Marijuana is the most commonly abused drug in the United States. Many people falsely believe that marijuana is a ‘safe’ drug with no adverse health effects. But the truth is that long-term marijuana abuse, just like any other drug abuse, increases the risk of certain physical and mental health consequences, including physical dependence and psychological addiction. In fact, findings from a recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed that marijuana had the highest level of dependence or abuse than any other illicit drug. The same study showed that over a million people received treatment for marijuana abuse during their most recent addiction treatment program.
Signs of Marijuana Addiction and Dependency
Marijuana abuse can lead to the same symptoms of addiction and dependency as other types of drug abuse and follows the same stages of drug addiction: experimentation, regular use, risky use/abuse, and finally, drug addiction and dependency.
The main signs of marijuana addiction and dependency are:
* Tolerance. Just like any drug, regular use of marijuana can lead the body to develop a tolerance. Developing a tolerance means that you need more and more of the drug in order to achieve the same high, which means you have become physically addicted to marijuana.
* Craving. Cravings can take two forms: physical and emotional. Physical craving may mean that you develop physical symptoms such as headaches and anxiety that are only relieved after taking a hit. Emotional craving may mean that you need to use marijuana in order to feel relaxed, happy or comfortable. Whatever form your cravings take, this is a sign of marijuana addiction.
* Continuing to get high despite the problems it causes. If your marijuana use has caused legal problems or problems at work or school, yet you still continue to get high, this is a sign of drug addiction.
* Using marijuana as an escape. Anytime you use a substance as a form of escape, you are crossing the line into drug abuse. If you need to use marijuana in order to escape work, school or relationship problems, then you have developed an addiction to marijuana.
* Withdrawal. Like all drug addiction, marijuana addiction will lead to withdrawal symptoms once marijuana use has ceased. Marijuana withdrawal is not dangerous, but it can be uncomfortable. For chronic users, symptoms of marijuana withdrawal start to appear within the first 8 hours and are most noticeable during the first 10 days, but can last as long as 45 days. The symptoms of marijuana withdrawal include: irritability, anxiety, depressed mood, anger, headaches, restlessness, insomnia, lack of appetite, cravings for marijuana, strange dreams and aggression.
Health Effects of Marijuana Abuse
Long-term use of marijuana can lead to several negative health effects. Marijuana damages short-term memory and long-term abuse can lead to problems with learning and memory later in life. Chronic marijuana use has been shown to increase rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideas, and schizophrenia. Marijuana use has also been linked to changes in the reproductive organs, respiratory damage and cancer. In fact, studies show that marijuana smoke contains 50-70 percent more carcinogens than tobacco smoke and that smoking five joints a week is the equivalent of smoking a full pack of cigarettes every day.
Types of Treatment for Marijuana Abuse
Long-term abuse of marijuana can lead to addiction in some people. Currently, there are no medications approved for treating marijuana addiction, but treatment for marijuana dependence is very similar to the therapies used for other drug abuse problems. These treatment programs for marijuana abuse focus on counseling and include detoxification, behavioral therapies and regular attendance at meetings and abstinence-based support groups.
Marijuana addiction is real and can cause numerous physical and mental health consequences if left untreated. If you feel like you have an addiction to marijuana and are unable to stop using it on your own, seek professional help at a marijuana rehab.