Marijuana is a mixture of dried flowers, leaves, stems and seeds obtained from the “cannabis sativa” or “cannabis indica” plant. Commonly known as weed, herb, pot, grass, bud, ganja and Mary Jane, marijuana contains the mind-altering chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for creating mind-altering effects in individuals.
According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), out of the total number of individuals aged 12 or older, approximately 24 million were current marijuana users and 3.3 million were current misusers of prescription pain relievers.
Marijuana is considered as a “gateway” drug because of its strong addiction potential. It can be inhaled or the active ingredients, THC and CBD, can be baked into food known as edibles. Hashish is a related form of marijuana made from the resins of the Indian hemp plant. It is commonly referred to as hash and, on average, is six times stronger than marijuana.
When marijuana is inhaled, it causes an increase in dopamine levels in the human body, which, in turn, causes a decreased response in the long run. Inhaling marijuana over a long period of time can lead to the development of tolerance and hence, addiction.
Such a person is also at risk of experimenting with other drugs. Although marijuana use does not directly lead to the abuse of other illicit drugs, its addiction potential is so high that the user may need to undergo a detoxification treatment or assistance from a rehab center to attain recovery.
Legalization of marijuana
Legalizing this drug has created ambivalence among teenagers. In fact, many adolescents now openly admit to using marijuana. But, this drug continues to remain in controversy due to its adverse effects on memory and resulting learning deficits, blunted emotions and behavioral problems in the younger population, etc.
Although marijuana is addictive, this drug, as well as its withdrawal symptoms, are not considered life-threatening. Moreover, this drug has long been in use for medical practices as it can help alleviate some medical conditions.
Marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit substance in the United States. However, the laws and regulations have become more relaxed over the past couple of years. Till date, a total of 29 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico allow for comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs. Whereas, recreational marijuana is legal in eight states and Washington, D.C. However, it is still considered a Schedule I drug and users may need help overcoming addiction to the substance.
Symptoms of marijuana abuse
Marijuana is commonly abused by individuals in the form of hand-rolled cigarettes (joints) or in pipes or water pipes (bongs). Individuals also enjoy smoking marijuana in empty cigars, known as blunts, that are either partly-filled or completely-filled with the drug. Even vaporizers are used by many to avoid inhaling smoke and still get high.
In addition, the drug can be abused by mixing it in edibles like brownies, cookies or candy, and can be brewed as a tea.
Marijuana abuse can lead to a number of symptoms such as:
- Manipulated perceptions
- Impaired coordination
- Inability to think clearly
- Difficulty in solving problems
- Learning and memory issues
- Bloodshot eyes
- Constant cough
- Increased heartbeat
- Dry mouth
- Paranoia or fear
- Bad memory
- Poor coordination level
- Loss of control
Effects of marijuana abuse
Marijuana is a naturally occurring plant from the genus Cannabis. More than 60 types of cannabinoids have been identified but two main ingredients in marijuana that have been studied are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Both these ingredients are known to produce different effects on an individual’s mind and the body.
THC is responsible for the “high” produced from marijuana. Some of the common symptoms of THC abuse include:
- Increase in appetite
- Decreased coordination and balance
- Decreased concentration
- Decreased mental stimulation
- Decreased motivation
Cannabinoids (CBD) are known to have some beneficial effects in patients who are prescribed medical marijuana for their conditions. These common medical conditions include anorexia, chemotherapy side-effects, chronic pain, inflammatory bowel disorders, movement disorders, multiple sclerosis, nausea, neuropathic pain and rheumatoid arthritis. The compound can also lead to a number of sedative-like effects, act as an anti-bacterial and also help reduce muscle spasms.
Getting help for marijuana addiction
Marijuana treatment centers, marijuana rehabilitation centers and marijuana detox programs can provide behavioral tools to help an individual break the addiction. Because marijuana does not have severe withdrawal effects, it is not as addictive as other drugs. Therefore, intense treatment for addiction is generally not needed but the help found at marijuana rehab centers can still be important. Acute symptoms from marijuana use usually last for four to six hours and if severe anxiety is still present, then low stimulation is recommended.
The use of benzodiazepines for anxiety-related marijuana withdrawal is very controversial since this class of medication is extremely addictive. However, many individuals who use marijuana may also use other, more dangerous drugs such as opioids or cocaine and, therefore, should seek an expert’s help.