Marijuana abuse can be difficult to identify. If you’re concerned you or a loved one is struggling with weed, this page outlines the warning signs, symptoms, and causes of this substance abuse habit.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Marijuana Abuse?
Marijuana is the most commonly abused illegal drug in the United States. Marijuana is a dry, shredded mix of the flowers, stems, and leaves of the hemp plant cannabis sativa. Marijuana smoke has a pungent and distinctive, usually sweet-and-sour odor.
Behavioral changes that may be symptoms of marijuana addiction include:
- distorted perceptions
- impaired coordination
- difficulty in thinking and problem solving
- ongoing problems with learning and memory
Additionally, several other signs of marijuana abuse are frequently visible in users:
- red, blurry, bloodshot eyes
- constant, mucus-filled cough
- rapid heartbeat
- hunger, referred to as munchies
- dry mouth
- anxiety, paranoia, or fear
- poor memory
- poor coordination
- slow reaction time
- loss of control
What Are the Effects of Marijuana Abuse?
Abusing marijuana can result in problems with memory, learning, mood and social behavior. It can interfere with family, school, work, and other activities. Research has shown that marijuana’s adverse impact on learning and memory can last for days or weeks after the acute effects of the drug wear off. As a result, a person who smokes marijuana every day may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level all of the time.
Long-term marijuana abuse can lead to addiction. An addicted person will exhibit compulsive drug seeking and use despite the obvious harmful effects upon social functioning in the context of family, school, work, and recreational activities. Marijuana is also commonly referred to as a ‘gateway drug’ that destigmatizes or demystifies the idea of drug use, making marijuana abusers more susceptible to abuse other illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens or methamphetamines.
Additionally, when long-term marijuana abusers try to stop using the drug, they often suffer with a number of unpleasant symptoms, which make it difficult to quit. The desire to stop these withdrawal symptoms leads many people back into ongoing marijuana use:
- decreased appetite, which can trigger disordered eating
- drug craving
Marijuana is usually smoked as a cigarette, referred to as a joint, or in a pipe. It is also smoked in blunts, which are cigars that have been emptied of tobacco and refilled with marijuana. Since the blunt retains the tobacco leaf used to wrap the cigar, this mode of delivery combines marijuana’s active ingredients with nicotine from the tobacco. Cancer of the lungs is also linked to marijuana use because unfiltered marijuana smoke has more carcinogens than cigarettes.
How Does Marijuana Affect the Brain?
The main active chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). When someone smokes marijuana, THC rapidly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, which carries the chemical to the brain. THC acts on specific places in the brain, called cannabinoid receptors, producing a series of cellular reactions that ultimately lead to the high that users seek. Some brain areas have many cannabinoid receptors; others have few or none. The highest density of cannabinoid receptors are found in parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thoughts, concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement.
Marijuana abuse and addiction are serious medical conditions that require treatment by chemical dependency specialists. Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center is a leading rehab and recovery center for women and adolescent girls suffering with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as anorexia, bulimia, other eating disorders, and co-occurring disorders. Learn more about our marijuana addiction treatment program.