There is limited information available about marijuana addiction due to the controversy as to whether this drug truly causes an addiction or not. Advocates say that marijuana is beneficial especially to those who suffer from certain medical conditions such as cancer or glaucoma while proponents call marijuana a gateway drug that leads to the future use of harder, more dangerous substances. Regardless, marijuana is a drug and as with any drug, there are certain complications that can come from the prolonged use of the substance.
Marijuana is typically smoked to produce a relaxed and euphoric effect but some choose to eat the substance for a milder, longer lasting high. In many states, marijuana is even offered as a prescription for medical illnesses and can be sold or smoked legally in small amounts. Below is a look at the characteristics of marijuana addiction and some methods of effectively coping with the urges to smoke pot.
Is Marijuana Addiction Real?
Some say that weed is highly addictive and can cause adverse effects both physically and psychologically especially when the user quits while others state that the drug has no real addictive qualities at all. So what’s the truth? Is marijuana really addictive?
Physically, smoking marijuana can lead to a number of consequences such as changes in appetite, changes in mood and increased heart rate. However, the physical signs and symptoms of marijuana addiction are not near those of an addiction to heroin or other hard drugs. Does this make smoking pot ok? Some would argue and say yes, while others explicitly state NO.
Psychologically, marijuana can increase anxiety and paranoia, lead to depression and reduce the brain’s ability to think clearly. Most of these symptoms will wear off as the drug itself wears off but for some, the psychological effects of marijuana can last many months or even years after the individual stops smoking pot. Anxiety and depression are very common outcomes of marijuana abuse and these two medical conditions are likely to lead to an individual’s desire to self-medicate or a need for prescribed medication to treat the condition appropriately.
The Addictive Potential of Marijuana
Long term use or marijuana is said to have some addictive potential, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In most cases, first time users will not become addicted and even occasional users who smoke pot recreationally will not become addicted to the drug. However, daily, long term use of marijuana can lead to many harmful effects. Abruptly stopping or no longer using marijuana after a prolonged phase of marijuana use can lead to the following withdrawal symptoms:
- Poor appetite
- Mood swings
Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms
As the above marijuana withdrawal symptoms progress, they will typically peak around the third or fourth consecutive day of not smoking pot. Within about a week or two, all symptoms of marijuana addiction will usually have gone away and the user can return to normal. Unfortunately, there are some symptoms of marijuana use that can last into a prolonged period of time. Most of these symptoms are mental or psychological in scope and will require some type of treatment and or counseling in order to overcome. That said, according to Columbia University addiction to marijuana is both psychological and physical.
Mental Effects of Marijuana use include:
- Anxiety that does not go away or actually gets worse as a result of smoking pot
- Depression or a depressed state
- Social intolerance or a lack of desire to be social
- Schizophrenia or feeling like everyone is out to get you
- Acute psychotic reactions
Effects of Marijuana on the Heart:
- Increased heart rate by 20-100%
- Increased risk of heart attack
- Increased risk of cardiovascular vulnerabilities
Effects of Marijuana on the Lungs:
- Carcinogenic toxins create lung cancer
- Increased exposure to disease
- Increased risk of pneumonia
- Increased risk of cold
Effects of Marijuana on Life:
- Lack of motivation
- Physical impairment
- Mental impairment
- Reduced cognitive abilities
- Poor social life
Signs of Marijuana Addiction
The first step to overcoming marijuana addiction is to recognize that you have a problem and need help. Recognizing the signs of marijuana addiction can help you determine the severity of your problem. Most often, marijuana addiction is the result of using the drug in conjunction with other substances such as alcohol or other drugs but this is not always the case. However, according to the US National Library of Medicine, cannabis dependence is actually much more common than dependence on other drugs due to the sheer number of people who use marijuana.
Marijuana addiction signs include:
- Tolerance to marijuana. If you realize that you have to smoke more pot to produce the same effects than you are becoming addicted to the drug.
- Withdrawal when marijuana is not smoked. If you have signs of withdrawal such as upset stomach, anxiety or depression when you do not smoke marijuana than your body has already developed a physical dependence on the drug.
- Smoking more pot than you intended. If you tell yourself or others that you will only smoke one joint and then you wind up smoking more than you had anticipated or intended to you are addicted.
- Inability to control or cut down marijuana use. If you’ve tried to cut back on your smoking or tried to use less marijuana but still find that you wind up smoking more or using more than you anticipated you are suffering from a potential sign of addiction.
