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Marijuana Addiction

What Is Marijuana Use Disorder?

Marijuana use disorder is common in the United States, is often associated with other substance use disorders, behavioral problems, and disability, and goes largely untreated, according to a new study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health. [1]

Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. Marijuana is a psychoactive drug that contains close to 500 chemicals, including THC, a mind-altering compound that causes harmful health effects.

Marijuana use disorder can have negative and long-term effects:

  • Brain health: Marijuana can cause permanent IQ loss of as much as 8 points when people start using it at a young age. These IQ points do not come back, even after quitting marijuana.
  • Mental health: Studies link marijuana use to depression, anxiety, suicide planning, and psychotic episodes. It is not known, however, if marijuana use is the cause of these conditions.
  • Athletic Performance: Research shows that marijuana affects timing, movement, and coordination, which can harm athletic performance.
  • Driving: People who drive under the influence of marijuana can experience dangerous effects: slower reactions, lane weaving, decreased coordination, and difficulty reacting to signals and sounds on the road.
  • Daily life: Using marijuana can affect performance and how well people do in life. Research shows that people who use marijuana are more likely to have relationship problems, worse educational outcomes, lower career achievement, and reduced life satisfaction.
  • Baby’s health and development: Marijuana use during pregnancy may cause fetal growth restriction, premature birth, stillbirth, and problems with brain development, resulting in hyperactivity and poor cognitive function. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other chemicals from marijuana can also be passed from a mother to her baby through breast milk, further impacting a child’s healthy development. [2]
Marijuana Use Disorder
Marijuana use disorder can lead to harmful consequences for individuals and society.
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How Is Marijuana Used?

People smoke marijuana in hand-rolled cigarettes, in pipes or water pipes, in blunts, and by using vaporizers that pull THC from the marijuana. Marijuana can also be mixed in food (edibles), such as brownies, cookies, and candy, or brewed as tea. People also smoke or eat different forms of marijuana extracts, which deliver a large amount of THC and can be potentially more dangerous.

Vaping Marijuana & Nicotine

Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol or vapor made from a liquid or dry material that is heated in an electronic powered device, called an electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette. Marijuana concentrates are increasingly being used in vaping devices. Many users prefer the vaping device because it is smokeless, sometimes odorless, and is easy to hide or conceal. The user takes a small amount of marijuana concentrate, referred to as a “dab,” then heats the substance using the vaping device to produce vapors that ensure an instant “high” effect for the user (“dabbing”). Marijuana concentrates can also be used by infusing them in various food or drink products, creating marijuana edibles.

Being a highly concentrated form of marijuana, the effects upon the user may be more psychologically and physically intense than plant marijuana use. To date, long-term effects of marijuana concentrate use are not yet fully known, although the effects of plant marijuana use are. These effects include paranoia, anxiety, panic attacks, and hallucinations. Additionally, the use of plant marijuana increases one’s heart rate and blood pressure. Plant marijuana users may also experience withdrawal and addiction problems. [3]

Marijuana Use Disorder
People with marijuana use disorder, particularly those with severe forms of the disorder, experience considerable mental disability.

Is Any Amount Of Marijuana OK?

Cannabis use can cause intoxication, withdrawal, and biopsychosocial issues. Cannabis is considered by the Food and Drug Administration as a schedule 1 drug. Other examples of schedule 1 drugs include heroin and peyote. It has no accepted medical purpose at the federal level and has a high potential for abuse. Some authorities disagree with the designation as a schedule 1 drug and believe the drug should be scheduled as a less risky one.

Commonly prescribed drugs like opiates and stimulants are Schedule II drugs, meaning they have a high risk of abuse but are medically useful. Benzodiazepines are Schedule IV substances, meaning they have a low potential for abuse and drug dependence. Despite federal regulations in the latter half of the 20th century, marijuana is still one the most commonly used drug in the United States. The most common users are teenagers and adolescents, and usage tends to decline as these groups age into adulthood due to careers, marriage, cohabitation, and parenthood.

