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Recognizing marijuana addiction

Addiction to marijuana is just as dangerous as an addiction to any other mind altering chemical. When marijuana is taken , THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) acts on brain cell receptors that ordinarily react to natural THC-like chemicals in the brain. This results in a variety of sensory, physical, psychological, cognitive and neurobiological effects (NIDA 2013). Certain strains of marijuana can increase heart rate and cause a person to feel tense, overly-agitated and annoyed. This particular side effect of the drug only increases the chances of a person with an addictive personality to use the drug again (NCPIC 2014).

There are various reasons why a person might feel compelled to try drugs such as marijuana. Many teens start experimenting with drugs and alcohol because of problems they face at home. Sometimes peer pressure is a factor. There are also those who have suffered in other ways; comorbid mental illness and learning disabilities are common among those who have addictive personalities.

Co-occurring disorders

Studies show that cannabis use by age 18 has been associated with some schizophrenia outcomes in adulthood and that cannabis use most likely precedes schizophrenia. (Arseneault; Cannon; Witton; Murray 2004) Whatever the reason for trying marijuana, very often marijuana users won’t provide the help they need, even when they know they have a problem.

Addiction to marijuana

Trending conversations on the topic of addiction to marijuana debate whether the drug is addictive or not. Most people who are regular marijuana users report that they started using the drug at an early age, which is also evident in its addictive qualities. Any drug that has long-term users is most likely considered addictive. Social acceptance of the drug along with stigma related to getting help is usually what keeps people from stopping.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, the diagnostic criteria for cannabis use disorder includes the following:

  • Use of cannabis in larger amounts than intended
  • Use of cannabis for longer periods of time than one had intended
  • Persistent desire, unsuccessful efforts to cut down
  • Craving, strong desire to use
  • Failure to fulfill major roles at school or home
  • Continued use despite having persistent or recurring problems caused by the effects of cannabis
  • Important social, occupational or recreational activities given up because of cannabis use
  • Recurrent use in situations that cause physical harm, despite the harm caused
  • Use despite knowledge of having a persistent, recurrent, physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused by cannabis


Marijuana is a depressant so using it can result in a person experiencing depressive-like states during or after partaking in the drug. It can also increase anxiety and tension for people who may or may not already have anxiety disorders. Extreme paranoia, confusion and an inability to function cognitively are among some of the more typical symptoms of the drug. Other symptoms of marijuana use includes:

  • Impaired judgment
  • Altered sense of time
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired memory


Studies show that adults seeking treatment for marijuana abuse or dependence average more than 10 years of near-daily use and more than six serious attempts at quitting (Budney 2006; Copeland 2001; Stephens 2002) Despite social, psychological, financial and cognitive impairments, the drug is continued to be used among many people dependent on it. Research suggests that the average age of people entering treatment for marijuana use is 25.

Psychotherapeutic and pharmacological treatment will benefit a person addicted to marijuana. Addressing underlying issues, possibly stemming from childhood abuse, neglect or abandonment will be essential in the recovery process. Identifying triggers such as negative thoughts, worldviews and times of day that a person is enticed will prove as an effective way to prevent the temptations to use. Some people may need pharmacological treatment to assist in the physical, emotional and mental withdrawal symptoms of heavy, long-term use.

If you or a loved one would like more information on obtaining treatment for a dependency or addiction to marijuana, you can call the Addiction Helpline at 855-441-4405.

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