Marijuana use is on the rise across America. This isn’t surprising given that more states are beginning to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. These trends are troubling to many addiction experts, even if the drug has medicinal purposes.
One of the points that marijuana advocates have made over the years to encourage legalization is that marijuana isn’t addictive. The problem is, this point isn’t entirely true. Here’s why.
Marijuana Can Be Addictive, But Not Quite Like Other Drugs
Doctors, researchers and users have debated for decades about whether marijuana addiction, also known as marijuana use disorder, is possible. If you really boil addiction down to the basics you’ll find that many things, including marijuana, can become addictive. Addiction is simply developing a dependence for a substance that has negative consequences on aspects of your life and leads to withdrawal symptoms once use stops. Occasional use and even overdosing isn’t necessarily considered an addiction.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that 10% of marijuana users will become addicted. That equates to roughly 4 million Americans.
This percentage isn’t as high as other drugs, which is part of the reason why people mistakenly think marijuana isn’t addictive. Anywhere from 10-30% of binge drinkers are addicted to alcohol. Opioids are considered to be even more addictive. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has found 25% of people using prescription opioids long-term under the care of a physician still become addicted.
Another reason some people thought marijuana wasn’t addictive was because there aren’t severe physical withdrawal symptoms like what’s seen with other drugs. People who quit using marijuana after developing a dependence may experience:
- Nausea/upset stomach
- Decreased appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
While these symptoms aren’t as extreme as what’s seen with other drugs, they can last a couple weeks. Often people who are trying to quit on their own relapse simply to manage the withdrawal symptoms.
People who choose to enlist the help of marijuana addiction treatment centers are better prepared for the withdrawal symptoms so that they can get through the first two weeks without resorting to marijuana use. We also recommend that our patients stay at a Sober Living House in Dallas if they currently live with others that use marijuana.
What Physically Happens During Marijuana Addiction
Dependency on a substance means that your body has adjusted to accommodate the presence of the substance and no longer functions normally without it. In the case of marijuana the endocannabinoid system is altered. After prolonged marijuana use the brain doesn’t produce as many endocannabinoid neurotransmitters on its own. Sensitivity to endocannabinoid neurotransmitters created in the brain also decreases. Your brain becomes reliant on marijuana use as a source of endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.
Rising THC levels in marijuana are concerning. Doctors aren’t yet sure how the higher potency of marijuana affects addiction and brain health, but many believe it is exasperating these problems. The fact that the concentration of THC has risen from 4% on average in the 1990s to over 15% in 2018 suggests that addiction is more likely today than in past years.
Women Are More Likely to Get Addicted
One interesting thing that research has revealed is that women become addicted to marijuana more quickly than men. This is especially significant given that men are the majority of marijuana smokers.
Studies on humans and animals suggests that women are more susceptible to the brain altering effects of marijuana. The most likely reason for why women are affected differently by marijuana than men is hormones. However, there could also be differences in how the endocannabinoid system works in men and women.
Most people who are addicted to marijuana have another mental health disorder. For women the disorder is likely to be anxiety and panic attacks. Marijuana is used for self-medication, which is part of the reason why few people seek out addiction treatment.
How Age Factors Into Marijuana Addiction
The younger someone is when they start using marijuana the more likely they are to become addicted. Research suggests that while 9-10% of all marijuana users will become addicted, the rate increases to 1 in 6 for people who began using marijuana before turning 18 years old.
It’s all the more reason to intervene quickly if you suspect your teen is using marijuana. Research has also proven that marijuana use at a young age can cause permanent alterations in the brain. Teens that use marijuana regularly can experience an 8-point drop in their IQ.
If you feel like you or a loved one can benefit from marijuana addiction help Lighthouse Recovery is a trusted resource. We offer Partial Hospitalization Programs, Intensive Outpatient Programs and Sober Living in Dallas, TX.