coaching and companionship. We also offer sober transportation services to facilitate a smooth transition from home to an appropriate rehabilitation facility if needed.
Our primary focus is to help our clients and their families understand the need for intervention and professional help so that everyone is on the same page and shares the same goal – recovery from addiction and whole family healing.
1 “Key Substance Use And Mental Health Indicators In The United States: Results From The 2019 National Survey On Drug Use And Health | Publications And Digital Products”. Store.Samhsa.Gov, 2020, https://store.samhsa.gov/product/key-substance-use-and-mental-health-indicators-in-the-united-states-results-from-the-2019-national-survey-on-Drug-Use-and-Health/PEP20-07-01-001. Accessed 14 Oct 2020.
2 “Key Substance Use And Mental Health Indicators In The United States: Results From The 2019 National Survey On Drug Use And Health | Publications And Digital Products”. Store.Samhsa.Gov, 2020, https://store.samhsa.gov/product/key-substance-use-and-mental-health-indicators-in-the-united-states-results-from-the-2019-national-survey-on-Drug-Use-and-Health/PEP20-07-01-001. Accessed 14 Oct 2020.
3 Budney, Alan J et al. “Marijuana dependence and its treatment.” Addiction science & clinical practice vol. 4,1 (2007): 4-16. doi:10.1151/ascp07414
4 “The Science Of The Endocannabinoid System: How THC Affects The Brain And The Body”. Headsup.Scholastic.Com, 2011, http://headsup.scholastic.com/students/endocannabinoid. Accessed 14 Oct 2020.
5 “The Science Of The Endocannabinoid System: How THC Affects The Brain And The Body”. Headsup.Scholastic.Com, 2011, http://headsup.scholastic.com/students/endocannabinoid. Accessed 14 Oct 2020.
6 Jacobus, Joanna, and Susan F Tapert. “Effects of cannabis on the adolescent brain.” Current pharmaceutical design vol. 20,13 (2014): 2186-93. doi:10.2174/13816128113199990426
7 Jacobus, Joanna, and Susan F Tapert. “Effects of cannabis on the adolescent brain.” Current pharmaceutical design vol. 20,13 (2014): 2186-93. doi:10.2174/13816128113199990426
8 Budney, Alan J et al. “Marijuana dependence and its treatment.” Addiction science & clinical practice vol. 4,1 (2007): 4-16. doi:10.1151/ascp07414
9 Peter Grinspoon, MD. “If Cannabis Becomes A Problem: How To Manage Withdrawal – Harvard Health Blog”. Harvard Health Blog, 2020, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/if-cannabis-becomes-a-problem-how-to-manage-withdrawal-2020052619922. Accessed 14 Oct 2020.
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Ethical Intervention and Treatment: A Guide to Ethical Practice Contributions by Heather R. Hayes, M.Ed., LPC, CAI, CIP, Founder & CEO of Heather R. Hayes
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