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Rising in popularity within the American counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, marijuana is now the most commonly abused illicit substance in the United States. The most common way the drug is used is when the dried leaves from the bushy plant are rolled into cigarettes or cigars and smoked. 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. 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 United States, in Colorado, California and Washington, D.C., smoking marijuana is also recreationally permitted.
Marijuana comes from the cannabis sativa plant. and refers to the dried leaves, stems, flowers and seeds from the green, leafy plant. People abuse marijuana because it contains delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, also called THC, a chemical that produces euphoria, among other effects.
The cannabis plant is a green, leafy bush with distinct, five or seven-point leaves. In the marijuana counterculture, the image of the cannabis leaf is very popular symbology.
Dried marijuana ranges in color from green to brown, and looks similar to clumps of moss, and joints and blunts look very similar to hand-rolled cigarettes and cigars. Edible marijuana (baked in cookies, brownies, etc.) look virtually identical to regular versions of the food. For example, pot brownies look exactly the same as regular brownies, except their smell and taste differ.
Dabs, which is 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 amber-colored solid. Oils are normally sold in small bottles, while wax or shatter are sometimes sold in the shape of small animals.
Much of the marijuana in the United States is grown locally, which is one factor that contributes to marijuana addiction. But when imported into the United States, 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 police. Some street names for marijuana include:
- Mary Jane
- Hash oil
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 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.
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 takes 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, which is 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 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.
- 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. Withdrawal symptoms can include depression, excessive sweating, low appetite and anxiety to name a few. If the use of marijuana is stopped abruptly, these symptoms can come on strong and fast. The good news is that managing an addiction to marijuana is achievable with the right support, tools and resources.
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- Pain Relief
- Control of Nausea
- Appetite Stimulation
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 patients 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
- Lou Gehrig’s Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
The U.S. states where medical marijuana is allowed include:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota (pending)
- Puerto Rico
- Rhode Island
- Washington, D.C.
Some of these areas also allow patients from other states 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.
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. Start your journey to sobriety today.
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.