Marijuana is the Most Abused Drug in the U.S. and Many Believe it’s Highly Addictive and Bad for Recovery
If you’re the type who has gathered secondhand knowledge about different types of drugs from research or rumors, you’ve probably heard the news that cannabis is the safest drug. It has been legalized in several states and decriminalized in others. It’s the most used drug by recreational smokers. It’s often touted to be non-addictive and have medical purposes. However, people who went to rehab regarding a drug addiction fervently argue against marijuana’s non-addictive popularity and advise anyone undergoing recovery to do the same.
Backing up this claim are trusted, professional sources such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, American Addiction Centers, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Their statistics show that:
- 30 percent of marijuana users attain a degree of addiction or disorder, more often in younger users at the age of 18 and below.
- There are specific years notorious for having had the most number of admitted patients for drug addiction with marijuana as either the primary or secondary drug (where marijuana was the “gateway drug”).
- There was a 59 percent increase in visits to the hospital emergency department caused by marijuana.
- Confiscated records and samples also show a steady increase of the drug compared to earlier decades.
- New users numbering to millions are in the ages of 12 and up, and the risk of dependency on the drug at this level is particularly high.
- 5 percent of the adult American population has tried marijuana at least once about a month prior to the survey.
Stories about marijuana addiction
There are several genuine testimonies from people who have unknowingly become addicted to marijuana. It wasn’t thought possible because a weed problem didn’t exist—until they found themselves needing to smoke before or after work, or staying up all night if they didn’t smoke to get to sleep.
It was all recreational at first, or something that they could do while still keeping their life in check, and then it went to not seeing a reason why they had to leave their houses or make friends or even care about getting good grades in school. Money went into obtaining more pot, as well as extreme efforts to get it if it’s not readily available. Extreme actions based on this addiction were taken before considering any treatment options and admitting that yes, marijuana addiction is real.
These stories and the fact that there are treatments and rehabilitations offered for cannabis addiction as well as organizations like Marijuana Anonymous are serious factors in the reality of potential addiction to cannabis. So if you think nothing’s going to go wrong with just smoking a bit of pot, you better think again.
How Marijuana is Addictive
Addiction is a mental illness rather than just a physical dependence on something. The truth is that anyone can get addicted to any drug. The body becomes used to the drug’s presence and develops a tolerance against it, along with the effects having less impact on the body’s system. Therefore, the user has to take larger and stronger doses to feel the effects of the drug.
This applies to marijuana just as it applies to medicinal pills and other stronger drugs such as heroin and cocaine. When the use is discontinued, withdrawal symptoms become evident, leading to something more of a psychological rather than physical dependence on the drug. While heroin or opium withdrawal usually induces sweating, violent shaking and vomiting, marijuana withdrawal involves lesser extreme effects and typically induces psychological effects such as depression.
Psychological dependence starts when the user needs it in various ways in dealing with a personal or social situation. A marijuana user may find himself needing to smoke in order to relax, think, calm down or get over an unfortunate event. This is not always the case because some users can moderate their use and can stop anytime, though current statistical data shows how addiction is also very probable.
Every day use always poses a high risk in developing an addiction, especially if it’s used for recreational and not for medicinal purposes. It doesn’t matter what form it is taken in—whether the drug is smoked, cooked or baked into a muffin, the likelihood of addiction does not go away.
What makes marijuana addictive is its THC content. THC stands for the Delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol chemical, which acts like the naturally made cannabinoid chemical released by our own body system. This chemical attaches to specific areas of the human brain and alters the cannabinoid receptors. These receptors are the mediators of complex mechanisms, affecting bodily coordination, movements, pleasure, mood, memory, senses and time perception.
What the THC content in marijuana does is alter these, setting them off at an unnatural pace, which accounts for increased heart rate, slowed memory and concentration, impaired coordination and generally weird behavior while the user is high.
Brain cells are also stimulated to create euphoria by releasing dopamine and interfering with the flow and processing of information in the hippocampus. These effects are felt immediately after a few minutes but stay for about a couple of hours—which, to regular users, is not nearly enough and thus leading them to increase intake for a longer high.
Addiction signs always include withdrawal, increased tolerance and intake, and inability to perform simple daily tasks without resorting to it first, as well as a developed dependence on it to combat stress.
The Effects of Marijuana
For a drug claimed to be non-addictive and harmless, it sure has a wide range of withdrawal symptoms not only for the chronic user but for the newbie who’s only been using it for a couple of weeks. These go from insomnia, mood swings, depression and loss of appetite to anxiety, headaches, and nightmares. Senses can either be enhanced or impaired, and euphoria is a common effect—resulting to laughter and overeating.
These symptoms and their intensity vary regarding the user’s consumption habits and sensitivity to intake. These symptoms can latch on even to those people who take a normal dose of the drug in a short span of time, say, 10 to 20 days.
Effects of drugs, not specifically marijuana, are linked not only to health problems but can also lead to devastating effects on one’s personal life. Relationship problems are always of note, as well as family problems and a very high probability of deserting goals and dropping out of school. Here are some other effects of chronic marijuana use.
- Social apathy
- The “munchies”
- Intolerance of social situations
- Psychotic reactions due to mood swings
- Anxiety and depression: the most common effects
- Increases heart rate and exposes the heart to cardiovascular vulnerabilities
- Impaired cognitive abilities
- Weakens immune system and increases exposure to diseases
- THC accumulates in the fatty tissues of the liver and lungs and other organs
- Long-term mental impairment: younger users’ brains are not fully developed, and marijuana intake interferes with the brain’s natural process in building necessary connection for the intellect’s functions. Statistics show how long time marijuana users that started early have suffered point losses in their IQ.
About the author:
Greg opened his home and heart to alcoholics and addicts in 2003. He is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATC). Starting in 2009 Greg has fostered the growth of Ocean Hills Recovery into one of the most respected and effective treatment centers in the area and has been working with people with addictions since March of 2001. Greg believes in a holistic approach to recovery. His focus is on drug alcohol addiction treatment with a combination of 12 Step work, therapy and counseling, and the rejuvenation of the body through healthful eating and exercise. He has designed his program to foster a family-like atmosphere and believes that people in recovery are just beginning their lives. He encourages the people he works with to learn to enjoy life in sobriety. Greg is married to Nicole; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.