While not everyone who smokes marijuana will become addicted, according to Brown University Health Education, an estimated 10 to 14 percent of users will develop a marijuana physical addiction. Interestingly enough, marijuana addiction was responsible for as much as 16 percent of drug treatment admissions in the U.S. in 2006. This slight disparity in figures may actually be underestimated overall, as cultural and societal beliefs surrounding marijuana often view the drug as not addictive.
Like most other forms of drug addiction, marijuana physical addiction unfolds in stages with the drug’s effects on the brain as the root cause. Cravings and withdrawal effects for marijuana gradually increase the longer a person uses. These two factors are the driving forces behind the addiction process. With ongoing, long-term use, marijuana users will eventually see marijuana physical addiction effects impact their overall health as well as their quality of life.
Marijuana, a natural substance derived from the Cannabis sativa plant, is one of the few drugs that can act as a central nervous system depressant or stimulant depending on the psychological state of the user. THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol works as marijuana’s active ingredient. THC exists as a fat soluble material that can reside in the body’s brain, lung and fat tissues for as long as three weeks after a person’s last use.
The human brain contains cannabinoid cell receptors to which TCH materials bind. The brain actually houses a cannabinoid system of neurons that regulate primary functions, such as cognition, emotions and coordination throughout the body. The brain’s natural affinity for cannabinoid in general accounts for the potential for developing a marijuana physical addiction.
Over time, brain cells become dependent on the drug’s effects meaning normal brain function relies on the effects of the drug. Likewise, the more a person uses the larger the dose required to enable normal brain functions. This increasing tolerance effect greatly contributes to the marijuana physical addiction process.
Withdrawal effects from marijuana physical addiction result when dosage amounts aren’t enough to meet the brain’s need for more. Withdrawal effects can take the form of:
- Stomach aches
- Problems sleeping
- Strange dreams
- Angry and/or aggressive behaviors
In the absence of the drug, the brain is unable to properly regulate body processes. Marijuana physical addiction symptoms become increasingly worse as brain functions continue to deteriorate with ongoing drug use.
For occasional marijuana users or people not prone to addiction, the likelihood of developing ongoing heath problems is considerably lower when compared to chronic marijuana users. According to Columbia Health, people who use on a frequent basis place themselves at risk for both short-term and long-term health problems.
Health problems resulting from ongoing marijuana physical addiction include:
- Increasing risk of heart disease
- Deteriorating cognitive processing (i.e. memory, thinking, problem solving)
- Persistent cough
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Low sperm counts in men
- Coordination problems
- Irregular menses in women
- Erectile dysfunction in men
While cultural and societal beliefs may waver as to marijuana’s addiction potential, there’s really no denying its effects on the mind and body when used on a regular basis.