For some, smoking pot is no big deal—but for others, marijuana abuse can quickly lead to the development of tolerance and dependence. While there seems to be limited information in regards to whether or not it is safe to smoke pot, those who suffer from marijuana addiction would mostly agree that this drug does carry potentially negative consequences that should not be overlooked by users.
Advocates for medical marijuana claim that the drug can be beneficial in the reduction of pain or in the boosting of appetite following chemotherapy for cancer patients or that it can improve outcomes for glaucoma patients. Proponents claim that marijuana is a “gateway” drug that gives way to an array of other drugs and a lifestyle of substance abuse.
What is Marijuana Abuse?
Marijuana abuse is generally the recreational use of marijuana without a prescription for the drug or a need to use the drug that has been diagnosed by a doctor. Before medical marijuana was legalized in many states throughout the US, there was no level of marijuana use that was considered safe or acceptable. However, since the drug has been legalized in some states and is openly used in the treatment of certain symptoms associated with seizures, cancer and other conditions, there is now an acceptable level of use in some cases—but not all.
Smoking pot, regularly, can lead to physical and psychological elements of dependence. For people who have a generally addictive nature, this can be a troublesome situation. If there is no strong additive nature, some can smoke pot on an occasional basis with few concerns except for the damage that is done to the lungs. Again, there is much controversy as to whether the damage done by marijuana is worse than the positive impact that the drug can have on people who use it for medical purposes.
Signs of Marijuana Abuse
If you suspect that someone you know may be smoking pot, pay close attention to their actions and behaviors. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people who smoke marijuana will often say things out of place or laugh uncontrollably at things. You may also notice the following signs of marijuana abuse:
- Bloodshot eyes
- Outbursts of laughter or smiling
- Slurred speech
- Smelling marijuana on the clothes
- Having rolling papers or a pipe to smoke marijuana
Signs of Marijuana Addiction
Marijuana abuse is not necessarily an addiction. People who become addicted to the drug are likely to suffer from withdrawal symptoms if they attempt to quit, often spend excessive amounts of time on drug use, and will show other signs of dependence on the drug. There are often significant mood changes in users who smoke pot and promises to quit are broken time and again.
Pay close attention to the following signs of marijuana addiction:
- Using more pot than was agreed upon
- Making promises to cut back and failing
- Feeling sick, upset or otherwise uncomfortable when not smoking pot
- Avoiding time with people who don’t smoke pot
- Avoiding activities that do not involve smoking pot
- Going through great lengths to get pot
- Smoking pot in risky situations
- Feeling like life is no fun without pot
- Smoking pot even after it causes problems in your life
- Smoking pot after being arrested
- Using marijuana as a means of coping with stress
- Using marijuana as a means of coping with other emotions
- Developing a tolerance to marijuana
- Symptoms of withdrawal
According to the National Library of Medicine, “abstinence following daily marijuana use can produce a withdrawal syndrome characterized by negative mood, muscle pain, chills and decreased food intake.” Many of the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal are similar to those associated with other, more harmful drugs.
If you suspect that someone you know may be suffering from marijuana withdrawal, consider the following symptoms:
- Reduction of appetite
- Upset stomach
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Lack of motivation
- Poor mood
Dangers of Marijuana Abuse
If you’re convinced that marijuana abuse is “ok” or that it’s “no big deal,” think again! Marijuana abuse can quickly lead to tolerance, physical dependence and psychological consequences. The adverse consequences of smoking pot can quickly outweigh any of the benefits that you think you may have achieved from using this drug. In fact, you are at risk of a number of potentially serious problems if you continue to use marijuana on a regular or repeat basis.
Some of the dangers of smoking marijuana include:
- Heightened anxiety and paranoia that is actually worse than it was prior to your decision to get “high”
- Depression and increased risk of suicide
- Social intolerance
- Psychotic episodes
- Cardiovascular stress
- Heart attack or stroke
- Rapid heart rate
- Toxins in the lungs
- Increased risk of infection
- Lung cancer
- Susceptibility to chronic cold
- Impaired motivation
- Impaired judgment
- Mental incapacity
Why Quit Using Marijuana?
The above dangers and risks associated with regular marijuana use are just a sample of the potential reasons to quit smoking pot. You may also wish to consider quitting because:
- You will feel better when you are not ridding your lungs with toxins
- You will have a reduced risk of contracting lung cancer if you don’t smoke
- Your anxiety levels will actually be reduced without pot use
- You will have more energy and the ability to take in more oxygen which is healthier for your body
- You will save money and time that is otherwise spent on the drug
- You will prevent yourself from being at risk for arrest or other problems associated with drug possession or use
Treatment for Marijuana Addiction
If you or someone you know is addicted to marijuana, the first step to getting sober is to admit that there is a problem and that there is no safe level of marijuana abuse in your situation. Overcoming marijuana addiction will take time, it won’t happen overnight, but you can get sober and you can make a full recovery.
The most common methods of treatment for marijuana addiction include:
- Residential rehabilitation
- Outpatient rehabilitation
- Behavioral therapy
- Cognitive therapy
- Motivation incentives
- Community reinforcement
- Support groups
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, although there are no approved medications that can be used in the treatment of marijuana abuse and addiction, certain drugs do have potential and are being appropriately researched for their effectiveness and ability to provide relief to those in need.
Finding Treatment for Marijuana Addiction
If you’re looking for treatment, you have a number of options available to assist you. Online research can help you to determine treatment centers and facilities that are located in your area as well as to find support groups such as Marijuana Anonymous, NA or other 12-step programs of support that can help you get your life back on track.
The Substance Abuse helpline is always free to call and a referral specialist will happily help you to decide which type of treatment you need and where you can go for help. You can also find a comprehensive database of treatment facilities in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
With so many options to choose from, deciding which type of treatment is going to be most effective at helping you overcome marijuana addiction can pose a number of challenges. Follow these tips for choosing treatment that will be most appropriate to your needs:
- Consider the cost and billing methods
- Consider whether insurance is accepted
- Consider the level of treatment necessary (inpatient is more focused and monitored than outpatient)
- Consider the level of support that comes from friends or family
- Consider whether treatment should be close to home or far away (Close is better if attending outpatient programs)
- Consider the level of medical care needed (patients with co-occurring disorders often require inpatient care)