Cannabis Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, Risks, and Treatment Resources

Written By

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens, B.S.

On November 15, 2023

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Due to its everyday use and legal status in most states, many people don’t take marijuana use seriously. However, most don’t realize that cannabis can be very addictive, and long-term use can lead to adverse changes in the brain and body.

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana is an ancient plant that humans have used for folk medicine and religious purposes for thousands of years. Today, it is mostly used recreationally, and some states have legalized it for medicinal use. It grows in the warm and humid climates of Asia, along with Central and South America.

There are two main forms of this plant: sativa and indica. These two plant variations produce two different types of marijuana buds that are traditionally dried and smoked. The buds can also be pressed to extract oil that is rich in psychoactive cannabinoids and other plant products.

While this substance is federally illegal, it is still one of the most commonly used drugs in the United States. 18% of people in the country have used marijuana at some point.[1] Cannabis is a Schedule I substance which means it has a high potential for abuse and dependence. Officially labeled cannabis, the plant-based substance, goes by many names, such as weed, bud, flower, grass, and hash.

Side Effects of Marijuana

Cannabis alters your state of consciousness. You may feel dizzy, confused, foggy, and slow while taking this substance. Some people feel very heavy and find it difficult to move. Others feel tired and fall asleep.

Some may develop a dry mouth, dry eyes, and an increased appetite or the “munchies.” But there are also more unpleasant side effects you should be wary of, such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, and anxiety.

How is Marijuana Taken?

Most people who casually use marijuana smoke it. Once the cannabis plant’s buds are dried, they can easily be smoked in a pipe or other vessel. This is one of the easiest and most common ways it’s consumed.

However, oils and tinctures are also popular options. These are usually taken sublingually. This allows the psychoactive cannabinoids to enter the bloodstream through the thin layers of tissue under the tongue.

While this won’t create a sense of euphoria as fast as smoking, which is instant, it will kick in between 20 and 30 minutes. This is much faster than consuming the substance orally in an edible, which may take as long as an hour.

Statistics on Marijuana Use, Misuse, and Addiction

Around 30% of everyone who uses marijuana has a marijuana use disorder.[2] It can be difficult to tell whether a person is using marijuana normally or abusing it. A good indicator is when someone is smoking excessively or spending a significant amount of time consuming or recovering from use. Additional indicators could be chronic sluggishness, forgetfulness, and smelling of cannabis smoke.

Effects of Marijuana Abuse

Marijuana abuse is much like any other form of drug abuse. It may start slowly and increase in severity as your body develops a dependence. Someone with a marijuana use disorder may require large quantities to experience any euphoric effects because of physical or chemical tolerance. They may also have cravings or even withdrawals when not using the substance, which may compel them to use cannabis more frequently.

Can You Overdose on Marijuana?

No one has yet died from overdosing on marijuana alone. However, people have died from overdosing on marijuana combined with other drugs like alcohol or illegal substances. It is also possible to experience marijuana toxicity, which can result in psychosis and other extreme symptoms.[3]

It is also possible for people to get very ill when they take too much marijuana at once, but this would not be considered a true overdose in the traditional sense.

Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Overdose

When a person experiences marijuana toxicity, they may experience psychosis, aggression, panic, confusion, and severe anxiety. They may be unable to communicate with others and may become violent. Others may be extremely sedated and have a hard time moving, and their breathing may be very shallow. Some may also experience nausea and vomiting.

What to do if you suspect someone is overdosing on Marijuana:

While taking too much marijuana may not be fatal, that doesn’t mean that medical attention isn’t necessary. If you find that someone is suffering from marijuana toxicity, it is important to take them to the hospital or call 911. This will ensure that the person is safe until they recover.

Dangers of Long-Term Marijuana Use

Marijuana is associated with negative effects on the brain when used for many years. It has been linked to the development of schizophrenia, especially when the substance is used frequently at a young age. Brain development will suffer a greater impact compared to an adult who uses this substance.

