Is Marijuana Use a Problem?

in Drug Insights
Published Feb 4, 2021
marijuana

In today’s society, marijuana use has become a regular everyday activity. Due to the normalization of it’s use, many individuals do not see it as a problem. Many people also believe that because the drug comes from a plant, it is not addictive and doesn’t cause harm. However, an individual can become addicted to it and experience adverse psychological and physical effects due to its use. Developing Cannabis Use Disorder related to marijuana may also cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

What Is Marijuana?

Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, seeds, and stems from Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The plant contains the mind-altering chemical THC and is the most commonly used psychotropic drug in the United States after alcohol. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 11.8 million young adults used it in 2018.

Marijuana is most commonly smoked in either hand-rolled cigarettes (joints), pipes, or water pipes (bongs). It can also be smoked in blunts, which are emptied cigars that have been refilled with marijuana. Recently, there has been growing popularity in THC vapes. These devices pull the active ingredients from marijuana and collect their vapor in a storage unit. They may also use a liquid marijuana extract with which a person inhales the vapor, not the smoke. People also mix it in food (edibles) such as brownies, cookies, candy, or brew it as tea.

There has also been a significant rise in individuals smoking THC-rich resins extracted from the marijuana plant, known as dabbing. These extracts come in various forms, such as hash oil, honey oil, wax, or shatter. They deliver substantial amounts of THC to the body and their use has even sent people to the emergency room. There is also danger in preparing these extracts, as an individual must use butane, which can cause severe burns, fires, and explosions.

The Effects of Marijuana on the Brain

When marijuana is smoked, THC quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. The blood carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body. The body absorbs THC more slowly when marijuana is eaten.

THC acts on specific brain cell receptors that typically react to natural THC-like chemicals, which play a role in normal brain development and function. Marijuana over-activates the part of the brain that contains the highest number of these receptors, causing the “high” that people feel. Effects that occur due to this include:

  • Altered senses
  • Changes in mood
  • Impaired body movement
  • Difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
  • Impaired memory
  • Hallucinations (when taken in high doses)
  • Delusions (when taken in high doses)
  • Psychosis

Prolonged use can affect brain development, especially when use is started at a young age. It can impair thinking and learning functions because of how the brain builds connections between these affected areas.

Physical Effects of Marijuana

An individual who smokes marijuana may develop breathing problems. The smoke irritates the lungs and those who regularly smoke can experience the same effects as those who smoke tobacco. Breathing problems may include a cough with phlegm, more frequent lung illness, and a higher risk of lung infections.

Marijuana also raises the heart rate for up to three hours after use, increasing heart attack risk.

Marijuana is also known to create intense nausea and vomiting. Regular, long-term use can lead individuals to develop Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome, which causes severe cycles of nausea, vomiting, and dehydration, which all may require frequent medical attention.

Mental Effects of Marijuana

Long-term marijuana use has been linked to mental illness, such as temporary hallucinations and temporary paranoia. Those who have schizophrenia and use marijuana may also experience a worsening of their symptoms. Marijuana has also been linked to depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

Despite popular belief that marijuana is not addictive due to its being a plant, it can lead to Cannabis Use Disorder. There are 11 criteria used to diagnose Cannabis Use Disorder, and the number of criteria met determines the severity. Two or three criteria indicate mild Cannabis Use Disorder, four or five criteria indicate a moderate Cannabis Use Disorder, and six or more criteria indicate a severe Cannabis Use Disorder. These criteria are divided into four categories: impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and pharmacological indicators (tolerance and withdrawal). When an individual with Cannabis Use Disorder stops using marijuana, they will experience withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased appetite
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Mood swings
  • Cravings
  • Fever
  • Nausea

 

Recent data suggests that 9-30% of individuals who use cannabis may have some degree of Cannabis Use Disorder. According to NSDUH, about four million people in the United States met the diagnostic criteria for Cannabis Use Disorder in 2018.

Marijuana is the most used psychotropic drug in the United States after alcohol. It contains the mind-altering chemical THC which affects brain development and function. Many people believe it is not addictive due to it being a plant. However, it can lead to Cannabis Use Disorder. There are 11 criteria used to diagnose Cannabis Use Disorder, and the number of criteria met determines the severity. Regular use of it may have short-term or long-term effects on the brain and can cause a variety of mental health disorders and physical effects. When use stops, an individual may experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal can be uncomfortable, frightening, and even life-threatening. At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we use proprietary, evidence-based medical protocols that prioritize our patients’ comfort and safety to guide them through the detox process. Our personalized treatment is delivered in a safe and peaceful environment. If you or a loved one struggles with Cannabis Use Disorder related to marijuana use, call Gallus Medical Detox Centers at (866) 296-5242.