With more and more states legalizing the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana, it is more important than ever to discuss the dangers of recurrent marijuana use. Unfortunately, the misconception that marijuana is not addictive is flooding the United States, causing individuals to dismiss the inherent harms of repeated drug use.
Individuals who regularly use marijuana, as well as those who may be curious about the drugs’ effects, must work to become educated on the short-term and long-term consequences of recurrent marijuana use. Furthermore, it is vital to understand the warning signs of marijuana use disorder and addiction and to recognize that treatment is available for those who are struggling.
At 12 South Recovery, we are dedicated to providing individualized treatment for individuals with substance use disorder (SUD), addiction, and co-occurring mental health disorders. We understand that the prevalence of addiction and mental health disorders has been on the rise since before COVID-19. For this reason, we are committed to spreading the knowledge of the dangers of substance use and abuse as well as encouraging treatment for those who need it most.
Understanding Marijuana and Marijuana Use
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) explains that marijuana (also known as cannabis) is a mixture of dried and shredded seeds, stems, flowers, and leaves derived from the cannabis sativa plant. Marijuana is most commonly smoked or vaped in the form of cigarettes, pipes, bongs, or blunts. In addition, marijuana is also eaten in the form of edibles. When smoked or consumed, it is known to produce mind-altering, psychoactive effects.
The main ingredients in marijuana are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is responsible for producing psychoactive effects.
Short-Term Effects of Marijuana Use
The National Insitute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) highlights both short-term and long-term effects of marijuana use on the brain and body. When marijuana is smoked, it passes from the lungs into the bloodstream very quickly. From there, the chemical is carried through the bloodstream into organs throughout the body. This process can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. The duration of effects varies depending on an individual’s unique tolerance to the drug.
Chemically, the THC molecule mimics the structure of natural neurotransmitters in the brain. However, when the THC molecule acts on brain cell receptors, it does so abnormally, over-activating various parts of the brain. As a result, a person may experience the following short-term effects of marijuana:
- Altered sensory experiences
- Changes in mood
- Impaired body movement
- Difficulties with thinking and problem-solving
- Impaired memory
- Paranoia and possible psychosis
Long-Term Effects of Marijuana Use
As marijuana use significantly impairs brain development short term, it should be no surprise that the regular, long-term use of marijuana can trigger long-lasting impairments in the brain. Meanwhile, for adolescents and teens, marijuana use can interfere with normal brain development, affecting how their brains build connections between important brain networks and circuits. For instance, some networks impaired by frequent marijuana use include those responsible for:
- Regulating life-sustaining functions
- Stress regulation
- Memory retention
- Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
In addition, other long-term effects of marijuana use include:
- Breathing problems due to frequent irritation of the lungs
- Increased heart rate
- Problems with child development during and after pregnancy
- The development of marijuana use disorder or marijuana addiction
- Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (frequent, intense nausea and vomiting)
- The development of mental health disorders
Warning Signs of Marijuana Use Disorder
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that marijuana use disorder involves an inability to stop using marijuana despite the health and social consequences it is causing in an individual’s life. Some warning signs that may indicate the presence of marijuana use disorder include:
- Using more marijuana than intended
- Attempting to cease marijuana use with little to no success
- Spending increasing amounts of time obtaining, using, or recovering from marijuana use
- Engaging in marijuana use despite the problems it is causing at home, school, or work
- Losing interest in activities once enjoyed before using marijuana
- Using marijuana in high-risk situations
- Experiencing an increased tolerance to marijuana (needing to use more to achieve a desired high)
- The presence of withdrawal symptoms when not using marijuana, such as anxiety, irritability, or depression
Treatment for Marijuana Use Disorder
Despite the increasing normalization of marijuana use in our nation, it is necessary to understand that treatment is available for those with marijuana use disorder. Treatment involves working to reduce and cease marijuana use in addition to promoting life skills to enhance sobriety. NIDA highlights the following behavioral treatments that have shown promise in healing marijuana use disorder and its effects:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Contingency management
- Motivational enhancement therapy (also known as motivational interviewing)
At 12 South Recovery, we recognize how challenging it can be to seek treatment for marijuana use. However, we work to meet our clients where they are at in their recovery journey without forcing change. Instead, we utilize a wide range of treatment approaches, such as motivational interviewing, to enhance our client’s personal motivation for change.
Furthermore, we offer several outpatient treatment programs for alcohol and drug addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders. These outpatient programs can be personalized to meet clients’ unique needs and goals for recovery. For those struggling with marijuana use, understand that support is available and recovery is possible.
Contrary to what you may believe, marijuana is a mind-altering drug with a high potential for addiction. If you or a loved one are regularly using marijuana, it is necessary to become informed about the potential consequences you may experience as a result. Additionally, it is vital to understand that treatment is available for marijuana use disorder. At 12 South Recovery, we specialize in addiction and mental health treatment. Our goal is to provide individualized care for all who seek guidance in recovery. We utilize a wide range of therapeutic modalities and approaches to ensure that each client has a worthwhile and individualized treatment experience. To learn more about treatment for marijuana use, call us at (888) 830-8374.