Years of marijuana use may also cause other conditions, such as depression and fatigue. Cognitive decline and a decreased IQ are both associated with long-term cannabis use. Seeking treatment is the best option to avoid or mitigate negative effects.

Mixing Marijuana with Other Drugs

Mixing marijuana with other substances can prove fatal. Because marijuana relaxes the body, it should not be mixed with alcohol. This could lead to a coma or death. This is also true when mixing marijuana with sedative-hypnotic drugs. This combination could stop your heart or breathing.

Marijuana Addiction and Abuse

If you use marijuana, you might be wondering if you are addicted. Those with marijuana use disorders often experience cravings when they aren’t using the substance. They may also experience withdrawals. Others may feel panicked or irritated when they can’t get or use marijuana. Long-term and excessive use is also a strong sign of addiction.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Marijuana can be addictive, but it is different from being addicted to heroin or cocaine. It is more of a psychological dependence rather than a physical dependence. Relying on the calming effect can cause dependence and addiction, leading you to feel you can’t function without it.

Marijuana Addiction and Mental Health

Marijuana has been linked to various mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and even psychosis. These issues are more likely to occur in those who have used marijuana for years and in large quantities.

Cutting Agents Used for Marijuana

Common cutting agents may include the following:

  • Heroin
  • Dried herbs
  • Cocaine
  • Ecstasy

Marijuana Addiction Treatment

There is hope for independence from cannabis addiction. The length of treatment will depend on the severity of your addiction but ranges from 30 to 90 days to longer-term treatment programs. The treatment process will involve individual therapy, group therapy, and skill development as part of a treatment program.

The first phase of treatment for more significant substance use disorders is detox, where you can safely rid your body of harmful substances. Residential treatment is a fully-immersive program that blends sober living and treatment.

Partial Hospitalization Programs are the highest level of outpatient care, followed by Intensive Outpatient and standard outpatient treatment. Together, each intervention forms a full continuum of care that supports skill development for a lifetime of recovery.

Therapies Used in Marijuana Addiction Treatment

Evidence-based therapies are critical to recovery for any substance use disorder or dual diagnosis. Some successful interventions include:

  • Art Therapy
  • Accelerated Resolution Trauma Therapy
  • Boxing & Body Movement
  • CBT Therapy
  • DBT Therapy
  • Family Dynamic Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Individual Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Relapse Prevention Therapy
  • Spiritual Therapy

Dual Diagnosis for Co-Occurring Disorders

It is not uncommon for those who use marijuana to suffer from anxiety or panic disorders and have turned to cannabis to manage their symptoms. While this may temporarily alleviate their symptoms, it is ineffective. Treating underlying mental health concerns and substance use disorder empowers each patient to heal from the inside out.

Marijuana Withdrawal Management Treatment

The detox process is often the most challenging phase of recovery that gradually improves over time. After detoxing and during residential treatment, the focus will be on therapy and learning practical coping skills to manage symptoms and navigate triggers safely.

Drugs Used in Marijuana Withdrawal Management

There are no medications that are officially designated to help with marijuana withdrawal. In some cases, over-the-counter medications like Tylenol will help alleviate uncomfortable symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Gets Addicted to Marijuana?

While substance addiction can affect anyone, it is more likely to affect those who already have substance abuse disorders, underlying mental health concerns, or a family history of substance abuse. 

Who Uses Marijuana?

People of all demographics use this substance, especially those who have anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders. 

Is Marijuana Dangerous?

Yes, it can be dangerous if you mix it with other substances like alcohol or illegal drugs. It can also cause psychosis if you take too much. 

Chart a New Course and Rise Above Marijuana Addiction

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Sources

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, June 8). Data and statistics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/data-statistics.htm on May 19, 2023.

[2] NIDA. (2021, April 13). Is marijuana addictive?. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive on May 19, 2023.

[3] Turner AR, Spurling BC, Agrawal S. Marijuana Toxicity. (2023 Feb 12). In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430823/ on May 19, 2023.