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Marijuana Addiction: Signs and Effects of Marijuana Abuse

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A man smoking a joint

Marijuana Overview

Although some states have legalized marijuana use, the drug can still be dangerous and have long-lasting effects on the body. Marijuana abuse can be a real problem and knowing what to look for can be vital in finding a person’s help for an addiction.

Although marijuana is a naturally derived substance, the active chemical, THC, can cause mind-altering or psychoactive reactions. Marijuana use disorders such as addiction rely on dependence, where a user feels withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug.

When someone is using marijuana frequently, they can often report signs of irritability, mood changes, sleep difficulty, decreased appetite, cravings, restlessness, and physical discomfort. The addiction becomes pertinent when the person cannot stop using the drug, even when it interferes with their life.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

When someone is dependent on using marijuana regularly, usually daily, they usually lose interest in things that they used to enjoy. There can be physical or emotional changes that happen to a person who is addicted to marijuana.

A person might be under the influence of marijuana if they have:

  • Distorted perceptions
  • Impaired coordination
  • Ongoing problems with learning and memory
  • Difficulty thinking or problem solving
  • Red, blurry, or bloodshot eyes
  • Hunger or “munchies”
  • Constant, mucus-filled cough
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety, paranoia or fear
  • Poor memory
  • Slow reaction time

A person might be abusing marijuana if they show:

  • Anxiety that does not go away or actually gets worse from smoking marijuana
  • Depression or a depressed state
  • Social intolerance or a lack of desire to be social
  • Schizophrenia or paranoia
  • Acute psychotic reaction

Marijuana Paraphernalia

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the world. In 2007, a study found that 14.4 million individuals in the United States alone had smoked marijuana at least once in the previous month.

Marijuana is usually smoked as a cigarette or joint, but can also be smoked in a pipe or in a bong. It can also be mixed in with food, eaten, or brewed as tea. Users sometimes open up cigars and remove the tobacco, replacing it with marijuana, which is called a “blunt.”

Paraphernalia could include:

  • Pipes
  • Bongs (water pipe)
  • Shredded leafy debris
  • Cigarette or cigar rolling papers
  • Very small bottles of oil
  • Small metal clips
  • Eyedroppers

Edible Marijuana could include:

  • Cookies
  • Brownies
  • Drinks
  • Candy bars
  • Hard candies

A person might be using Marijuana regularly if they have:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Fast heart rate
  • Sleepy or lethargic
  • Lack of coordination
  • Increased cravings for food or snacks
  • Confusion or lack of focus
  • Unusually talkative
  • Dropping studies or regular activities
  • Misjudging time
  • Secretiveness

What Happens to the Body from Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana usage can have short-term and long-term side effects with some being more harmful than others are. If someone is addicted to marijuana, there could be even more long-term side effects from the drug usage.

Short-term effects of marijuana can include:

  • Sensory distortion
  • Panic
  • Anxiety
  • Poor coordination of movement
  • Slow reaction time
  • An initial “up,” then feeling sleepy or depressed
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Paranoia

Long-term effects of marijuana can include:

  • Reduced resistance to common illnesses
  • Immune system suppression
  • Growth disorders
  • Increase of abnormally structured cells in the body
  • Reduced sexual capacity
  • Destruction of lung fibers
  • Lesions to the brain that could be permanent
  • Difficulty studying, learning, or retaining information
  • Apathy, drowsiness, and lack of motivation
  • Personality and mood changes
  • Inability to understand things

Although many of the public believe that marijuana is a harmless drug, when used over time and regularly, it can lead to severe damage to the body.

Understanding a Marijuana Addiction

A person whose life is controlled by marijuana loses interest in many things they used to enjoy. Their life is completely controlled by marijuana usage. Marijuana addiction is a progressive illness that can often time lead to the usage or addiction of other drugs, including alcohol. A marijuana addict’s life is centered around marijuana including buying it, dealing it, and finding ways to stay high.

If someone tries to stop using marijuana and fails because life without marijuana is too hard, that is considered an addiction. The dependency can become an obsession where using marijuana is the only thing the user is concerned about.

Many marijuana addicts believe that their use of marijuana is okay because there are worse drugs to be addicted to and people whose lives are worse off than theirs. This type of addiction is a physical, mental, and spiritual disease including compulsion, obsession, and self-centeredness.

An Introduction to the Drug – Marijuana

Cannabis, the plant marijuana is derived from, contains over 400 different chemicals, although the main ingredient that affects the mind is THC. The amount of THC in the plant determines the strength of the drug. Elements such as weather, soil, and other factors determine the percentage of THC found in the plant.

What Does It Look Like and Where Does It Come From?

Marijuana is a greenish-gray mixture of dried and shredded leaves or flowers of Cannabis sativa, the hemp plant. Different weather and soil conditions change the amounts of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

In 1970, marijuana was classified as a Schedule I drug in the United States, meaning that it was not acceptable for medical use and has the highest abuse potential. From then on, marijuana came mostly from Mexico, however, by 1975, the Mexican government agreed to eradicate the marijuana crop by spraying it with toxic herbicides.

The United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration started increasing the amount of attention to marijuana farms in the 1980’s leading to an increase in the indoor growth of marijuana plants. This trend continued through the 1990’s along with the use of the drug, especially among teenagers.

Street Names for Marijuana

Marijuana has a variety of different street names that are used in the plant type or when prepared to smoke. These types of street names can include:

  • Astro turf
  • Bhang
  • Blunt
  • Boom
  • Chronic
  • Dagga
  • Dope
  • Gangster
  • Ganja
  • Grass
  • Hemp
  • Herb
  • Home grown
  • J
  • Kiff
  • Mary Jane
  • Nederweed
  • Pot
  • Purple haze
  • Reefer
  • Roach
  • Smoke
  • Skunk
  • Super skunk
  • Texas tea
  • Weed
  • White
  • Widow

Street Names for Hashish

  • Chocolate
  • Hash
  • Shit

Hashish is a similar form of marijuana that is made from the resins of the Indian hemp plant. This drug is usually about six times stronger than marijuana. Hashish is a tan, brown, or black resin that is dried and then pressed into bars, sticks, or balls.

Common Drug Combinations

Tolerance to marijuana builds over time and can lead to some users consuming harder drugs. Marijuana itself does not lead to the user consuming other drugs but when the high from marijuana fades, other drugs are sometimes introduced to the user’s habits. Joints and blunts can sometimes be laced with other drugs such as crack cocaine or PCP (phencyclidine, a powerful hallucinogen).


Marijuana addiction is similar to other substance abuse disorders; however, the long-term clinical outcomes are usually less severe. Marijuana treatment for addiction usually includes cognitive-behavioral therapy, contingency management, and motivational enhancement therapy.

This can involve teaching strategies to identify and correct problematic behaviors and self-control, rewarding a person for positive behavior, and mobilizing internal resources for change.