Marijuana Addiction

Hailed in American counterculture from the 1960s and 1970s, marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug 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 drug. 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, called 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
The cannabis plant is a green, leafy bush with distinct five- or seven-pointed leaves. In this 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 looks virtually identical to non-spiked versions of the food it is in. 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. When imported into the U.S., marijuana typically comes from Mexico, Canada, Colombia, Jamaica, Thailand, Nigeria, South Africa and Kazakhstan. Imported marijuana typically comes in bricks. Those buying the drug on the street typically buy it in nickel or dime bags.

While marijuana is a commonly-abused illicit drug, in recent years there has also been 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, or 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 benefit in the effects of 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 areas where medical marijuana is allowed are:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas (pending)
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Florida (pending)
  • 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 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 adult recreational use of the drug. These states are Alaska, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Whether or not marijuana is addictive is a controversial topic in the addiction research and healthcare communities. Scientific research shows that roughly 30 percent of marijuana abusers develop an addiction to it. The likelihood of developing a marijuana addiction increases up to seven-fold if the person began using the drug as an adolescent.

The mind-altering substance in marijuana that causes its effects 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 the abuser feels marijuana’s effects. The marijuana high will onset faster if a person eats the drug rather than smoking it.

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

Abusers may build up a tolerance to marijuana, meaning they need to smoke more and more weed to experience the same effects. If continued, this can lead to dependence, when a person’s brain adjusts to having THC and when it’s removed, has a violent reaction called withdrawal. Addiction occurs when the body is physically dependent on marijuana, as well as psychologically craving 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 smoke
Marijuana abusers 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 an especially dangerous risk as marijuana causes impaired motor skills and a person is more likely to hurt themselves while on the drug, causing an uncontrollable bleeding event.
    • Marijuana and Diabetes Drugs or Insulin – Marijuana can possibly affect blood sugar levels. This can be particularly risky for diabetics taking oral diabetes medications or insulin, as hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia in this population can be fatal. If you have an insulin prescription and a marijuana prescription, consider taking 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 together to avoid operating heavy machinery, such as a vehicle. In these circumstances, extreme drowsiness can cause lethal consequences.
Scientists and addiction specialists have been studying marijuana, its sale and usage for decades. Some of the most interesting statistics around the drug include:

  • Men are more likely to use marijuana than women
  • 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
  • In 2016, 6 percent of high school seniors said they use marijuana daily
  • Marijuana was mentioned in 456,000 drug-related emergency room visits in 2011, a 21 percent increase from 2009
  • Legal marijuana sales in Colorado in 2015 totaled nearly $1 million
  • 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
Drug Enforcement Administration. “Cannabis Production & Distribution.” DEA Museum & Visitors Center | Home, Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

Foundation for a Drug-Free World. “Marijuana Street Names.” Foundation for a Drug-Free World, Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

Mayo Clinic. “Marijuana (Cannabis Sativa) Interactions.” Mayo Clinic, 1 Nov. 2013, Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “DrugFacts: Marijuana As Medicine.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Mar. 2017, Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

“DrugFacts: What is Marijuana?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, Feb. 2017, Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

“What is the Scope of Marijuana Use in the United States?” National Institute on Drug Abuse, Jan. 2017, Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

Rahn, Bailey. “Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana by State.” Leafly, Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

Smith, Austin. “4 Marijuana Stats That Will Blow You Away.” USA TODAY, 17 May 2016, Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

“State Medical Marijuana Laws.” National Conference of State Legislatures, 16 Mar. 2017, Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

The Weed Blog. “List of Marijuana Slang Terms.” The Weed Blog, 29 Apr. 2011, Accessed 22 Mar. 2017.

Marijuana Addiction was last modified: July 12th, 2017 by The Recovery Village