Marijuana use is often depicted in a light-hearted manner in the media although a cannabis use disorder should not be taken lightly. Marijuana culture was promoted by the media, and was always showcased in a light, positive way. In ‘That 70s Show’, bored teenagers often light up as a means to hang out and socialize.
The media has a huge part in normalizing cannabis use. Popular rappers often rap about smoking weed or rolling a blunt. Media exposure has encouraged adolescents to try out this popular drug. Exposure to music, in particular, was most independently associated with marijuana use.
With most media focusing on the ‘fun aspects’ of cannabis use, few people are aware of the dangers involved. It’s possible to develop an addiction to marijuana. It’s known as a cannabis use disorder. This addiction can spiral out of control, and take over one’s life. Take a glimpse of the less savory side of the weed industry from this article.
Shocking Statistics About Cannabis Addiction and Abuse
While the drug addiction recovery industry spends a lot of time and money raising awareness for addictions, not much of those funds go towards cannabis use. Many people don’t realize the troubling statistics involved with cannabis use disorder. Most are only aware of marijuana’s medicinal properties.
As a result, most are usually surprised to learn that this seemingly innocent drug can cause quite a bit of harm. Take a look at some of these shocking statistics below.
- Over 94 million Americans and counting have used cannabis at least once
- Cannabis users are three times more likely to be at risk for death from hypertension
- 6.7% of current marijuana users are 12 to 17 year olds
- 58% of users between ages 12 to 17 claim that weed is easy to obtain
- Legal marijuana sales totaled over $6.7 billion in America in 2016
- 242,200 emergency room visits in 2005 involved cannabis use
- 40% of adult males arrested tested positive for marijuana
- In fatal car accidents, marijuana is the second most commonly found substance in drivers
- Marijuana abuse is increasing, as 2.1 million Americans abused marijuana in just 2007 alone
- Men are more likely to use cannabis than women
Evidently, weed is not as harmless as most people would like to believe. Anyone can develop a cannabis use disorder.
Popular Street Names for Cannabis
Popularized by Hollywood, cannabis is referred to by as many as 1,200 nicknames. It’s probably the only drug that has that many aliases. Popular street names include:
- Aunt Mary
Many of these aliases are used by Hollywood stars and on TV.
The Addictiveness of Cannabis
Although cannabis use often appears harmless and fun, long-term use leads to the development of cannabis use disorder. Basically, users become addicted to the high. This happens in as many as 10% of regular users. The main addictive component of cannabis is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The higher the THC content, the more addictive the marijuana is, and the higher chance of developing an addiction.
Cannabis use disorder often leads to consequences like:
- Cognitive impairment
- Poor school or work performance
- Psychiatric comorbidity like psychosis and mood disorders
Fewer Americans have developed an addiction to cannabis than to other narcotics. However, it’s important to point out that there’s not a lot of research in this field. The public still widely sees cannabis use as harmless, which is the reason why it is the most used drug of all.
Are You Addicted to Weed?
As cannabis use is quite common, many users fail to recognize signs of cannabis use disorder. Like an addiction to any other narcotic, the first step to getting help is to recognize the addiction. There are several addiction signs that are good indicators of a problem. They include:
- Building a higher tolerance to marijuana and needing more to feel high
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, like insomnia and loss of appetite
- Using more weed than intended on a regular basis with little control
- Being unable to quit or cut down on marijuana use despite many attempts
- Spending a significant amount of time high and neglecting other priorities
- Continuing to smoke weed despite having to face negative consequences
- Using weed as an escape to reality or other problems
- Being unable to attend to other responsibilities in favor of smoking weed
- Losing or breaking relationships due to marijuana use
- Losing or gaining a significant amount of weight after prolonged cannabis use
- Experiencing cravings whenever there’s any downtime
It’s difficult for addicts to face reality. Many believe that they truly don’t have a problem. If you’re on the fence regarding whether you are someone you love is struggling with a cannabis use disorder, take our addiction quiz for more insight.
Differences Between Cannabis Addiction and Dependence
Interestingly, cannabis dependence and cannabis addiction is not necessarily the same thing. Regular cannabis use can lead to a physical dependence on the substance. When quitting, many users experience withdrawal symptoms. That’s normal, and a sign that you’ve become dependent on marijuana.
Dependence, however, does not necessarily translate to addiction. Those who are dependent on marijuana may not be addicted. Cannabis addiction involves experiencing psychological symptoms as well. This includes cravings and compulsive use. Those who have the symptoms of addictions are considered to be struggling with a cannabis use disorder.
The Dangers of Marijuana Use
Although marijuana use is often considered harmless, it does come with some risks. Research has found correlation between marijuana use and death from hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure. That’s not too surprising, as smoking marijuana raises one’s heart rate for up to 3 hours.
