What is marijuana?
Marijuana—also known as pot, ganja, weed, grass, dope and 420—is an addictive drug made from dried cannabis sativa hemp plant. The active chemical in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for marijuana’s hallucinogenic effects. THC moves quickly through the bloodstream to act on cannabinoid receptors in areas of the brain that control memory (the hippocampus), concentration (cerebral cortex), perception (sensory portions of the cerebral cortex) and movement (the cerebellum, substantia nigra, globus pallidus).
Is marijuana addictive?
Long-term marijuana abuse can lead to physical and psychological marijuana addiction. Heavy, long-term marijuana users develop physical dependence on the drug and withdrawal symptoms upon quitting. Marijuana withdrawal symptoms typically include irritability, sleeplessness, anxiety, impaired appetite and aggression.
Signs of marijuana use.
The short term signs of marijuana use include:
- impaired coordination
- skewed sensory and time perception
- difficulty thinking, concentrating, and solving problems
- shortened attention span and distractibility
- decreased alertness
- impaired learning and memory
Additionally, marijuana can cause disturbed thoughts and worsen psychotic symptoms in schizophrenics.
Effects of weed.
Long-term marijuana abuse often results in lowered motivation and an impaired ability to function in daily life. Some users experience anxiety, panic attacks, respiratory illnesses and increased heart rate and risk of heart attack. Though research is not definitive, chronic marijuana abuse has been linked to mental illness such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.
Marijuana use also poses a major threat to lung health. Marijuana smokers, especially those who began as teenagers, can have the same respiratory problems as tobacco smokers. In fact, marijuana puts smokers at comparatively higher risk for lung health complications due to the fact that it has four times the tar, three to five times more carbon monoxide and over 50% more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than cigarettes. Just three or four joints cause as much lung damage as 20 cigarettes.
The dangers of marijuana use.
Over the years, marijuana has become much more potent. The amount of THC in pot has increased more than 150% since 1983. Sometimes unbeknownst to the user, marijuana can be laced with heroin, cocaine, insecticides and embalming fluid. About 400 harmful chemicals, many of which are carcinogenic, are commonly found in marijuana as well. Lastly, high doses of marijuana can produce an acute psychotic reaction in some individuals.
Marijuana addiction treatment.
Treatment for marijuana addiction is highly effective. Various options, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, addiction counseling, drug rehab, medication to treat withdrawal and motivational incentives are available.
The stages of effective marijuana addiction treatment.
Step 1: Develop a treatment plan.
The first step in marijuana addiction treatment is to develop an individualized treatment plan based on the patient’s distinctive needs. This plan should address their mental, physical and social needs as well as any multiple addictions or comorbidities.
Step 2: Supervised detox, if necessary.
Depending on the severity of the marijuana addiction, medically supervised detox may or may not be a necessary precursor to treatment. While withdrawal from marijuana is often not as difficult as withdrawal from other drugs and alcohol, some patients may still be at risk for complications and should be closely monitored by medical professionals. Occasionally, antidepressants can be used to stabilize mood changes associated with the early stages of quitting and treatment.
Step 3: Behavioral Therapy
Once the patient has successfully completed detox, a variety of behavioral therapies and reinforcements are available. These include:
- cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps the patient identify and cope with triggers
- community reinforcement, therapy which discourages stimuli associated with marijuana addiction and encourages stimuli associated with abstinence
- contingency management, which rewards patients for positive behavior
- marijuana addiction support groups
Choosing the right marijuana addiction treatment.
For some patients, a closely monitored outpatient marijuana addiction treatment program (perhaps combined with a support group) is sufficient. For others, especially those with comorbid disorders or other addictions, an inpatient or residential treatment program is more successful. These drug rehab programs offer safe, medically assisted detox, behavioral therapy, addiction counseling, family counseling, aftercare plans and, when possible, pharmacotherapy—all within a professional, therapeutic atmosphere.