What is Marijuana?
The drug marijuana is a dried mixture of the stems, seeds, and flowers found in the cannabis sativa plant. Its psychoactive ingredient, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, acts on the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, slowing down communication between cells and triggering the brain’s reward system, creating a sense of relaxation and euphoria.
Though marijuana’s reputation in the world of drugs is as a fairly benign one, with 18 states now having legalized its use and 13 others having decriminalized it, marijuana abuse can in fact have a variety of physical and psychological risks, including a risk of addiction.
30 percent of regular marijuana users report having a problematic relationship with it, and ceasing regular use of marijuana can in fact result in physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. To learn more about marijuana addiction and how to recognize if you or anyone else in your life may be experiencing it, then stay informed by reading about the five signs below.
1. Exhibiting These Signs of Intoxication
Someone who has been using marijuana might appear unusually relaxed, giggly, or mildly euphoric. However, less pleasant symptoms like lower cognitive ability, decreased memory, impaired coordination, lack of motivation, difficulty with thinking and problem solving, slow speech, lethargy, impaired judgement, impaired balance and impaired motor skills can also be observed. This impaired judgement and thinking in turn may result in lowered inhibitions and uncharacteristic recklessness, like someone deciding to drive while intoxicated or engaging in risky sex.
Marijuana is also often associated with increased appetite, otherwise known as “the munchies,” which you may observe in someone due to the resulting change in their eating habits. However, depending on the strain, some people may experience a decreased appetite while under the influence of marijuana instead. Similarly, while some people report being unusually sleepy while under the influence of marijuana, others may instead exhibit insomnia.
However, marijuana has also been known to cause anxiety, which in the extreme could result in paranoia or panic attacks. It is also a mild hallucinogen, which could lead to symptoms like impaired time perception, heightened sensory perceptions, or a feeling of surreality. But, especially given the rising potency of pot, for some people who use marijuana these hallucinogenic symptoms can escalate into full-blown hallucinations, delusions, or psychosis.
2. Exhibiting These Physical Effects
The most distinct physical effect of marijuana use might be bloodshot eyes, which is actually not due to the act of smoking itself but to the lower blood pressure associated with marijuana use. This causes one’s blood vessels to dilate, which in turn increases blood flow to the eyes. Marijuana use has also been associated with dizziness and dry mouth, which you might observe if you notice someone drinking more liquids than usual.
Since smoking marijuana serves as an irritant to the lungs, you also may notice increased coughing, increased phlegm production, and more frequent respiratory illnesses in regular users. Frequent marijuana users have also been shown to have lowered immunity to infection overall.
Marijuana also elevates heart rate, which means it can also elevate one’s risk of heart attack, especially for older adults or anyone with cardiac vulnerabilities. Marijuana that has been cut with another more dangerous drug can also lead to other serious symptoms like chest pain, irregular heart beat, or stroke or seizures.
Finally, a frequent marijuana user may also exhibit weight gain if they’ve been giving in to “the munchies” on a regular basis, and, in rare cases, frequent cannabis use can also result in cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which is characterized by severe nausea and vomiting that only abates once one ceases their marijuana use.
3. Exhibiting These Signs of Psychological Dependence
Someone who is addicted to marijuana may display a loss of control over their use of the substance, smoking more often than they would wish to or to the exclusion of their other obligations. This, in turn, can have detrimental effects on their school or work performance, or on their interpersonal relationships. They may become secretive or defensive, downplaying the dangers and negative effects of their continual drug use.
They may be inordinately concerned with always having weed on hand, or, in extreme cases, actually resort to stealing to be able to afford it, and appear unusually irritable or anxious when not high. They may also display tolerance to the drug, needing more and more marijuana to get high or to feel “normal” and gradually increasing their use. They may isolate and withdraw socially to protect their habit, or only spend time with fellow marijuana users.
There’s also some evidence that long-term marijuana use can result in problems with learning, memory, and concentration even during a frequent user’s sober periods, as well as that marijuana may predispose vulnerable individuals to other psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and depression.
4. Possession of this Paraphernalia
Marijuana, which is green in color, can be smoked from a hollowed out cigar called a blunt, or rolled in papers to form a joint. It can also be smoked from pipes, including from a large water pipe called a bong. You might find some of this paraphernalia if someone you love is abusing marijuana, or less obvious associated objects like lighters or matches, a roach clip, which smokers use to hold onto the end of a joint without burning themselves, or a grinder, used to grind large pieces of marijuana down so that they can be more easily smoked.
Marijuana can also be brewed into tea or baked into food, which may have a visible greenish tint or a noticeable smell. This distinctive skunk-like or sweet-and-sour smell could be a big tip off to other forms of marijuana as well, or you might smell excessive amounts of air freshener or other fragrances the user is employing in an effort to cover this marijuana smell up. Similarly, a regular marijuana user may have something like Visine on hand to help disguise the red eyes that come with their marijuana use.
While smoked marijuana will take effect quickly, which means you should be on the lookout for a sudden mood change, edibles take a bit longer to kick in but in turn can last longer, for up to eight hours. Marijuana also goes by many slang terms, so hearing someone talk about weed, pot, grass, tree, bud, herb, ganja, mary jane, kush, or mota might indicate a regular user.
5. Experiencing These Withdrawal Symptoms When Trying To Curb Use
While marijuana withdrawal is not generally physically dangerous, it can come with some highly unpleasant symptoms like boredom, irritability, insomnia, cravings, depression, restlessness, changes in sleep patterns, changes in eating patterns, and anxiety. While most of these symptoms will dissipate within one or two weeks, sleep difficulties may last for up to a month, and a post-acute withdrawal syndrome in which symptoms can last for as long as two years has also been reported.
Professional help may be necessary for someone who is struggling with marijuana addiction to be able to overcome these unpleasant symptoms and to learn healthier coping mechanisms so that they need not resort to excessive drug use. If you or a loved one are currently suffering from addiction to marijuana or any other substance, call our team at (833) 489-5577 to learn more about how you can get help.