Drug Use

What is Marijuana?

Marijuana, also known as pot, weed, ganja, grass, Cannabis, 420, etc., is a drug derived from the buds of hemp plants, Cannabis Sativa or Cannabis Indica. The active ingredient in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is responsible for marijuana’s hallucinogenic effects. Another drug, hashish, comes from another part of the Cannabis plant, the sap or resinous part of the hemp plant leaves. Hash or hashish has a higher composition of psychoactive chemicals than ganja.

Marijuana is inhaled through pipes, water pipes (bongs), wraps, cigarettes, blunts (cigars with tobacco removed, then stuffed with marijuana), etc. Vaping is another way to use the drug. Often the drug is mixed with other substances. Creams, edibles, and transdermal patches are also used. Marijuana is an old drug and has been used for ceremonial purposes, medical use, and most frequently, for recreational use.

After alcohol and nicotine, marijuana is the most commonly used drug. Marijuana use is widespread among young adults. Marijuana can be both physically and psychologically impactful on a person’s life. As marijuana becomes legal for medical use in more and more states, there are concerns about increasing rates of drug use. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), one in ten people who use marijuana will become dependent. When drug use begins before the age of 18 years, that rate increases to one in six.

It’s important to understand that marijuana isn’t exactly what it used to be. Marijuana has become much more potent. The amount of THC in pot has increased by more than 150% since 1983. Sometimes unbeknownst to the user, marijuana can be laced with heroin, fentanyl, and other opioids; cocaine; insecticides; and embalming fluid. About 400 harmful chemicals, many of which are carcinogenic, are commonly found in marijuana too.

CBD (cannabidiol), is an extract from the Cannabis Sativa and is used to treat pain from arthritis, cancer, and other conditions. It is said to be an effective painkiller but is not legal in all states with the exception of Epidiolex, an FDA-approved drug used only to treat epilepsy. This form of CBD is a refined oil.

Note that some CBD low in THC content has been federally approved. These are hemp-based oils. However, Marijuana-derived products and medical marijuana are still legal in many states. Note that not all states are legally aligned with federal marijuana regulations.

How Does Marijuana Affect The Body?

Marijuana can be smoked or consumed orally through drinks or food. With marijuana smoke, the effects are almost immediate. With marijuana edibles such as beverages or food, the effects take about 30 minutes to an hour to be felt.

THC, the active chemical in marijuana, 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). These brain receptors normally respond to naturally occurring THC-like chemicals which are important in brain development and function.

Once consumed, marijuana causes overactivity on these brain receptors which produce the ‘high’ effects. When teens and young adults use marijuana these areas of the brain and their development can be adversely impacted. Research continues today to better understand these changes and if they are permanent.

Some research indicates that chronic marijuana use is linked to mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. In addition, 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. Clearly, marijuana smoke is bad for you.

Side Effects of Marijuana

Marijuana is typically consumed for the relaxing and hallucinogenic effects it produces. However, the additives in this commonly-used drug can vary greatly and impact the effects experienced. In general, there are some short- and long-term effects people who consume marijuana experience.

Short-term effects of marijuana use can include

  • Enhanced sensory perception
  • Feeling of euphoria
  • Feeling of relaxation followed by sleepiness
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Problems with coordination and balance
  • Problems with memory
  • Problems with focus and attention
  • Problems with learning
  • Skewed sensory and time perception
  • Difficulty thinking and solving problems
  • Shortened attention span and distractibility
  • Decreased alertness
  • Altered sense of time
  • Altered sensory perceptions
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased appetite

Long-term effects of marijuana use can include

  • Increase in or onset of mental health problems
  • Chronic cough
  • Ongoing or frequent respiratory issues
  • Increased risk of lung problems
  • Increased heart rate
  • Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome (intense nausea and vomiting)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts (particularly in young people)
  • Decrease in IQ

It’s important to note that vaping marijuana is becoming more and more common today, especially among adolescents. While it cannot be directly connected at this time, the Food and Drug Administration has alerted public health groups to reports of serious and life-threatening lung issues from vaping. Death has even been reported. While to date no one ingredient can be linked, the FDA is warning people not to purchase vaping products from the street and be cautious with any vaping use.

Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Use

Marijuana dependence is also called cannabis use disorder. This substance use disorder is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-V). Signs of marijuana dependence are similar to signs of dependence to other drugs.

