Marijuana Addiction

Hailed in American counterculture from the 1960s and 1970s, marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit substance in the United States. The dried leaves of this bushy plant are often rolled into cigarettes or cigars and smoked. The result is a relaxing, euphoric high that alters a person’s senses, memory, perception of time and motor skills. Commonly known as “weed,” “pot,” and “bud,” marijuana recently became legal in parts of the United States, spurring continual political controversy around the substance. This has left some asking, "Is weed a drug?" The short and simple answer is yes. While the legality of smoking medical marijuana is more common across the U.S., Colorado, California and Washington, D.C., are among the few places where smoking the drug recreationally is also permitted.
The drug marijuana comes from the cannabis sativa plant. Marijuana refers to dried leaves, stems, flowers and seeds from this green, leafy plant. People abuse marijuana because it contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also called THC, a chemical that produces euphoria, among other effects.

Marijuana comes in a few different forms:

  • Dried, which is the most common way the drug is available
  • Edibles, which are food products such as brownies, tea and gummies made using marijuana
  • Extracts or resins, which are condensed from dried marijuana

As a result, there are several ways to consume marijuana:

  • Smoking a dried cannabis cigarette or cigar, called a joint or blunt
  • Smoking dried cannabis in a glass pipe or water pipe (a bowl or bong)
  • Eating edibles such as brownies or gummy candy
  • Dabbing, or smoking cannabis resins, also known as dabs, hash oil, wax or shatter

Marijuana has many nicknames, which abusers and dealers often use to avoid unwanted attention from police. Some street names for marijuana include:

  • Mary Jane
  • Weed
  • Pot
  • Reefer
  • Kush
  • Herb
  • Bud
  • Grass
  • Ganja
  • Dope
  • Hemp
  • Roach
  • Puff
  • Hash
  • J
  • Blaze
  • Resin
  • Hash oil
  • Honey oil
  • Wax
  • Budder
  • Shatter
  • Dabs

Other terms related to marijuana and its abuse include:

  • Joint: A marijuana cigarette
  • Doobie: A nickname for a joint
  • Blunt: A marijuana cigar
  • Roach: The butt of a joint or blunt
  • Roach clip: A small metal clip used to hold the end of a joint or blunt so the user can smoke the entire thing without burning their hands
  • Bowl: A glass pipe for smoking marijuana
  • Bong: A water pipe for smoking marijuana
  • Head shop: A store that sells marijuana paraphernalia like bongs
  • Dime bag: A $10 bag of marijuana
  • Nickel bag: A $5 bag of marijuana
  • Dabbing: The act of smoking THC resin
  • 420: Slang for smoking marijuana
  • 4/20: April 20th, a notorious date for smoking marijuana to get high
  • K2 or Spice: Synthetic marijuana
  • Brick: A large, compacted block of marijuana
marijuana
The cannabis plant is a green, leafy bush with distinct five- or seven-pointed leaves. In the marijuana counterculture, the image of the cannabis leaf is very popular symbology.

Dried marijuana ranges from green to brown, and looks similar to clumps of moss. Joints and blunts look very similar to hand-rolled cigarettes and cigars. Edible marijuana (in cookies, brownies, etc.) looks virtually identical to regular versions of the food; besides smell and taste, pot brownies, for example, look exactly the same as normal brownies.

Dabs can vary, depending on the style of marijuana extract. The liquid form is often called hash oil or honey oil and looks similar to other oils. Wax is a soft solid, similar to lip balm. Shatter is solid and is an amber color. Oils are normally sold in small bottles. Wax or budder is sometimes sold in the shape of small animals.  

Much of the marijuana in the U.S. is grown locally, which is one factor that contributes to marijuana addiction. When imported into the U.S., marijuana typically comes from Mexico, Canada, Colombia, Jamaica, Thailand, Nigeria, South Africa and Kazakhstan. And while imported marijuana typically comes in bricks, those buying the drug on the street typically buy nickel or dime bags.

