Amongst the general population, there is still much debate as to whether or not marijuana addiction is real. Some people say that marijuana is not an addictive substance, but scientists would say otherwise. In fact, one study claims that one in ten people who try marijuana will become addicted to it. This is huge, as according to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 22.2 million people have used marijuana in the last month. Keep in mind—this is not just adults. In the last year, roughly 1.2 million kids between the ages of 12 and 17 used marijuana for the first time. This breaks down to 3,300 kids per day.
Given the high rates of marijuana use in the United States, especially amongst teens and young adults, it’s important to recognize the signs of marijuana addiction and know when treatment may be necessary.
Signs of Marijuana Addiction
If you’re concerned that a friend or family member is struggling with marijuana addiction, there are signs and symptoms you can look for that may confirm your suspicions. If you’re unsure if your friend or family member is even using marijuana, here are some things to look out for:
- Laughing a lot or being unusually giggly
- Being uncoordinated
- Having very red, bloodshot eyes
- Constantly using eye drops
- Clothes or bedroom smelling like marijuana (commonly noted as smelling like “skunk” or “moldy grass”)
- Eating more than normal—especially junk food
- Memory problems or trouble remembering something that just happened
- Sleeping or feeling sleepy more often
- Having drug paraphernalia such as pipes, bongs, or rolling papers
- Sudden obsession with candles, incense, fabric deodorizers, or air fresheners
Keep in mind that, just like alcohol, some people use marijuana recreationally and marijuana use is not an automatic sign of addiction. However, for anyone under the age of 18, any marijuana use should be seen as a concern. Since teens are more likely to become addicted to marijuana than adults, it’s important to be able to recognize if they’re using and know how to talk to them about the possible dangers of drug use.
If you know your loved one is using marijuana and are concerned about their level or frequency of use, here are some questions to ask yourself and/or your loved one to help determine if a marijuana addiction is present:
- Does your loved one experience frequent marijuana cravings?
- Do they need marijuana to feel “normal”?
- Do they feel that marijuana is necessary in order to relax, be social, or be creative?
- Does marijuana or it’s after-effects frequently interfere with work, school, or home-life?
- Have you noticed a dramatic decline in performance at school or work or is your loved one skipping work or school more often?
- Is your loved one compromising relationships with family and friends due to marijuana use?
- Have you noticed a change in eating patterns, sleeping habits, or mood?
- Are they giving up extracurricular activities or hobbies they used to enjoy in order to use marijuana?
- Do they put themselves or others at risk while using marijuana (e.g. driving or watching young children while under the influence)?
- Have they tried to cut down on or stop using marijuana and have failed?
- Have you noticed your loved one continually needs to use more marijuana to experience the same desired effects (also known as building a tolerance)?
- Do they experience withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug, such as irritability, insomnia, decreased appetite, and anxiety?
- Are they experiencing financial and/or legal problems due to marijuana use?
- Does your loved one lie or become defensive when asked about marijuana use?
- Have they continued to use marijuana in spite of negative effects on relationships, work or school performance, or to their health?
If the answer is “yes” to one or more of these questions, a marijuana addiction may be present. To confirm that your loved one is suffering from an addiction to marijuana, be sure to speak with a trusted physician, mental health professional, or drug treatment facility.
Other Terms for Marijuana
If a loved one is trying to hide marijuana use or addiction, they may begin using slang or “street names” for the drug. Some alternate terms for marijuana to look out for include:
- Aunt Mary
- Flower Tops
- Giggle Smoke
- Jolly Green
- Laughing Gas
- Mary Jane
- Sticky Icky
- Wacky Tabacky
Other marijuana-related terms to keep an ear out for include:
- 420: A celebrated time to smoke in the cannabis community (can refer to 4:20 PM or April 20th).
- Bong: A water pipe used to smoke marijuana.
- Bowl: The part of the pipe or bong where marijuana is placed before smoking. You may hear the phrase “Pack a bowl.”
- Dab: A concentrated cannabis extract. You may also hear the phrase: “Dabbing.”
- Dime Bag: A bag of marijuana sold for $10.
