Marijuana Addiction

Contrary to popular belief, marijuana is an addictive substance. If you have been using this and need marijuana treatment programs, there are resources and options to assist you on your path to recovery. Marijuana addiction is just as harmful as an addiction to any other illegal substance. Your mind and body can become dependent, which is a risk to your personal life and mental well being.

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana, or cannabis, is the green, brown, or gray mixture from the dried flowers of the cannabis sativa plant. This mixture goes by many common street names like weed, herb, pot, and grass. Marijuana has chemicals that act on your brain and can alter your mood or consciousness. People use marijuana in multiple ways:

  • Smoked: Some people smoke marijuana in the form of a joint or hand-rolled cigarette, pipes, water pipes or bongs, and in blunts, that is marijuana rolled in a cigar wrap.  There is also a method called “dabbing” when users smoke the oils from the plant.
  • Consumed: Marijuana is used to brew tea, specifically when it is sold or consumed for medicinal purposes, mixed or cooked into foods called “edibles” such as brownies, cookies, or candy.
  • Vaporized: Vaporizing marijuana through electronic vaporizers is another form of consumption.

Marijuana is legal in some states, but it’s still illegal in others. Some state laws allow marijuana use for only medical purposes, while other states have legalized recreational use. The more potent form of marijuana includes sinsemilla, from tended female plants and concentrated resins with high doses of the active ingredients. These higher doses include honeylike hash oil, waxy budder, and hard amberlike shatter. The resins are popular with individuals who use this substance for recreational and medicinal purposes.

What attracts users to marijuana is the mind-altering effect due to its main psychoactive chemical: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This chemical is responsible for most of the intoxicating effects that people seek and what feeds the addiction. THC is found in resin that mainly comes from the leaves and buds of the female cannabis plant. This plant contains more than 500 other chemicals that include more than 100 compounds, called cannabinoids related to THC.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Marijuana addiction can also lead to the abuse of other substances. Since the 1960s, the THC content has increased as much as 300 percent, affecting marijuana abuse and tolerance.  This higher dose of THC in the marijuana used today can contribute to increased toxication-related risks and a greater risk of dependence.

There is research that suggests an estimated 9% of marijuana users develop an addiction. The increased rate of addiction is higher among people who start using the substance at a young age, and an estimated 17 percent become addicted. Out of people who use marijuana daily, an estimated 25 to 50% develop an addiction.

Marijuana addiction can be clinically diagnosed and can hurt a person’s life. The effects that marijuana addiction can have on your personal life pose risks such as:

  • Legal complications
  • Poor academic performance
  • Problems in the workplace
  • Impaired ability to learn and remember things

How Marijuana Affects the Brain and Body

Psychological dependence can develop in the same way that other addictions develop. An addiction to marijuana starts when the individual begins using, and cannabinoid receptors in the brain are activated by a neurotransmitter called anandamide. THC imitates and blocks the actions of natural transmitters like anandamide to the point where the person’s body no longer produces a sufficient amount on its own.

The brain then starts to be reprogrammed and become dependent on marijuana to feel normal.  If the user stops taking more THC, they will often go through withdrawal symptoms due to the lack of the natural transmitter. The urge to quit marijuana use and the inability to do so is a strong indicator of an addiction.

Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction

With addiction comes symptoms of withdrawal when users attempt to abstain from the drug.  Addiction is often diagnosed during adolescence or young adulthood. Because of current trends toward a wider societal acceptance of marijuana use and its availability in medicinal and recreational forms, older adults’ addiction rates may increase. There are behavioral and physical signs that can warn an individual about marijuana addiction:

Behavioral signs can include:

  • Distorted perceptions
  • Impaired coordination
  • Issues with thinking and problem solving
  • Continuous problems with learning and memory

Other signs of marijuana addiction and abuse can be:

  • Red, blurry, bloodshot eyes
  • Mucus-filled cough
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Hunger
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety
  • Slow reaction time
  • Loss of control

Marijuana Withdrawal

The withdrawal symptoms brought on by long-term marijuana use usually develop within one week after discontinued use.  Some of the most common marijuana withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Irritability, anger, or aggression
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shakiness or tremors
  • Sweating, fever, and chills
  • Headache

The withdrawal symptoms from marijuana detox can make it difficult to quit. According to Marijuana Anonymous (MA), the most common withdrawal symptom is insomnia. It can vary from person to person, but the period of sleepless nights can last anywhere from two days to a few months depending on the length of time and severity of the marijuana use.

MA reports that depression is the next most commonly experienced withdrawal symptom, followed by nightmares and vivid dreams. Some people also experience different levels of anger when detoxing from marijuana. Some individuals express a low level of anger and rage, irritability, or sudden outbursts of anger. This anger is directed at themselves, loved ones, or the world in general.

Experiencing these withdrawal symptoms make it difficult to stop using. Many marijuana withdrawal symptoms are the same as that of other conditions and issues, so a professional assessment is needed to determine if withdrawal is due to marijuana use.

Marijuana Treatment Programs

When treating marijuana addiction, the resources and options are similar to treating addictions to alcohol and other substances. Studies have shown that scientifically valid approaches like Twelve Step facilitation, cognitive behavioral therapy, and motivational enhancement therapy can be effective methods in treating addiction, depending on the person’s situation.


There are no medical treatments available to support someone detoxing from marijuana, but the available detox programs can help treat individual symptoms and provide overall support. Behavioral interventions and therapy have shown success in helping patients to get and remain sober.

Residential vs. Outpatient Treatment

Rehabilitation programs are offered as inpatient and outpatient treatment options depending on the severity of the addiction. Outpatient rehabilitation programs allow the patient to live at home and report to the designated facility for treatment. These programs can vary in terms of time commitment, ranging from a few hours a week to several hours a day. A person undergoing outpatient treatment for addiction will take part in group and individual settings. Some programs may offer medical care and prescribed medications. People with a less severe addiction, lower risk of experiencing withdrawal symptoms, a sound support system, and reliable transportation will benefit from this form of treatment.

The main difference between outpatient and inpatient programs is that inpatient programs provide 24-hour care, housing, supervision, and medical care.  These types of treatment programs tend to be more expensive.  If a person has a severe addiction and a higher risk of experiencing severe addiction and withdrawal symptoms, this may be a better option.  Access to medical care and 24-hour supervision will provide a safe place for them as they go through the withdrawal process.

Find Help for Substance Use Disorder

If you are struggling with addiction, there are treatment options available to you. Recovering from any condition like marijuana addiction starts when you pick up the phone and ask for help. Harmony Ridge Recovery Center has a unique approach to addiction treatment. We use evidence-based addiction treatment and a comprehensive-holistic system that includes individual and group therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and 24-hour medical supervision and care. Our recovery center has an experienced team of licensed medical professionals, administrative staff, and management ready to serve you. Contact us today.


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