With the movement to legalize marijuana and the drug becoming more socially acceptable than others, the very real dangers of marijuana can become clouded in the public’s perception. However, like other mind-altering substances, marijuana has a high potential for abuse and when misused requires professional drug rehab treatment.
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Yes. Marijuana is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the U.S. It can be addictive both physically and psychologically and often requires treatment for marijuana addiction. Though the debate continues over marijuana’s harmfulness, it is very much an addictive drug and abuse of the drug is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as cannabis use disorder.
Complicating marijuana addiction is the fact that those who abuse marijuana commonly abuse other substances such as alcohol. Marijuana addiction treatment is most effective when it addresses all of the issues that propel the individual’s addictive behaviors and attends to any co-occurring mental health disorders like depression, anxiety or personality disorders.
Dangers of Long-Term Marijuana Use
Toxic psychosis – Marijuana users who have taken high doses of the drug may encounter acute toxic psychosis, which includes hallucinations, delusions, and depersonalization — a loss of their sense of personal identity or self-recognition. Although the specific causes of these symptoms remain unknown, they appear to occur more frequently when a high dose of cannabis is consumed in food or drink rather than smoked.
Acute respiratory problems – Individuals who frequently smoke marijuana may have similar respiratory problems as tobacco smokers, such as daily cough and phlegm production, frequent acute chest illnesses, an increased risk of lung infections and a greater tendency toward obstructed airways.
Impaired immune system/frequent illness – THC impairs the immune system’s ability to fight off infectious diseases and cancer. In laboratory experiments that exposed animal and human cells to THC or other marijuana ingredients, the normal disease-preventing reactions of many of the key types of immune cells were inhibited. In other studies, mice exposed to THC or related substances were more likely than unexposed mice to develop bacterial infections and tumors. A study of 450 individuals found that individuals who smoke marijuana regularly but do not smoke tobacco have more health troubles and miss more days of work than non-smokers do. Many of the extra sick days utilized by the marijuana smokers in the study were for respiratory illnesses.
Cancer – Marijuana use may promote cancer of the lungs and other parts of the respiratory tract due to irritants and carcinogens it contains. A study comparing 173 cancer patients and 176 healthy individuals produced strong evidence that smoking marijuana increases the likelihood of developing cancer of the head or neck, and that the more marijuana smoked, the greater the increased risk. A statistical analysis of the data suggested that marijuana smoking doubled or tripled the risk of these cancers.
Warning Signs of Marijuana Addiction
Signs and symptoms that marijuana use has evolved into a serious problem include:
- Needing increased amounts or more frequent doses of marijuana in order to attain the desired effect, or to stave off marijuana withdrawal symptoms
- Unsuccessful attempts to quit marijuana use on one’s own
- Marijuana withdrawal symptoms when its use is discontinued, which may include nervousness, irritability, anger, insomnia, depressed mood, tremors, fever, headache, chills, abdominal pain, weight loss or decreased appetite
- Marijuana cravings or obsessive thoughts about using marijuana
- Reduction in normal social or recreational activities due to marijuana use
- Using cannabis despite negative effects on job, school, relationships or health
- Excessive amount of time and energy devoted to obtaining marijuana, using it, or recovering from its effects