- Edibles: Foods infused with marijuana.
- Indica/Sativa: The two most popular species of cannabis plant.
- Joint: Marijuana rolled into a cigarette.
- Pipe: Usually glass instrument used to smoke marijuana.
- Spliff: A joint that also contains tobacco.
- Stoned: The term used for the feeling that comes from smoking or ingesting marijuana.
Negative Effects of Marijuana Abuse and Addiction
Like with alcohol, some people are able to use marijuana recreationally without suffering ill-effects or becoming addicted. However, for those who do struggle with marijuana abuse and addiction, long-term use can result in severe, negative consequences for the user. For individuals with certain health issues, such as heart conditions or lung disease, or for teenagers who are at a higher risk of developing marijuana addiction, even short-term or occasional marijuana use may be dangerous.
Short-Term Effects of Marijuana Use and Abuse
When an individual begins using marijuana, they are likely to experience one or more short-term effects of the drug, including:
- Decreased learning, attention, and memory capacity
- Distorted perceptions to touch, sound, light, and time
- Increased heart rate
- Anxiety and/or paranoia
- Loss of motor skills and poor coordination
- Psychosis, hallucinations, and/or delusions (when taken in high doses)
These effects usually occur while using the drug or right after using and typically do not last for more than 24 hours. Some effects that may last a few days but still may not be permanent include:
- Memory issues
- Decreased learning capacity
- Sleep problems
Long-Term Effects of Marijuana Use and Abuse
Not every individual who uses marijuana recreationally will begin to abuse or become addicted to the drug. However, those who are heavy marijuana users or use the drug on a regular basis are more likely to experience the negative effects of long term-term marijuana use and abuse. These negative effects may include:
Risk of dependence and addiction
Heavy marijuana users are much more likely to become physically and/or psychologically dependent on the drug. This dependency occurs when the individual’s brain begins to reduce sensitivity to and production of it’s endocannabinoid neurotransmitters. Once an individual is dependent on marijuana, they will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug. Common marijuana withdrawal symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Decreased Appetite
- Extreme sweating
- Stomach pain
Although marijuana dependence and addiction can be separated (one may be dependent on the drug without being addicted), an individual who is addicted to the drug is most likely dependent on it. A person is considered to have a marijuana addiction when they cannot stop using the drug even when marijuana use is having a negative effect on their life. If your loved one answered “yes” to any of the questions listed previously and is not able to stop using marijuana, they may have a marijuana addiction.
Long-term learning and memory problems
Long-term marijuana use and addiction can lead to decreased dopamine production in the brain, which affects working memory, impulse behavior, and attention. This can translate into long-term (and possibly permanent) problems with learning and memory, particularly in teens and young adults whose brains are still developing.
Individuals who smoke marijuana may encounter the same lung problems as people who smoke tobacco cigarettes. This can include chronic coughs and phlegm, more frequent bouts of bronchitis, and an increased risk for lung infections.
Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome
Long-term marijuana users or those suffering from marijuana addiction may develop Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, which involves episodes of intense nausea and vomiting. Due to the dehydration that can occur with these episodes, individuals suffering from Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome may require emergency medical attention.
Higher risk of schizophrenia
For those with an increased genetic risk for schizophrenia, long-term marijuana use can trigger on-set of the mental disease. In patients with schizophrenia, marijuana use may worsen symptoms such as paranoia and hallucinations.
Lower quality of life
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, heavy, long-term marijuana users tend to report having poorer:
- Mental and physical health
- Life satisfaction
- Relationship quality
- Academic and career success
Treatment for Marijuana Addiction
If you’re concerned that your loved one is suffering from marijuana addiction, you should know that treatment is possible. At Nexus, our specially trained addiction therapists physicians are here to monitor individuals struggling with marijuana addiction and help them on the road to recovery. Learn more about marijuana addiction treatment at Nexus here.
Support for Loved Ones
At Nexus, we also know that addiction does not only affect the individual struggling with the disease. Friends and family members may need help and support during this time, as well. If your loved one is suffering from marijuana addiction, be sure to find support for yourself. Some options to consider include:
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.