Marijuana is one of the most popular drugs available due to easy accessibility and the various ingestion methods. While marijuana may not be as life-threatening as heroin or cocaine is, developing a marijuana addiction is possible and can have immensely adverse effects on the body and brain.
Forming an addiction to it can happen quite easily, even faster than some people may realize.
Article at a Glance:
- There is conflicting research about whether marijuana is addictive or not.
- Marijuana users often use other drugs as well, causing risky interactions.
- Marijuana is used medicinally for pain relief, nausea, and other health conditions.
- The Recovery Village offers extensive information about marijuana, its effects, and marijuana addiction treatment options.
Table of Contents
Is Marijuana Addictive?
Whether or not marijuana is an addictive drug is a controversial topic in addiction research and healthcare communities. Scientific research shows that roughly 30% of people who use marijuana develop an addiction to it. The likelihood of developing a marijuana addiction increases by seven if the person begins using it as an adolescent.
Those who smoke or ingest marijuana may build up a tolerance over time, meaning they need to use more to experience the same effects. If continued, this can lead to addiction and dependence, a state where a person’s brain adjusts to having THC. When the chemical is removed (i.e., someone stops smoking), the body experiences withdrawal.
Marijuana addiction occurs when the body is physically dependent on the drug and craves it. In this case, a person may feel as though they need to smoke to survive and will continue using the drug despite experiencing negative effects.
The Effects of Marijuana Addiction
There is a common misconception that misusing cannabis has no negative physical effects like smoking cigarettes has. There are a handful of risks that someone addicted to marijuana will face compared to the average cigarette smoker. While it isn’t as frequent as other types of drug addictions, this does not mean that the risks are not as dangerous.
Several consequences are 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 smoking ceases. Withdrawal symptoms can include depression, excessive sweating, low appetite, and anxiety. If the use of marijuana is stopped abruptly, these symptoms can worsen.
Marijuana Use & the Abuse of Other Substances
Cannabis 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 excessive 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 possibly affects blood sugar levels. This is particularly risky for diabetics taking oral medications or insulin, as hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia can be fatal. If a person has an insulin prescription and a medical marijuana prescription, they should take these drugs under the close supervision of their doctor so they may monitor 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 or vehicles. In these circumstances, extreme drowsiness can cause dangerous situations.
Recognizing Marijuana Products
Dried marijuana ranges in color 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 (baked in cookies, brownies, etc.) looks virtually identical to regular versions of the food. For example, pot brownies look exactly the same as regular brownies, except the smell and taste differ.
Dabs, a common street name for marijuana, can vary depending on the kind of extract it inhibits. The liquid form is often called hash oil or honey oil and looks similar to other kinds of oils. Wax is a soft solid, similar to lip balm, and shatter is an amber-colored solid. Oils are normally sold in small bottles, while wax or shatter are sometimes sold in the shape of small animals.
What is Marijuana?
Rising in popularity within the American counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, marijuana is now the most commonly used psychotropic substance in the United States after alcohol. The most common way to use the drug is by rolling the dried leaves from the bushy plant into cigarettes or cigars and smoking them. The result of smoking the cigarette or cigar is a relaxing, euphoric high that alters the smoker’s senses, memory, perception of time and motor skills. People abuse marijuana because it contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also called THC, which produces euphoria, among other effects.
Marijuana comes from the cannabis sativa plant and refers to the dried leaves, stems, flowers and seeds. The cannabis plant is a green, leafy bush with distinct, five or seven-point leaves. In marijuana counterculture, the image of the cannabis leaf is a popular symbol.
Much of the marijuana in the United States is grown locally, which is one factor that contributes to marijuana addiction. When imported from another country, marijuana typically comes from Mexico, Canada, Colombia, Jamaica, Thailand, Nigeria, South Africa and Kazakhstan. Imported marijuana typically comes in bricks, but individuals buying the drug on the street typically buy nickel or dime bags.
Marijuana has many nicknames, which abusers and dealers often use to avoid unwanted attention from the police. Commonly known as “weed,” “pot,” and “bud,” marijuana recently became legal in parts of the United States, spurring continued political controversy around the substance. While the legality of smoking medical marijuana is now common across the U.S., in Colorado, California and Washington, D.C., smoking marijuana is also recreationally permitted.
What is Medical Marijuana?
While marijuana is a commonly-abused illicit drug, there has also been a significant debate in the United States about marijuana’s medical value in recent years. Between 1996 and 2020, 33 states and four territories passed comprehensive medical marijuana and cannabis programs. In those areas, doctors may prescribe marijuana for patients who many benefit from its use.
