Several US states have legalized marijuana for recreational and medicinal use. At the same time, marijuana users are accessing a product that has become more potent. Many experts state that most people who use marijuana can enjoy it without experiencing “significant negative consequences” and compare its use to enjoying an occasional alcoholic drink. 

Even though marijuana is considered to be “natural” and “therapeutic,” this doesn’t mean it is not potentially addictive. As mental health counselor Aaron Norton observed, “Because there are so many mixed messages in our society about cannabis, I think it’s very easy for people to minimize and rationalize problematic use of cannabis.” Missouri marijuana rehabs offer healing to those with marijuana addiction.  

What is Marijuana? 

Marijuana is known by several names, such as weed, pot, Mary Jane, and ganja. It is the dried flowers, buds, and leaves of the Cannabis sativa plant and has a greenish-gray appearance. Cannabis can be smoked in a hand-rolled cigarette or used with a water pipe. Some users place cannabis in a vaporizer and inhale it. Weed can also be used to make tea or mixed into sweet foods like cookies, brownies, or candies.  

Main Mind-altering Chemical in Pot 

The main mind-altering chemical found in pot is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This chemical is found in the buds and leaves of the female plant. Pot also contains over 500 other chemicals; these include more than 100 cannabinoids (compounds chemically related to THC).  

Stronger Forms of Pot 

  • Specially grown and tended female plants can produce a stronger form of weed (sinsemilla).  
  • Concentrated resins on the market contain high doses of weed’s active ingredients. These resins include hash oil, budder, shatter. Hash oil has a honey-like consistency. Budder is waxy in appearance and shatter is solid.  

Marijuana Use Statistics 

How common is marijuana use in the United States? Consider the following numbers provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse: 

  • Approximately 18.7% of the population aged 12 and older (52.5 million people) said they had used cannabis within the past year (2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health).  
  • Among young students, 8.3% of eighth-graders had used cannabis. Among tenth graders, the percentage jumped to 19.5%. Just over 30% of Grade 12 students had used cannabis or hashish in the past year (2022 Monitoring the Future Survey).  
  • About 5.8% of people aged 12 and older (16.3 million people) stated they had a cannabis use disorder (2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health).  

Health Risks of Marijuana Use 

Lungs and Respiratory System. Smoking marijuana irritates the user’s lungs and throat in much the same way as tobacco use does. Cannabis smoke contains similar levels of tar and other chemicals as tobacco smoke.  

Marijuana smoke has been associated with chronic bronchitis and cannabis smokers are more likely to visit a doctor for respiratory issues than non-smokers. Weed smokers may also be more likely to develop pneumonia and other lung infections.  

Mental Health Issues. The relationship between marijuana and mental illness is complicated. Multiple studies have shown a link between marijuana use and psychosis in people with genetic factors for psychotic disorders. People living with schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders may experience worse symptoms if they use cannabis.  

At the same time, people living with a mental illness are more likely to use marijuana – possibly to self-medicate to control their symptoms. Multiple factors (the amount consumed, the potency of the product, frequency of use and the person’s age the first time they used marijuana) have an impact on the relationship between cannabis use and mental health.  

At high doses, marijuana users may experience psychotic episodes. These temporary psychotic episodes may point to a risk for developing a psychotic mental illness later.  

Child Development Issues During/After Pregnancy. Marijuana use during pregnancy is linked to low birth weight as well as brain and behavioral problems as the child develops.  

When pregnant women use weed, the drug may affect the developing fetus’ brain. Children who have been exposed to marijuana before birth have an increased risk for the following: 

  • Attention issues 
  • Memory issues 
  • Problem-solving difficulties 

Some research studies indicate that THC can pass to a baby through its mother’s breast milk and that it can have a negative impact on the child’s developing brain. Other studies suggest that marijuana use may lead to preterm births.  