While marijuana is a commonly-abused illicit drug, in recent years there has also been a significant debate in the U.S. about marijuana’s medical value. Between 1996 and 2017, 28 states and three territories passed comprehensive medical marijuana and cannabis programs. In those areas, doctors may prescribe marijuana for patients. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve medical marijuana as a medicine, there are a few pill cannabinoids the agency has approved. Marijuana contains about 100 cannabinoids (chemicals related to THC) that create powerful effects.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve medical marijuana as a medicine, there are a few pill cannabinoids the agency has approved. Marijuana contains about 100 cannabinoids (chemicals related to THC) that create powerful effects.

According to a study by The Institute of Medicine, potential therapeutic benefits of THC and cannabinoid drugs include:

  • Pain Relief
  • Control of Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Appetite Stimulation

The report notes there may also be medicinal benefits in smoking marijuana, such as sedation, anxiety reduction and euphoria. These same effects are undesirable for other patients, however.

Most state laws that allow medical marijuana have very specific conditions under which a doctor may prescribe them the drug. While the conditions for obtaining a marijuana card vary from state to state, many conditions overlap. Having a card is also important because police may still pull drivers over and penalize them for carrying the substance if they don’t have a patient ID or registration card. Some of the common illnesses doctors prescribe medical marijuana for are:

  • HIV and AIDS
  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • Lou Gehrig’s Disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Epilepsy
  • Cachexia

The U.S. states where medical marijuana is allowed include:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas (pending)
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Florida 
  • Guam
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota (pending)
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Some of these areas also allow patients from out-of-state to travel there to receive medical marijuana. Those states are Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

In addition to allowing the sale and use of medical marijuana, a few of these states also allow recreational use of the drug. These states are Alaska, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

The “Is marijuana addictive” question is a controversial one in the addiction research and healthcare communities. Scientific research shows that roughly 30 percent of those who use marijuana develop an addiction to it. The likelihood of developing a marijuana addiction increases up to sevenfold if the person began using the drug as an adolescent.

The mind-altering substance in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. When a person smokes pot, THC passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, where it travels to the brain. The absorption process is a slow one compared to other drugs, and it often takes 30 minutes to one hour before one can feel high. The marijuana high will take effect faster if a person ingests the drug rather than smokes it.

Marijuana activates certain receptors in the brain, causing symptoms such as mood changes, impaired movement and memory, difficulty thinking, and an altered sense of time and sight.

Those who smoke or ingest marijuana may build up a tolerance to it over time, meaning they need to use more to experience the same effects. If continued, this can lead to marijuana addiction and dependence: a state where a person’s brain adjusts to having THC. When it’s removed (e.g. someone stops smoking), the body experiences withdrawal. Marijuana addiction occurs when the body is physically dependent on marijuana and craves the drug. In this case, a person may feel as though they need marijuana to survive and will continue using the drug despite experiencing negative effects.

Marijuana Addiction Risks

Although marijuana addiction is not common, it can be very dangerous, both for the person using the substance and the loved ones of the user. There are a number of risk associated with marijuana addiction, including:

  • Risk of lung cancer
  • Decreased energy
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Mental impairment
  • Increased risk of heart attack

Another potential danger associated with marijuana addiction involves the withdrawal symptoms, which usually peak a few days after the smoking ceases. Is marijuana addictive? Yes. But the good news is, marijuana addiction can be treated.

How to Treat Marijuana Addiction

If you’re struggling with marijuana addiction, there are many treatment options available to you so you can regain control of your life. These include inpatient and outpatient rehab, behavioral and cognitive therapy, support groups, and community reinforcement. Although there are not currently any medical treatments available for marijuana addiction, there is currently research being conducted to explore such options.

Recovery from marijuana addiction IS possible, and it’s easier than addictions to many other substances. Marijuana addiction can take a toll on both individuals and families. This is just one of the many reasons that seeking treatment is so important. However, just as with any other treatment, marijuana addiction rehab can be difficult at times for some, but the end result will far outweigh the difficulties.