Nevertheless, cannabis use has increased with the state-directed legislature turning the tide against federal regulation. State legalization of marijuana has increased cultivation demand, selective breeding for more potent strains, and competition in the marijuana dispensary industry. Expanding the use and legislation for the legalization of marijuana are propagated by potential health benefits and the absence of health concerns that are not well substantiated.

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Marijuana Use Disorder Symptoms

The following are signs of marijuana use disorder [4]:

  • Using more marijuana than intended
  • Trying but failing to quit using marijuana
  • Spending a lot of time using marijuana
  • Craving marijuana
  • Using marijuana even though it causes problems at home, school, or work
  • Continuing to use marijuana despite social or relationship problems
  • Giving up important activities with friends and family in favor of using marijuana
  • Using marijuana in high-risk situations, such as while driving a car
  • Continuing to use marijuana despite physical or psychological problems
  • Needing to use more marijuana to get the same high
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping marijuana use

People who have marijuana use disorder may also be at a higher risk of other negative consequences, such as problems with attention, memory, and learning.

Causes Of Cannabis Use Disorder

Approximately 1 in 10 people who use marijuana will become addicted. When they start before age 18, the rate of addiction rises to 1 in 6. Some people who have marijuana use disorder may need to use more and more marijuana or greater concentrations of marijuana over time to experience a “high.” The greater the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in marijuana (in other words, the concentration or strength), the stronger the effects the marijuana may have on the brain. The amount of THC in marijuana has increased over the past few decades.

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Diagnosis Of Cannabis Use Disorder

Laboratory testing of urine, blood, saliva, or hair can be useful to detect cannabis use, but results should be considered along with a clinical rationale.  A positive result can indicate usage but not necessarily a substance use disorder or intoxication, and a negative result does not rule it out. It is possible to quantify tolerance by comparing the reported intake of cannabis to blood levels. Heavy or chronic cannabis smokers will take longer to clear THC compared to sporadic or one-time users. Other tests to rule out additional conditions may be of benefit. These include head imaging or laboratory testing of heavy metals, infection and immunological markers, electrolyte disturbances, or hormones. [5]

The aim of addiction treatment should be to improve the individual’s overall function, which is multiphasic and multifactorial. Supportive treatment may be provided during detoxification; enabling access to psychiatric services allows addressing underlying disorders; psychological counseling can modify behavior, develop healthier coping skills in the face of stressors, and enlighten them regarding their temperament.

As cannabis strains become more potent and accessible, the risk will increase for the frequency and severity of serious adverse reactions. For individuals with marked intoxication or withdrawal or cannabis use disorder, the goal should be to stop the drug altogether. As opposed to abrupt cessation, a gradual decrease is likely to decrease the discomfort of the withdrawal and for relapse prevention. Supportive management such as a calm, non-stimulating environment helps patients.

Marijuana Use Disorder
People with marijuana use disorder are vulnerable to other mental health disorders.

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Marijuana Use Disorder Treatment

Clearing drugs from the body and overcoming withdrawal symptoms is the goal of medical detox, which is the first step of treatment for marijuana use disorder. You need to detox to obtain recovery in a safe and medically supervised setting.  We Level Up treatment center medically assist clients in clearing their systems of addictive substances.

For anyone who suffers from marijuana addiction, just the thought of having to stop using can cause severe mental distress.  But, with the help of a medical detox center, the medical detox process is managed.  In addition, a comprehensive team prescribing medications can alleviate your withdrawal pains while monitoring your health 24 hours.  Thus, assuring both your safety and comfort.

After the detox, We Level Up’s residential care program will slowly and effectively introduce the individual into an atmosphere of therapeutic growth.  Marked by Master’s level therapists, clinicians, group counselors, psychiatrists, and a community of like-minded individuals with the same aim: to attain sobriety and live a great life.

If you or a loved one is struggling with marijuana use disorder, you may reach out to We Level Up addiction rehab centers.

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