Marijuana addiction is a real problem that most Americans do not realize can happen. In recent years, the drug has been legalized. Many have also been touting it for its supposed medicinal benefits. Even so, it is important to note that this drug can be abused and later lead to addiction.
According to NIDA - the National Institute on Drug Abuse - about 30 percent of the people who use this drug may end up developing a marijuana use disorder, or marijuana addiction. The same report showed those who take this drug before the age of 18 years have 4 to 7 times as high a likelihood as those who start later in life to develop addiction.
Other researchers released a report in 2015 that estimated that about 4 million Americans meet the basic criteria for marijuana addiction. Of this number, about 138,000 sought addiction treatment and rehabilitation services voluntarily.
According to researchers, using this drug can lead to addiction. This will happen when you find that it is impossible to stop taking the substance even though you can spot the different harmful things that it has started doing to your life.
But what is marijuana? Also known as Mary Jane, Ganja, herb, bud, grass, pot, and weed, it is a drug that is produced from the seeds, stems, flowers, and dried leaves of the Cannabis sativa plant.
These parts of the plan contain delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC), which is a psychoactive and mind altering chemical, among other related compounds. The plant material of cannabis can also be concentrated to form a resin that is known as hashish. Alternatively, it can be concentrated into a sticky black liquid that is known as hash oil.
Today, marijuana is among the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. If you get involved with this substance, you may smoke it in the form of a hand rolled cigarette known as a joint. Alternatively, you could also smoke it in a water pipe or a regular pipe known as a bong.
When you smoke it, you will typically smoke a blunt. This might be comprised of a cigarette that has been emptied of its tobacco content before being refilled with marijuana or a mixture of this drug and tobacco. That said, the smoke usually has a distinctively sweet and sour odor that is also pungent.
The other way in which you can ingest the drug is by mixing the cannabis plant's leaves, seeds, stems, and/or flowers into food or even brewing these parts of the plant to form a beverage known as marijuana tea.
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When you smoke this drug, the THC content will rapidly pass from your lungs and directly into your bloodstream. The blood, on the other hand, will carry the chemical to your brain as well as to the other organs of your body. You also need to realize that THC will typically be absorbed slower if you ingest it through drink or food.
Regardless of how you ingested the drug, THC will act specifically on the cannabinoid receptors of the cells of the brain. These receptors are usually activated by chemicals that are similar to THC that your body produces naturally. They are also part of the endocannabinoid system - a neural communication network. This system plans a crucial role in normal brain functioning and development.
The cannabinoid receptors are found in their highest density in the segments of the brain that are responsible for influencing time and sensory perception, coordinated movement, concentration, thinking, memory, and pleasure.
When you take marijuana, it will over-activate the endocannabinoid system. As a result, it will cause you to experience a high accompanied by a wide range of pleasurable effects, including but not limited to:
Research studies have shown that taking this drug can cause and even exacerbate problems in your day to day life. If you are a heavy user, you may experience lower satisfaction in your life, more problems in your relationships, less career and academic success, and poor physical and mental health in comparison to those who do not take marijuana.
On the other hand, using the drug could increase your risk of losing your job, dropping out of school, reporting increased absences from work, a high rate of job turnover, increased claims for worker's compensation, accidents, and tardiness.
Using marijuana can also cause you to suffer a wide variety of health issues. These include but are not limited to issues related to mental health conditions and lung and heart problems.
For instance, the smoke from the drug will irritate your lung. In case you are a frequent smoker, there a high probability that you may experience most of the same respiratory issues suffered by people who smoke tobacco. Some of the other health risks that are associated with this drug include:
If you take the drug during your pregnancy, it might also increase the risk that your unborn baby might develop neurobehavioral problems. Since the THC content of marijuana is similar to the endocannabinoid chemicals that are naturally produced by the body, using it during pregnancy could affect and adversely alter the endocannabinoid system that is still developing in the brain of your unborn baby. This could lead to issues with problem solving, memory, and attention when the baby comes into the world.