Physical Symptoms Associated with Marijuana Use

  • Having strong urges or cravings for the drug
  • Developing a tolerance and needing more to get the same ‘high’
  • Drug uses increases to high doses in amount consumed
  • Drug use occurs over longer periods of time
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using
  • Becoming lethargic and unmotivated

Behavioral Symptoms Associated with Marijuana Use

  • Spending a lot of time using, getting, or recovering from drug use
  • Putting yourself in risky situations to get it or when using
  • Stopping participating in hobbies or activities formerly enjoyed
  • Continuing to use the drug despite negative consequences in work, school, relationships
  • Breaking the law to use or get it
  • Spending money meant for other things on the drug
  • Neglecting responsibilities because of using or being ‘too high’
  • Wanting to cut back or stop use and being unable to do so
  • Spending a lot of time thinking about using and getting marijuana

As with most drugs, being unable to stop or cut down on use despite wanting to or trying is a strong indication that dependence has developed. As marijuana becomes more accepted in society and legal in numerous states, many people mistakenly believe that it is a safe drug and dependence is not possible. This is not accurate.

Dependence on marijuana is not only real but can detrimentally impact both the mental and physical health of those who use it chronically. This is especially true for teens and young adults whose brains are still developing. Overusing marijuana during this critical brain development stage can have adverse and permanent effects.

Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms and Signs

Withdrawal from marijuana is most typically experienced by individuals or those who use marijuana frequently and have for a period of months or more. These withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as the individual comes down from the last ‘high’ or about a week or so after the last use. Generally, withdrawal symptoms peak at about 10 days from the last use (or beginning of withdrawal) and decline after that. Usually, withdrawal lasts anywhere from two to four or more weeks.

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Sleep issues including insomnia and nightmares
  • Weight loss
  • Appetite changes
  • Cravings
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain

Behavioral Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Aggressiveness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

While withdrawal and detoxing from marijuana aren’t considered to be medically dangerous, it’s important to understand that there can be complications based on factors unique to each person. These include the presence of other mental health and physical health conditions as well as the use of other substances. Often, when people are detoxing from any type of drug the onset of severe depression is an area of concern. For this reason, it’s vital to seek professional advice for stopping the use of marijuana. Treatment programs are available that effectively treat cannabis use disorder.

Treatment for Marijuana Dependence

Treatment for marijuana addiction is highly effective. Various options include cognitive-behavioral therapy, counseling, motivational enhancement therapy, medications to treat withdrawal, and motivational incentives.

The first step in creating an effective treatment plan for cannabis use disorder is to make a thorough assessment of the individual and any co-occurring disorders such as depression. In addition, there are often cross-addictions when it comes to marijuana addiction. For example, someone who are dependent on marijuana may also have a problem with alcohol dependence. Research shows that treating all dependence or mental health disorders at the same time is the most effective treatment approach.

For some patients, a closely monitored outpatient marijuana dependence treatment program (perhaps combined with a support group) is sufficient. For others, especially those with comorbid disorders or other dependence, an inpatient or residential treatment program is more successful. Drug rehabs for marijuana use should offer safe, medically-assisted detox, behavioral therapy, counseling, family counseling, aftercare plans, and when possible, pharmacotherapy. Caron offers programs to treat marijuana dependence in teens, young adults, and adults. At Caron, we believe recovery isn’t just possible—it’s probable. Contact Caron today to learn more about our comprehensive dependence treatment programs and how we can help you or your loved one. Call 1-800-854-6023.


What is weed?

Weed, another word for marijuana, is a potent hallucinogenic drug that occurs naturally in Cannabis sativa hemp. The plant is dried and most commonly smoked from a cigarette, pipe, or bong. It can also be vaped or eaten. The active chemical ingredient in weed is tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.

What is pot?

Pot, another word for marijuana, is a drug made from the dried Cannabis sativa hemp plant. Its active ingredient is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which may produce hallucinogenic effects. Marijuana may be smoked in a cigarette, pipe, or bong, or eaten.

What happens when you stop smoking weed?

When someone stops smoking weed after a period of prolonged and regular use, they will likely have both physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms that usually appear within one week of quitting. Emotional withdrawal symptoms may include depression, anxiety, or anger. Physical symptoms could include tremors, sweats, fevers, chills, and headaches. Sleep disturbances are also common.

Is weed a drug?

Yes, weed is a drug. It is physically and psychologically addictive. The active chemical in weed is TCH or tetrahydrocannabinol.

What percent of teens smoke weed?

According to the National Report of Drug Abuse, 1 in 7 or 15% of teenagers use marijuana, and, according to The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, as many as 1 in 10 smoke weed 20 times or more a month.

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