Causes, Symptoms & Effects of Marijuana Abuse

Marijuana, often called “Aunt Mary,” “chronic,” “dope,” and “grass”, is the most commonly abused drug in the United States and is a grey-green mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves of the hemp plant. The main active ingredient responsible for the feelings of blissed-out pleasure is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol). There are a wide variety of ways a person can abuse marijuana – they can roll the loose marijuana in rolling papers into joints, smoke pot through a bong, or consume pot as edibles – food and drinks laced with marijuana. Marijuana is most commonly combined with other drugs to increase the high or to reduce the side effects from the drug.

Statistics

Marijuana remains the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Over 94 million people in the United States have disclosed that they’ve used marijuana at least once. Daily marijuana usage has increased among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. In 2010, it was estimated that 21.4% of high school seniors admitted to smoking pot in the previous 30 days. Girls and boys reported similar usage rates, with 10.1% of boys and 9.7% percent of girls between the ages of 12 and 17 reporting pot use. Approximately 17% of individuals who smoked pot before the age of 12 become addicted and are among daily users (25%-50% of daily users began smoking at a young age).

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), an enormous percentage of those arrested for crimes test positive for marijuana. Followed only by alcohol, marijuana is the second most frequently found substance in the bodies of the drivers involved in fatal car accidents.

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Causes and Risk Factors for Marijuana Abuse

It’s been long-understood by addiction specialists that addiction to drugs or alcohol is not caused by a single factor. Rather it is a complex interplay between genetic, environmental, and physical factors working together. The causes for marijuana addiction may include the following:

Genetic: Researchers into the field of addiction have found that there is a well-established relationship that shows that people who have a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, who have a past or present addiction are at a higher risk for developing an addiction themselves. It should be noted that not everyone who struggles with addiction will have a familial component.

Physical: Many people who abuse drugs are self-medicating, or using drugs or alcohol as a means to cope with the overwhelming symptoms of undiagnosed and untreated mental health problems. Chronic usage of drugs or alcohol can lead to changes in the structure and function of the brain, which can lead to addiction.

Environmental: People who grow up in a home in which drugs are used as a way of coping with stress learn that drugs and alcohol are the best way to deal with the challenges of life. Many of these people start off using marijuana and gradually begin to abuse harsher drugs.

Risk Factors:

  • Peer pressure
  • Untreated mental illnesses
  • Addiction potential of drug
  • High levels of stress
  • Improperly developed coping skills
  • Being male

Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse:

Symptoms and signs of marijuana will vary from person to person, based upon the length of abuse, amount abused, presence of other drugs of abuse, and frequency of use. Some of the most common symptoms and signs of marijuana abuse include:

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Euphoria
  • Relaxation
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Drug-seeking behaviors
  • Disorganization
  • Appearing spaced-out
  • Increasingly disheveled appearance
  • Loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities
  • Changing friend groups
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Decreased inhibitions
  • Legal problems
  • Decreased occupational or scholastic achievements

Physical Symptoms:

  • Red, bloodshot eyes
  • Appearing intoxicated
  • Glassy eyes
  • Physical dependence
  • Tachycardia
  • Impaired coordination
  • Sleepiness
  • Extreme hunger – “the munchies”
  • Heart attack

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Memory loss
  • Challenges in problem solving
  • Disrupted learning abilities
  • Distorted time perception
  • Distorted sensory perception

Psychosocial Symptoms:

  • Worsening of emotional wellbeing
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Paranoia
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Marijuana Abuse

While most people feel that marijuana abuse is harmless, there are a number of negative consequences to getting hooked on pot. The long-term consequences of marijuana abuse will vary from person to person based upon length of abuse, frequency of use, personality types, and presence of other substance abuse. Common effects of marijuana abuse include:

  • Job loss
  • Increased risks for certain types of cancer
  • Dropping out of school
  • Worsening memory loss
  • Car accidents
  • Brain damage
  • Legal problems
  • Increased risk for lung infections
  • Addiction to more heavy drugs
  • Broken and strained interpersonal relationships

Marijuana Overdose and Withdrawal Symptoms

Overdosing from marijuana is extremely unlikely, however, there are a number of serious symptoms if used in large quantities:

  • Panic attacks
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Psychosis – loss of touch with reality
  • Paranoia
  • Injury to self or others due to pot’s effects on judgment, perception, and coordination

The effects of withdrawal from marijuana addiction are very similar to the symptoms that an individual will experience when they quit smoking. At our treatment center, medication may be used at the beginning of your stay to help alleviate those withdrawal symptoms and ease your anxiety. Withdrawal effects from weed may include the following:

  • Craving
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

Co-Occurring Disorders

There are a number of disorders that occur with marijuana abuse and addiction. These co-occurring disorders include:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Additional substance abuse
  • Alcoholism
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