Marijuana Use Disorder: Signs and Treatment Options

Marijuana use is steadily increasing across the United States, due in part to its legalization in many states for both recreational and medicinal purposes. With use rates mounting it’s important to understand marijuana’s effects and risks. This article will discuss marijuana, the signs and symptoms of use, the side effects, risks of marijuana use, and how to get help.
Did you know most health insurance plans cover addiction treatment?
What Is Marijuana (Cannabis)?

What Is Marijuana (Cannabis)?

Marijuana is the common name for the cannabis sativa or cannabis indica plant, whose leaves, flowers, and stems are harvested and ingested for their mind-altering effects.1 The plants contain a chemical called THC that when either smoked or ingested in different forms results in a “high.”1 Some common names for marijuana include:2

  • Weed.
  • Pot.
  • Grass.
  • Dope.
  • Bud.

Marijuana is the third most commonly used addictive drug in the U.S., after tobacco and alcohol.1

Different Forms of Marijuana

What Are the Different Forms of Weed?

The most common way to use marijuana is to smoke the flower or bud and leaves via rolled cigarettes (joint or spliff), pipes, larger water pipes (bongs), in hallowed out cigars that are stuffed with marijuana (blunts), and inhaling the vapor from a vaporizer.2 Other products containing marijuana include:1

  • Edibles: Foods that are mixed with marijuana, such as cookies, candies, and teas. 1
  • THC extract: Potent extracts from marijuana resin that are cooked into food or smoked.1
  • Hash oil/honey oil: This is a thick liquid substance that is a THC extract.1
  • Wax/budder: This is also a THC extract that takes on a soft, solid form (like lip balm).
  • Shatter: This is another THC extract that is a hard, orange-colored solid rock-like substance.

What Is the Difference Between CBD and THC?

Many people wonder what difference between THC vs CBD is. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is an active ingredient in marijuana that does not cause a “high” by itself.3 The U.S. federal government legalized CBD extracted from hemp in 2018.3 When extracted from the plant or made in a lab, CBD can be infused into many products, like lotions, balms, and candies, for a medicinal purpose without mind-altering effects.

Laced Marijuana

Marijuana may be laced (either intentionally or unintentionally) with crack cocaine, phencyclidine (PCP), heroin, methamphetamine, and ketamine.4,5 Smoking weed purposefully laced with formaldehyde or PCP is called “smoking wet,” which can cause lung injuries.6 Some plant growers will use pesticides or other chemicals to treat marijuana plants or the soil they’re grown in.7

Synthetic Marijuana Dangers

Synthetic cannabinoids – also known as Spice or K2 and a wide variety of other names8 —  are lab-produced chemicals that are similar to the THC in marijuana.8 While some people mistakenly believe that synthetic marijuana is safer to use, it can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening.8 Some of the side effects of synthetic marijuana include:8

  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Vomiting.
  • Agitation and aggression.
  • Confusion.
  • Hallucinations.

In some cases, side effects can be severe enough to warrant emergency medical treatment.8

Effects of Marijuana Use

Short-Term Effects of Marijuana Use

According to The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), the short-term effects of marijuana use include: 1

  • Changes in mood.
  • Impaired body movement.
  • Impaired memory.
  • Thinking and problem-solving difficulties.
  • Altered senses.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis, when taken in high doses.

Long-Term Effects of Marijuana Use

Brain development is affected when people use marijuana as teenagers, and studies suggest the drug may impair thinking, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions. It is not yet known if these how long these impairments can last, and it’s possible changes may be permanent.1

Those using marijuana more frequently over a long period of time may experience more lasting effects, such as:1

  • Hyperemesis syndrome, which involves cyclical, uncontrollable nausea and vomiting, which can lead to severe dehydration.
  • Breathing problems and lung irritation.
  • Temporary hallucinations.
  • Temporary paranoia.
  • Worsening symptoms in people with schizophrenia.

Additonally, studies have found that marijuana use among women while pregnant can lead to: 1,9

  • Preterm birth and a greater risk of stillbirth.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Fetal growth restriction (e.g., the baby doesn’t gain enough weight before birth).
  • Long-term cognitive issues for the baby, including impaired memory, learning, and behavior.

Marijuana can affect other areas of a person’s life as well. When comparing people who don’t use marijuana, those who frequently use large amounts of marijuana report:1

  • Lower life satisfaction.
  • Poorer mental health.
  • Poorer physical health.
  • More relationship problems.
Marijuana Addiction

Is Marijuana Addictive?

a man showing signs of drug relapse

Marijuana use can lead to dependence and, eventually, addiction. According to NIDA, between 9% and 30% of people who use marijuana will develop a degree of cannabis use disorder.1 The risk of developing a disorder increases if people start to use marijuana at a younger age.1A person’s risk for developing marijuana use disorder also increases when the concentration of THC in the products they use is higher, such as in an extract.1

Cannabis Use Disorder Signs

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed) (DSM-5) outlines the criteria that healthcare professionals use when assessing an individual for cannabis use disorder. These include:10

  • Cannabis is taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  • There is a desire or effort to cut back or control cannabis use, but the individual has been unsuccessful.
  • A great deal of time is spent trying to obtain or use cannabis or recover from its effects.
  • A strong desire or urge to use marijuana (cravings).
  • Using cannabis results in a failure to fulfill important roles at work, school, or home.
  • Persistent or recurrent social or relational problems as a result of using cannabis and its continued use.
  • Giving up important or meaningful activities or interests because of marijuana use.
  • Using marijuana repeatedly in situations in which using is physically hazardous or risky, such as while driving a car.
  • Continuing to use despite knowing that use has caused a significant physical or psychological problem.
  • Tolerance, defined as a need for more marijuana in order to achieve the desired effect or a diminished “high” with continued use of the same amount.
  • Withdrawal, defined as either experiencing clinical withdrawal symptoms or continuing to use marijuana or other drugs in order to relieve or avoid symptoms of withdrawal.

The symptoms of cannabis withdrawal, as listed in the DSM-5, are:10

  • Irritability, anger, or aggression.
  • Nervousness or anxiety.
  • Sleep difficulties such as insomnia or disturbing dreams.
  • Decreased appetite or significant weight loss.
  • Restlessness.
  • Depressed mood.
  • At least one of the following causing significant discomfort: abdominal pain, shaking or tremors, sweating, fever, chills, or headache.
Finding Help for Cannabis Use Disorder

Finding Help for a Cannabis Use Disorder

If you or someone you love is struggling with controlling marijuana use, there is effective help that can get you on the road to recovery. At our Orange County rehab we offer addiction-focused evidence-based care to help individuals struggling with addiction to marijuana.

To learn more about our levels of addiction treatment contact our knowledgeable and caring admissions navigators at phone. They are on hand 24/7 to answer your questions about our facility, what to expect in inpatient treatment, and how to start rehab admissions. They can also give you information about options for paying for rehab – including using insurance to cover rehab.

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