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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Addiction?

Despite marijuana becoming legalized in several states, marijuana addiction is a real problem. This guide discusses the signs of marijuana addiction.

Understanding Marijuana Use Disorder

Even though marijuana has been legalized in several states for recreational use, marijuana addiction is a real problem and can have devastating consequences.

Marijuana addiction is very similar to other substance use disorders. It can affect mental health, functioning, and well-being. People who can’t cut down or stop marijuana abuse on their own may need the help of a marijuana addiction treatment program — and find a more rewarding life in recovery.

Understanding Marijuana

Marijuana is a drug grown from the cannabis plant. It’s the second most abused drug in the United States, after alcohol. Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that can significantly change mood, perception, and cognition. 

The active ingredient in marijuana, a chemical known as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is responsible for its psychoactive effects.

How Do People Use Marijuana?

Marijuana is used in several forms. Most often, people smoke the flower of the cannabis plant itself. But marijuana can also be baked into food and eaten, vaporized with specialized equipment, or distilled into powerful smoked or ingested concentrates. Sometimes, marijuana is combined with tobacco before being smoked. 

Is Marijuana Safe to Use?

While marijuana isn’t as physically harmful as drugs such as alcohol, cocaine, or methamphetamines, it can still cause significant damage to the lungs and develop into an addiction. Marijuana addiction has several consequences, including losing functioning, narrowing attention, and reliance on the drug itself.

marijuana addiction

What Is Marijuana Addiction?

Marijuana addiction closely parallels other substance use disorders. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are 11 key criteria for cannabis use disorder:

  • Cannabis is used in larger amounts than intended or for longer than intended
  • There is a desire or unsuccessful attempts to cut down or stop cannabis use
  • A lot of time is spent using cannabis, recovering from its effects, or seeking it out
  • Someone feels a craving for marijuana
  • Cannabis use has caused someone to be unable to keep obligations at school, work, or home
  • Someone continues cannabis use despite consequences
  • Important activities are given up because of cannabis use
  • Someone uses cannabis when it’s dangerous to do so, such as while driving
  • Cannabis use continues despite the worsening of physical or mental health symptoms
  • Tolerance is developed, meaning it takes more cannabis to achieve the desired effect
  • The person experiences withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop using cannabis

Anyone with at least two signs of marijuana addiction may have a cannabis use disorder. Someone with six or more symptoms has a severe cannabis use disorder and should consider seeking marijuana addiction treatment. 1 

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Marijuana Addiction Statistics

Marijuana use disorder affects 5.2% of adults in the United States, making it the most abused illicit substance. People ages 18-25 are at the highest risk, with 13.5% meeting the criteria for marijuana use disorder.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 1 in 10 people who use marijuana will develop a cannabis addiction.  2 This rate of cannabis addiction increases to 1 in 6 if someone begins using marijuana before 18. 3

Marijuana Addiction Causes and Risk Factors

While there is no single cause for addiction to marijuana, several factors may increase a person's susceptibility to addiction. These factors include the following:

  • A family history of addiction
  • Using marijuana at a young age
  • Co-occurring mental illness
  • Peer pressure
  • Ease of access to marijuana

These factors make it more likely that a person will develop a marijuana addiction. Cannabis use disorder can be overcome, but some people will need professional treatment to achieve abstinence.

Marijuana Addiction Symptoms and Sign

If you suspect a loved one is dependent on cannabis, look for the following marijuana addiction signs:

  • Constant drowsiness
  • Lack of interest in other activities
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Behavioral changes
  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety

These signs could indicate that a person has been engaging in marijuana abuse and may have developed a marijuana addiction.

Side Effects and Health Risks of Marijuana Addiction

The side effects of marijuana can be intensely troubling to the person experiencing them. Physical and mental health effects can substantially interfere with a person’s life. Some of the side effects include:

  • Paranoia
  • Persistent anxiety
  • Respiratory problems
  • Sudden weight changes
  • Drowsiness throughout the day
  • Nausea
  • Delusions

Most of these side effects will subside with abstinence, though many people need to attend marijuana addiction rehab to recover from cannabis use disorder.

Marijuana Withdrawal

While there is confusion in the public’s view of whether marijuana can cause withdrawal symptoms, current research indicates that marijuana withdrawal is a real problem. People experiencing marijuana withdrawal may experience such effects as:

  • Craving for marijuana
  • Stomach pains
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Intense dreams
  • Restlessness
  • Decreased appetite

While marijuana withdrawal isn’t necessarily dangerous, it can lead people with marijuana addiction to return to marijuana use rather than continue the path to marijuana addiction recovery.  4

Treatment for Marijuana Addiction and Abuse

marijuana addiction

Marijuana addiction is a highly treatable disorder, and decades of scientific research have made marijuana addiction treatment centers more effective than before. These programs use various techniques and practices proven to help people overcome marijuana abuse and achieve recovery.

Marijuana Addiction Treatment Options

The best marijuana addiction treatment consists of evidence-based therapies, peer support, and long-term accountability. Evidence-based therapies for marijuana abuse include the following:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Contingency management
  • Motivational enhancement therapy
  • 12-step facilitation
  • Self-help support groups

Together, these tools can help people struggling with the signs of marijuana addiction achieve abstinence, learn healthy coping mechanisms, and flourish in their life in recovery.

Contact an Addiction Professional at Ripple Ranch Recovery

If you or a loved one is struggling with a marijuana addiction, reach out to the professionals at Ripple Ranch Recovery to learn more about our comprehensive marijuana addiction treatment program.

Ripple Ranch Recovery offers the best in evidence-based therapies, prolonged support for all our clients, and a multidisciplinary team of trained addiction professionals. You can recover from marijuana addiction — take the first steps to get marijuana addiction help by calling Ripple Ranch Recovery.