Do you or someone you know need help for marijuana addiction? Or would you like to learn more about marijuana addiction? The Recovery Village can help.

marijuana smoke
Marijuana users frequently combine the drug with other substances, especially in a party atmosphere. Some of these combinations can be dangerous, though, and cause risky interactions.

Some common marijuana drug interactions include:

    • Marijuana and anticoagulants, antiplatelet or anti-inflammatory drugs: Combining marijuana with these types of drugs, including brand-names like Coumadin, Plavix, Motrin, Advil and Aleve, may increase a person’s risk of bleeding. This can be especially dangerous as marijuana causes impaired motor skills and a person is more likely to hurt themselves while on the drug, which can lead to uncontrollable bleeding.
    • Marijuana and diabetes drugs or insulin: Marijuana can possibly affect blood sugar levels. This can be particularly risky for diabetics taking oral medications or insulin, as hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia can be fatal. If you have an insulin prescription and a medical marijuana script, take these drugs under the close supervision of your doctor so they may monitor your blood sugar levels and adjust doses accordingly.
    • Marijuana and benzodiazepines, opioids and alcohol: Combining these drugs with marijuana can result in extreme drowsiness. It’s important for those using marijuana and alcohol, Ativan, Valium, codeine, phenobarbital and other similar drugs to avoid operating heavy machinery, such as a vehicle. In these circumstances, extreme drowsiness can cause lethal consequences.
Scientists and marijuana addiction specialists have been studying the marijuana plant, its usage and sale patterns for decades. Some of the most interesting statistics around the drug include:

  • In 2016, six percent of high school seniors said they use marijuana daily
  • In 2015, 22.2 million Americans questioned in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health said they used marijuana in the past month, making it the most frequently used illicit drug in the country
  • Legal marijuana sales in Colorado in 2015 totaled nearly $1 million
  • Marijuana was mentioned in 456,000 drug-related emergency room visits in 2011, a 21 percent increase from 2009
  • Men are more likely to use marijuana than women
  • According to the book “What the Dormouse Said” by John Markoff, the first ever e-commerce transaction was a marijuana sale between students at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Marijuana addiction, just as with any other substance addiction, should not be taken lightly. These statistics prove how common this drug is as well as how casual smoking can lead to marijuana addiction.

Drug Enforcement Administration. “Cannabis Production & Distribution.” DEA Museum & Visitors Center | Home, www.deamuseum.org/ccp/cannabis/production-distribution.html. Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

Foundation for a Drug-Free World. “Marijuana Street Names.” Foundation for a Drug-Free World, www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/marijuana/edibles.html#streetnames. Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

Mayo Clinic. “Marijuana (Cannabis Sativa) Interactions.” Mayo Clinic, 1 Nov. 2013, www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/marijuana/interactions/hrb-20059701. Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “DrugFacts: Marijuana As Medicine.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Mar. 2017, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana-medicine. Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

“DrugFacts: What is Marijuana?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, Feb. 2017, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana. Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

“What is the Scope of Marijuana Use in the United States?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, Jan. 2017, www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/what-scope-marijuana-use-in-united-states. Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

Rahn, Bailey. “Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana by State.” Leafly, www.leafly.com/news/health/qualifying-conditions-for-medical-marijuana-by-state. Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

Smith, Austin. “4 Marijuana Stats That Will Blow You Away.” USA TODAY, 17 May 2016, www.usatoday.com/story/sponsor-story/motley-fool/2016/05/17/motley-fool-marijuana-stats/84326712/. Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

“State Medical Marijuana Laws.” National Conference of State Legislatures, 16 Mar. 2017, www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx. Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

The Weed Blog. “List of Marijuana Slang Terms.” The Weed Blog, 29 Apr. 2011, www.theweedblog.com/marijuana-slang-terms/. Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

Marijuana Addiction was last modified: September 14th, 2017 by The Recovery Village