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Marijuana Addiction | Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Marijuana Addiction | Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Article Contents

In the United States, marijuana is among the most popular psychoactive drugs, second only to alcohol. Most people who use the drug either smoke it or mix it in foods to eat.

With the increasing legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, some people assume the drug is harmless. However, it can sometimes cause serious health problems, including addiction

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a mix of dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis plant. It contains natural compounds called cannabinoids that activate cannabinoid receptors in your brain and change how you feel.

The most well-known cannabinoids are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). 

CBD can relax you and reduce pain. It’s sometimes found in over-the-counter health products. 

THC can make you feel intensely happy or “high.” It can also cause:

  • altered senses, such as seeing brighter colors
  • altered sense of time
  • increased appetite
  • impairments in balancing, thinking, remembering, or solving problems

At high doses, THC may also cause delusions (beliefs that aren’t based in reality) and hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there). 

How Long Does CBD Stay In Your System?

The effects of CBD usually last about 2 to 6 hours. However, the compound can stay in your system anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. The exact amount of time depends on factors like age, weight, and the amount of CBD you used.  

To learn more, read How Long Does CBD Stay In Your System?

How Long Does THC Stay In Your System?

THC’s effects typically last between 2 and 10 hours. Like CBD, though, THC can stay in your system for much longer. On drug tests, it can generally be detected in urine for up to 30 days, in blood for up to 2 days, in saliva for up to 3 days, and in hair for up to 90 days. 

Is Marijuana Addictive?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), between 9% and 30% of people who use marijuana experience some degree of a marijuana use disorder, also called marijuana addiction. This disease makes you feel unable to control your use of marijuana. 

To learn more, read Is Marijuana Addictive?

What Causes Marijuana Addiction?

You’re more likely to get addicted to marijuana if you use the drug daily (also called marijuana abuse) or if you began using it as a teenager. In fact, people who started using the drug before age 18 are four to seven times more likely to get addicted. 

Other risk factors for marijuana addiction include:

  • peer pressure to use marijuana
  • easy access to marijuana
  • emotional problems like stress and grief or mental health disorders like depression and schizophrenia, as many people use marijuana to self-medicate

Symptoms Of Marijuana Abuse & Addiction

The most common symptoms of marijuana abuse and addiction are tolerance and dependence.

Marijuana tolerance means your body becomes less sensitive to the drug over time. With continued use of the drug, you’ll need increasingly higher and more regular doses to feel the desired “high.”

Marijuana dependence means your body requires the drug to function normally. If you don’t use it, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • intense cravings for marijuana
  • loss of appetite
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • trouble sleeping

Other signs of marijuana addiction include:

  • losing motivation
  • avoiding family and friends to spend more time getting and using marijuana
  • avoiding work or school to spend more time getting and using marijuana
  • losing interest in activities you once enjoyed because you’d rather spend your time using marijuana
  • using marijuana despite negative consequences in your personal and/or professional life
  • feeling unable to stop using marijuana despite wanting to

Effects Of Marijuana Abuse & Addiction

Over time, marijuana abuse and addiction may cause health problems such as:

  • lung problems from frequently smoking marijuana
  • problems with thinking, memory, and learning, especially if you started using the drug as a teenager
  • problems with child development if you use marijuana while pregnant

Marijuana may also trigger schizophrenia if you’re genetically predisposed to the condition and started using the drug as a teenager. 

Can You Overdose On Marijuana?

Overdose occurs when you use too much of a drug and experience life-threatening symptoms. Currently, there are no reports of someone dying from a marijuana overdose. However, using too much marijuana can cause unpleasant symptoms such as:

  • anxiety
  • panic
  • paranoia 
  • delusions
  • hallucinations
  • rapid heartbeat

If these symptoms are severe, you may need professional treatment. 

In addition, some drug dealers lace marijuana with dangerous drugs, such as the opioid fentanyl. When marijuana is mixed with such drugs, an overdose may be fatal. Common signs of a life-threatening overdose include:

  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • pale and/or clammy skin
  • bluish fingernails or lips
  • limpness
  • slowed or stopped heartbeat
  • slowed or stopped breathing
  • loss of consciousness

If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek emergency medical help right away.

Marijuana Addiction Treatment Options

Most people with marijuana addiction will need to attend a substance abuse treatment program. 

Those with milder addictions and strong support systems may attend outpatient programs, in which they’ll live at home while regularly attending a treatment center. 

Those with moderate-to-severe addictions or co-occurring mental health disorders should attend inpatient programs, where they’ll receive 24/7 care and monitoring. 

Both outpatient and inpatient programs offer services such as:

  • medical detox, in which health care professionals can help you slowly and safely stop using marijuana with minimal withdrawal symptoms
  • cognitive behavioral therapy, in which you can learn to change unhealthy behaviors and develop important coping skills
  • group therapy, in which you can connect with other people who are recovering from marijuana addiction or other drug addictions
  • psychiatry, in which you can receive medications to help treat underlying mental health problems that contribute to your marijuana use

If you or a loved one struggles with marijuana addiction, please reach out to a Recovering Champions specialist to learn about our comprehensive treatment options.

Written by Recovering Champions Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Available Treatments for Marijuana Use Disorders
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Marijuana DrugFacts
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Is there a link between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders?
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - Know the Risks of Marijuana
U.S. National Library of Medicine - Marijuana

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