When researchers and scientists took a second look at the dangers of marijuana use, they found marijuana use to:
- Cause breathing problems from all the smoke inhaled
- Worsen mental illness through its psychological effects
- Affect brain development in teenagers and children
- Cause babies in womb to develop shorter attention spans
A cannabis use disorder can cause the development of some concerning health risks.
Side Effects of Cannabis Use
Regardless of whether the pot is smoked or consumed as an edible, the THC will have both short-term and long-term effects on the body. The higher the concentration of THC, the more intense the side effects will be.
Upon ingesting marijuana, the THC passes into the bloodstream. The blood then carries this chemical to the brain and other important organs.
At the brain, the THC will over-activate and over-stimulate specific brain cell receptors. This causes a sense of euphoria, and many other sensations. It also causes short-term effects, like:
- Altered senses, like seeing more vivid colors
- An altered sense of time
- Delusions and even psychosis
- Difficulties with cognitive function
- Hallucinations, especially when taken in high doses
- Impaired body movement
- Impaired memory
- Mood swings
Short-term side effects tend to be temporary. As the THC leaves the body, these side effects subside.
Marijuana usually stays in the body for a short time although THC may have an extended stay. THC can be detected with drug test screening up to four weeks after ingestion. This is mainly because the THC get stored in fat cells, and are slowly released into the bloodstream.
Long-term, casual and regular marijuana use will affect brain development. The drug can impair memory, cognitive function, and learning skills permanently. THC can negatively impact the way that the brain builds connections. Unfortunately, research in this field is still ongoing. However, it’s evidence that THC has a much larger impact on developing brains than on adult brains. As a result, teenagers are more likely to develop a cannabis use disorder.
The main diagnosis criteria used to identify an addiction is the withdrawal symptoms. Cannabis withdrawal symptoms are as much psychological, as they are physical. Common symptoms include:
- Excessive sweating
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Extreme mood swings
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach pains
The withdrawal timeline lasts from one to seven days. It varies based on each individual’s consumption amount, length of addiction and more. Some addicts will experience withdrawal symptoms for much longer. This is because the body stores THC in fat cells and releases it slowly to the body. All the THC must be released and removed from the body before the road to recovery can even begin. Severe cannabis use disorders are associated with longer withdrawal times.
Recommended Treatments for a Marijuana Addiction
The average addict seeking help with a cannabis use disorder has used marijuana daily for more than 10 years. They’ve also tried to quit unsuccessfully at least more than six times.
The FDA has not yet approved any medication to help treat pot addiction. However, many recovery centers prescribe medications that help treat the sleep disorders experiences. Anti-anxiety and anti-stress medications have also shown promise. Nutritional supplements, like N-acetylcysteine, can reduce withdrawal symptoms experienced from a cannabis use disorder as well. Unfortunately, more research is needed in this area.
The good news is that withdrawing from marijuana is not deadly. Medical supervision will merely help make the process more comfortable.
The most important marijuana addiction treatments, with the highest efficacy ratings, aim to treat psychological withdrawal symptoms. Behavioral treatments that have shown the most promise include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which teaches addicts how to identify triggers and modify behaviors
- Contingency Management, which is a therapeutic management approach that uses positive rewards
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy, which attempt to mobilize internal motivations and desires
Pairing behavioral treatments with medical supervision prevents relapses and increases the success rate of becoming sober. Each patient’s addictions and inclinations need to be thoroughly assessed if they have a cannabis use disorder. This helps physicians determine the best treatment approach.
Some recovery centers take a different approach. Some researchers suggest that use reduction rather than abstinence is also an acceptable clinical goal. This is mainly because many addicts are ambivalent about quitting completely; however, this may not be feasible for those with a serious cannabis use disorder.
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Cannabis Use Can Lead to Addictions and Other Dangers
While some casual users may never experience or suffer from the more negative consequences of cannabis use, the risks are still there. Not everyone is lucky. Some people have a higher inclination and susceptibility for developing a cannabis use disorder. Just like an addiction to any other substances and narcotics, a pot addiction can have devastating and damaging effects. It can cause irreparable damage to the body, and significantly impact one’s mental state.
Regular marijuana users need to be aware of their own usage even if they do not struggle with a cannabis use disorder. It’s also important to keep an eye out for signs of dependence and addictions. Don’t let casual marijuana use spiral into a huge problem, and take over your life. If you or someone you know may have an addiction to marijuana, get help as soon as possible to reduce the risks of developing serious health complications. After all, the longer that a cannabis use disorder is left untreated, the more serious the situation gets.
Quitting or reducing marijuana use can be easy with professional help. Many recovery centers have programs dedicated to cannabis abuse and addiction. The treatments are tailored specifically to deal with the side effects of this drug. Patients will also meet others in similar situations, so they feel less alone.