- What is medical marjiuana used for?
- HIV and AIDS
- Lou Gehrig’s Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Where is medical marijuana legal?
The U.S. states and territories where medical marijuana is allowed include:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Puerto Rico
- Rhode Island
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- West Virginia
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.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve medical marijuana as an official medicine, there are a few pill cannabinoids the agency has approved. Marijuana contains about 100 cannabinoids (which are the chemicals related to THC) that create powerful effects. According to a study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, THC and cannabinoid drugs’ potential therapeutic benefits include:
- Pain relief
- Control of nausea
- Improving muscle spasms, stiffness, and fatigue in multiple sclerosis patients
The study notes there may also be medicinal benefits to smoking marijuana, such as sedation, anxiety reduction, and euphoria. However, these same effects might be undesirable for other patients.
Most state laws that allow medical marijuana have very specific conditions under which a doctor may prescribe it to patients. While the conditions for obtaining a marijuana card vary from state to state, many conditions overlap. Having a card is also important because the police may still pull drivers over and penalize them for carrying the substance if they don’t have a patient ID or registration card.
Other FAQs About Marijuana
- How long does marijuana stay in your system?
The main chemical in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. Although the effects of THC wear off within a few hours of ingesting marijuana, traces of the chemical can remain in the body for weeks: a user for 30-45 days can fail a urine test, for 60-75 days can fail a blood test, and up to 90 days can fail a hair follicle test.
While there is no way to know exactly how long THC will stay in someone’s system for a drug test, there are different factors that can impact how long marijuana stays in the body.
- How do I know if someone is on marijuana?
Because of the widely varied effects of marijuana, it can be difficult to tell if someone is using it. The following are a few of the most common symptoms someone is on marijuana: red, bloodshot eyes, laughing inappropriately or uncontrollably, increased appetite including binge eating, particularly sweets, and a lack of energy or motivation. Marijuana is also a drug unlike many others because it has a very potent odor that’s hard to get rid of. Many people compare it to a skunk-like smell, and it can cling to hair, clothes, bedding, furniture, and other items after smoking. As with most other drugs, there are behavioral shifts that may seem subtle or gradual at first. As a person continues to abuse marijuana, these may become more prominent.
- Is marijuana a gateway drug?
Many addiction experts and doctors differ in their opinions of cannabis as a gateway drug. Studies have shown that it could be. For example, those dealing with marijuana addiction are 2.2 times more likely to misuse prescription opioids. Using the drug at an early age can also have damaging effects on an underdeveloped brain and can increase the risk of addiction later in life.
- What are the street names for marijuana?
- Mary Jane
- Hash oil
Other terms related to cannabis use 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
- Does marijuana help anxiety or cause it?
It’s difficult to say whether or not marijuana helps anxiety or causes it. It depends on a few factors. First and foremost, your mental state and the environment you’re in when using marijuana play a big role in how you react. Marijuana and anxiety can go hand-in-hand for some people. You may not get a pleasant or relaxing experience when using it. In fact, your experience could be quite the opposite. Many people feel that marijuana can bring symptoms of anxiety or heighten their existing anxiety, particularly if they use it in a situation that isn’t pleasant or trying to conceal their use of the drug.
For more information on how you or a loved one can begin on the road to a marijuana-free life, call The Recovery Village. With an abundance of rehab centers located nationwide, our treatment teams can help you gain the skills needed to live your life without relying on any sort of substance. Our representatives are eager to answer any questions you may have about addiction treatment and recovery. Each call is free and confidential.
DEA Museum & Visitors Center. “Cannabis Production & Distribution.” Drug Enforcement Administration. Accessed June 17, 2020.
Foundation for a Drug-Free World. “Marijuana Street Names.” Accessed June 17, 2020.
Mayo Clinic. “Marijuana.” October 24, 2017. Accessed June 17, 2020
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Marijuana As Medicine DrugFacts.” June 16, 2020. Accessed June 17, 2020.
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National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Marijuana use is associated with an increased risk of prescription opioid misuse and use disorders.” September 26, 2017. Accessed June 17, 2020.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What is the Scope of Marijuana Use in the United States?” April 8, 2020. Accessed June 17, 2020.
Leafly. “Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana by State.” January 29, 2020. Accessed June 17, 2020.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. “Therapeutic Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids.” The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research, January 12, 2017. Accessed June 17, 2020.
National Conference of State Legislatures. “State Medical Marijuana Laws.” March 10, 2020. Accessed June 17, 2020.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.