Although most people believe the contrary, marijuana addiction is a real possibility that comes with taking this drug. Research studies have suggested that around 9 percent of the people who use marijuana end up struggling with addiction. The incidence of said addiction will increase if you start taking the drug from a young age as well as if you take it on a daily basis.
But how does marijuana addiction occur? Essentially, dependence on this drug will happen once you have built up tolerance to the substance. When this happens, you will reach a stage in your substance abuse where you will find that you have to take the drug in higher doses or more frequently than you used to before you can experience its pleasurable effects.
When marijuana gets into the brain, it will override the natural processes of the brain. In the same way, it will boost certain functions far below or above their normal levels. Over time, your brain will become resistant to the drug's effects while attempting to protect itself against damage.
The next time you use marijuana, it will not have an effect quite as strong as the first time you did. To recreate this effect, you will have to take increasingly larger doses. Eventually, you will find that you have moved from smoking the drug to using it in its high dosage edible forms. Alternatively, you may start preferring propane-extracted concentrates of the drug that are known as dabs.
Your ongoing substance abuse will cause you to have a reduction in the number of receptors inside the brain for the endogenous cannabinoids. These are the signaling molecules that are mimicked by the active component in marijuana, known as THC.
The THC will also affect the reward system of the brain as well as cause a release of dopamine, the pleasure hormone of the brain. Dopamine is among the important neurotransmitters that the brain naturally uses to regulate self-control, motivation, and reward.
The reason why marijuana can lead to addiction is because it stimulates the dopamine signaling inside the pleasure center of the brain. When this happens, the drug will activate the brain's primary reward centers. It is for this reason that you will experience pleasurable effects when you abuse the drug.
Over time, the drug will cause your brain to experience a decrease in its natural response to the dopamine chemicals. Eventually, you will start experiencing an increase in negative emotions, including but not limited to aggressiveness, depression, irritability, and anxiety.
The problem at this stage will not be because your brain is releasing dopamine in lesser than normal amounts. Rather, it will be because the stimulation of dopamine inside the brain will have an attenuated effect.
At this stage, your brain will no longer be able to know what it should do with dopamine. This is because the dopamine signals will not be heard and communicated downstream in the natural way that it should.
This decrease in the response to dopamine in the main is one of the reasons why marijuana causes addiction. The substance use disorder will also develop because the dopamine system will be naturally less sensitive, which will increase your vulnerability to abuse the drug.
More often than not, marijuana addiction is typically diagnosed among teens and young adults. However, there have been trends in the recent past towards societal acceptance of the use of this drug. The substance is also increasingly available in both medical and recreational forms. This is where there has been an increase in the rates of diagnosis among adults.
As with any other form of substance use disorder, addiction to this drug will typically lead to the following signs and symptoms:
If you have been abusing marijuana for a long period of time, it can cause you to develop tolerance - which will soon be replaced by dependence. Once you have become dependent on this drug and you either stop taking it altogether or significantly reduce your typical dose of it, you may experience a number of withdrawal symptoms.
If you are addicted to the drug, you will typically experience withdrawal symptoms if you do not use it for a given period of time. You may also develop these symptoms if you go for a period of time without using it. Some of the withdrawal symptoms that may develop include but are not limited to:
Many of these symptoms of withdrawal are similar to other health problems and medical conditions. For this reason, it is essential that you get an expert assessment and evaluation from an addiction treatment and rehabilitation professional to be able to determine whether you are going through marijuana withdrawal.
While enrolled in an addiction treatment program, you may receive behavioral interventions, such as motivational incentives and cognitive behavioral therapy to help you overcome your dependence on this drug.
Rehab and treatment options for marijuana addiction are similar to those provided for other drugs and alcohol. Typically, the recovery center will provide you with evidence-based therapies, including but not limited to
These approaches to treatment have been proven by science to be effective in the rehabilitation and management of substance abuse and addiction. However, the options that will be used will largely depend on the nature, extent, and severity of your substance abuse and addiction. It will also be based on your marijuana addiction treatment needs and your individual situation.