Other Health Risks. Inhaling marijuana smoke causes these effects on users: 

  • Blood vessels in the eyes expand (may result in a bloodshot appearance) 
  • Breathing passages relax, become enlarged as a result 
  • Heart rate increases (may increase by up to 50 beats per minute) 

Some evidence indicates that the risk of experiencing a heart attack jumps to almost five times their usual risk during the first 60 minutes of smoking marijuana. Smoking cannabis can raise a person’s blood pressure and reduce the body’s ability to carry oxygen.  

Cannabis smokers often experience dizziness or head rushes (orthostatic hypotension) upon standing. Someone experiencing this symptom may be at higher risk for fainting or falling, which could lead to injuries.  

In rare instances, chronic cannabis use can lead to Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome. Symptoms of this condition include repeated bouts of severe nausea, vomiting, and dehydration to the point where the affected person needs to go to the Emergency Room. The condition can be resolved if the person stops using cannabis.  

How does Marijuana Addiction Develop? 

Marijuana addiction is real. Some people who use marijuana will develop marijuana use disorder. They are unable to stop using cannabis even though they are experiencing health issues or relationship problems.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): 

  • About 30% of marijuana users develop marijuana use disorder.  
  • A study found that the likelihood of a cannabis user becoming addicted is approximately 10 percent.  
  • Risk factors for marijuana use disorder increase for those who started smoking cannabis as children or adolescents. Frequent marijuana users are also at higher risk for developing an addiction.  

Signs of Marijuana Use Disorder 

The following are signs that someone has developed marijuana use disorder: 

  • Using more marijuana than originally intended 
  • Developing tolerance (needing more marijuana to achieve the same high) 
  • Trying but unable to stop using marijuana 
  • Spending a lot of time using marijuana 
  • Experiencing cravings for marijuana 
  • Continuing to use marijuana despite relationship problems 
  • Continuing to use marijuana despite physical or psychological issues 
  • Avoiding important family activities to use marijuana 
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop using marijuana 

Delta-9 THC levels in marijuana have almost doubled in the period from 2008-2017. In 2008, the average THC level in pot was nine percent. By 2017, the average THC level in cannabis was 17%.  

Cannabis products available for sale at dispensaries offer customers even higher THC levels. A study of non-medicinal marijuana products from dispensaries in three states found that the average THC concentration was 22%. Products with THC levels ranging from zero to 45% were being sold online.  

Risk Factors for Marijuana Addiction 

Risk factors for marijuana addiction mean that someone is more likely than other people to develop marijuana addiction. The more risk factors that a person has, the higher the risk. 

Age at First Use 

Researchers have found “substantial evidence” that starting to use cannabis at an early age (in childhood or adolescence) is a risk factor for developing marijuana addiction.  

Genetics 

Men are more likely to develop marijuana addiction than women. However, women are more likely to report experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they stop using weed than men.  

Environmental Factors 

The following environmental factors put someone at higher risk for marijuana addiction: 

  • Childhood sexual abuse 
  • Frequent of marijuana use 
  • Nicotine use 
  • Oppositional behaviors (refusing to do schoolwork, breaking rules, etc.) 
  • Parents are using drugs and/or alcohol 
  • Poor school performance 
  • Young age of first alcohol use (childhood or adolescence) 

Mental Health Concerns 

People who live with a mental illness are also more likely to develop a marijuana addiction. They may start using weed to hide or cope with their symptoms before diagnosis.  

People who have undergone psychiatric treatment are also more likely to become addicted to marijuana. They may be looking for ways to deal with side effects from psychiatric medications (lack of appetite, sleep disturbances, flat emotional state). 

Find Help for Marijuana Addiction 

Marijuana addiction can be treated. Often, clients with problem marijuana use also live with co-occuring mental health concerns. Cannabis abuse recovery treatment gives clients the time to focus on dealing with the challenge of breaking free from addiction and addressing their mental health issues. Clients gain insight into the underlying causes for their addiction and learn the skills required for long-term recovery when they choose a marijuana addiction treatment center in Missouri

Sources:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2023/07/31/marijuana-addiction-legal-recreational-sales/
 

https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-marijuana 

https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/health-effects/addiction.html 

https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/cannabis-marijuana 

https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/there-link-between-marijuana-use-psychiatric-disorders 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK425740/