- Spending most of your time getting high. If marijuana has taken over your life to the point that you spend most of your time getting high and do not take part in other activities because you are busy getting high you are suffering from addiction.
- Reduced activities because time is spent focused on pot. If you no longer take part in activities that you once liked to enjoy because you are busy smoking pot than there is a sign of addiction.
- Smoking pot despite known consequences. If you have already suffered consequences as a result of getting high and you still smoke pot, there is a sign of addiction. For example, you may have been arrested for possession and yet you still choose to possess marijuana despite the known risks.
- Using pot to relax and becoming dependent on it for relaxation. If you smoke marijuana just to relax and you’ve become dependent on marijuana to relax there is a problem.
Why Quit Smoking Pot?
If marijuana addiction is a problem in your life than you are probably already thinking about reasons to quit, but if you have not suffered any of the adverse consequences of marijuana addiction than you may wonder why you should quit smoking pot. There are actually a number of reasons to quit smoking pot but most will revolve around your own personal situation:
- Physical reasons to stop smoking pot – to feel better, reduce risk of lung cancer and be more energetic
- Psychological reasons to stop smoking pot – reduce anxiety, get back to being happy without pot and reduce depression
- Relationship related reasons to stop smoking pot – get out of the relationship rut that comes from smoking too much pot, find new friends and heal from the fights or pain that marijuana has caused
- Financial reasons to stop smoking pot – free up the money spent on marijuana to spend on material items, put into savings or pay bills
- Legal reasons to stop smoking pot – stay out of trouble with the law
How to Overcome Marijuana Addiction
If you are addicted to marijuana or if you aren’t really addicted so much but you’ve just decided that it’s time to stop smoking pot there are some steps that you can take to fast track your recovery success. Overcoming marijuana can be a difficult journey because you are already in a rut, you are probably anxious and depressed, you may have changed the group of friends that you spend time with and suffered various other problems as a result of your pot abuse. Fortunately, there are a number of options for help when it comes to overcoming marijuana addiction and taking back control of your life:
- Inpatient Rehab – in most cases, inpatient rehab will not be required for those who are addicted to marijuana unless your addiction is paired with a co-occurring mental illness or if you are also addicted to another drug or substance such as alcohol
- Outpatient Rehab – this is the most common method of treatment for pot addiction and takes place on daily, weekly or even semi-weekly sessions that include counseling and therapy to assist the individual in learning how to recognize and avoid the situations that cause them to smoke pot and to overcome their addiction
- Behavioral therapy – many people who smoke pot do so because they are bored or they need a mood boost. Behavioral therapy can teach these people how to overcome their addiction to pot by changing the behaviors that they take part in to more positive behaviors that will help them to be more productive and less likely to smoke pot
- Cognitive therapy – this method of treatment will help the addict to think in a different way that does not promote them to smoke pot
- Community reinforcement – many people who smoke pot have trouble feeling good or happy without the drug due to chemical changes in the brain. Community reinforcement programs can help by providing a reward to an individual for recovery goals that are met such as not smoking pot for a month or making other commitments and following through with them
- Support groups – many different support groups exists include Marijuana Anonymous groups which focus on the twelve-step recovery model which outlines a series of steps that take the addict from full-fledged addiction on through to sobriety.
While there are currently no medical treatments for marijuana addiction, some are being researched according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Recovery from Marijuana Addiction
Every person will have different outcomes from their treatment and the recovery efforts will differ from one patient to the next. Marijuana addiction, though not as deadly or dire as some other addictions, is still a difficult feat to overcome and takes time, effort and patience. The road to recovery from marijuana addiction will likely have many ups and downs. Many people who try to quit smoking pot for the first time will fail and may have to keep trying over and over again before they find a recovery method and treatment program that is suitable and works for them.
Once you have finally recovered from marijuana addiction you can enjoy periods of happiness, joy and peace without pot. You’ll quickly learn how much time marijuana and the obsession with smoking pot really was taking away from your life, your friends and your loved ones. Recovery from marijuana addiction is sometimes a rather difficult process and you may have to try many different methods of treatment before you find one that really works. In many cases, your recovery efforts will include a combination of treatment including counseling and therapy, medication to treat underlying mental illness, and a series of support groups.
You can find support in the following places:
- Family and friends
- Others who are in recovery
- Sober living
- Community support groups
- Online support groups
- Support forums
If you or someone you love is addicted to marijuana, recovery is possible and there is hope! Admitting to the problem early on and understanding the many methods of treatment, therapy and support that are available to assist you every step of the way can make your journey to recovery a more enjoyable and lasting experience.