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Marijuana (a.k.a. cannabis, weed or pot) is the most frequently used and abused illegal drug in the world. According to the United Nations, it is used by about 162 million people on a yearly basis and 22.5 million on a daily basis. It is casually used, and recently there has been a universal trend to legalize it for medicinal and/or recreational use. Despite this growing cultural acceptance of marijuana use, there can be no mistake that marijuana addiction is a real and serious condition.

Marijuana Use & Abuse

The cannabis plant contains the psychoactive compound Tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), which is responsible for the high that marijuana induces. Although marijuana is typically consumed by smoking, it may also be vaporized and prepared in a number of foods (such as tea, brownies and other “edibles”).

Short-Term Effects of Marijuana Use

Effects are felt within moments of smoking and within an hour of eating, and can last between 1-3 hours. They include:

Physical Effects

  • Red/bloodshot eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased heart rate
  • Decrease in blood pressure

Mental/Behavioral Effects

  • Mild to intense euphoria & relaxation
  • Increase in appetite
  • Impulsivity & lowered inhibitions
  • Decrease in short-term memory
  • Motor coordination impairments
  • Decreased concentration & attention span
  • Long-Term Effects of Marijuana Use

    Sustained use of marijuana is associated with a number of conditions, especially with regard to mental and behavioral health. While it is debated whether marijuana causes or merely correlates with these long-term effects, they nevertheless are severe and include:

    • Irreversible cognitive impairments, including memory, concentration and intelligence
    • Increased risk in developing anxiety, bipolar disorder, and/or depression
    • Psychosis (whether causing psychosis or activating latent symptoms)
    • Lung cancer or chronic bronchitis (from smoking marijuana)
    • Birth defects if used during pregnancy
    • Tolerance, dependence and addiction

    Marijuana Addiction

    Although commonly believed to be not addictive, marijuana actually accounts for the vast majority of admissions into treatment centers. It is estimated that about 9% of adults who use marijuana become dependent on it. Daily use drastically aggravates risk for addiction, with 10-20% of daily marijuana users identifying as addicts.

    Marijuana Withdrawal

    Identifying marijuana action and abuse can be difficult unless the addict in question is separated from the drug and undergoes withdrawal. The symptoms of withdrawal include:

    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Gastrointestinal problems
    • Irritability
    • Loss of appetite
    • Restlessness
    • Sleep disturbances/insomnia

    How to Recognize Marijuana Addiction

    In lieu of withdrawal, indications of abuse/addiction can be seen in yourself or your loved one. Here are the main signs to look for:

    • Habitually red (“bloodshot”) eyes
    • Decreased concentration and attention span
    • Fatigue & laziness
    • Lack of motivation
    • Sudden shifts in mood or behavior
    • Sporadic increases in appetite
    • The most important sign is any neglect of responsibilities and other aspects of life in order to use marijuana. To the degree that getting high becomes more of a priority in life, this suggests that it is becoming a problem.