Marijuana, cannabis, weed, pot, 420, dope, the sticky icky… different names for the same thing whether you used it back in the 1960s or became a “cannabisseur” more recently.1 However, the drug itself has undergone some very concerning changes over the past few decades. Although the names remain the same, marijuana today is not what it used to be. We expect to see the need for marijuana addiction treatment programs to continue to grow, especially in areas where marijuana is very popular, such as Washington state. Statistically, one in six 10th graders use marijuana regularly and about 14% of adults in Washington state are regular marijuana users.2
It’s High Time We Recognize What Marijuana Has Become
The claims that marijuana is not addictive or harmful have been two of the primary arguments for legalizing recreational marijuana use. However, we are seeing that with the legalization of marijuana, the cannabis industry is significantly increasing the concentration of THC in marijuana products. THC is a psychoactive substance in marijuana that increases the release of dopamine, which is what makes marijuana desirable and potentially addictive.
In addition to dopamine release, THC can also induce hallucinations, cause anxiety and short-term memory issues, and impair motor skills.3 Furthermore, studies show that regular marijuana use can cause lowered IQ, depression, psychosis, and suicidal thoughts. Approximately 1 in 11 people who use marijuana become addicted as they try to cope with these symptoms.4
According to the National Institutes of Health, the cannabis industry has been working to increase the THC content in marijuana to make it more desirable. As marijuana is becoming legalized for recreational use, this will increase demand. Prior to the 1990s, the marijuana that was available at dispensaries contained less than 2% THC content. In the 1990s, it doubled to 4%. By 2017, the most popular strains of the marijuana flower that were found in dispensaries contained THC content that ranged from 17-28%.5
As the THC content becomes increasingly potent, people who use marijuana will be at a greater risk of developing an addiction or physical dependence. When people develop physical dependence, they will most likely need the help of a medically supervised marijuana addiction treatment.
Signs of Problematic Marijuana Use
Despite its increasingly mainstream acceptance, marijuana is not the harmless drug that many people think it is. Marijuana can cause addiction in the same way that other drugs do. When the THC triggers a release of dopamine within the brain, it also activates the brain’s reward pathways to remember the experience and repeat it.6 In other words, using marijuana conditions your brain to like and crave it more.
Recent data suggests that 30% of people who use marijuana have some degree of Marijuana Use Disorder (MUD), which means that they can’t stop using the drug despite the negative effects it has on their life. People who begin using marijuana before the age of 18 are four to seven more times likely to develop marijuana use disorder than adults.7
Although marijuana withdrawal does not typically cause significant medical or psychiatric problems, the withdrawal symptoms can present risks to the person’s well-being or boost the likelihood of relapse. Common marijuana withdrawal symptoms can include irritability, nervousness, sleep difficulty, restlessness, loss of appetite, and depression.8 If you notice these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, it may be best to seek marijuana addiction treatment.
In addition to the withdrawal symptoms, other signs of problematic marijuana use can include bloodshot eyes, weight gain, nervous or paranoid behavior, impaired coordination, slowed reaction time, dizziness, or distorted perception.9
Marijuana Addiction Treatment
At Schick Shadel Hospital, our marijuana addiction treatment and marijuana detox programs are based on proven scientific research.10 We utilize a medical approach to marijuana addiction treatment called aversion therapy, which is a form of counter-conditioning. For over 80 years, we have helped people safely overcome addictions to drugs and alcohol so that they can have their life back!
Although marijuana addiction is not as serious as alcohol or opioids, it can still have a significant impact on your daily life. If you or someone you know is having a hard time controlling their marijuana use despite the negative effects, then it may be time to consider seeking marijuana addiction treatment.
1 Weed, cannabis, pot or marijuana: what’s the difference? | CBC News. (2019). CBC. Retrieved 18 June 2019, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/weed-pot-cannabis-marijuana-whats-the-difference-1.4405440
2 (2019). Doh.wa.gov. Retrieved 18 June 2019, from https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1000/SHA-MarijuanaUse.pdf
3 Science, L. (2017). What is THC?. Live Science. Retrieved 18 June 2019, from https://www.livescience.com/24553-what-is-thc.html
4 Is Marijuana Addictive?. (2019). American Addiction Centers. Retrieved 18 June 2019, from https://americanaddictioncenters.org/marijuana-rehab/is-it-addictive
5 Stuyt, E. (2018). The Problem with the Current High Potency THC Marijuana from the Perspective of an Addiction Psychiatrist. Missouri Medicine, 115(6), 482. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6312155/
6 Is Marijuana Addictive?. (2019). Drug Rehab. Retrieved 18 June 2019, from https://www.drugrehab.com/addiction/drugs/marijuana/is-marijuana-addictive/
7 Is marijuana addictive?. (2019). Drugabuse.gov. Retrieved 18 June 2019, from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/marijuana/marijuana-addictive
8 Hesse, M., & Thylstrup, B. (2013). Time-course of the DSM-5 cannabis withdrawal symptoms in poly-substance abusers. BMC Psychiatry, 13(1). doi:10.1186/1471-244x-13-258. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4015312/
9 Marijuana Symptoms and Warning Signs – Addiction Center. (2019). Addictioncenter.com. Retrieved 18 June 2019, from https://www.addictioncenter.com/drugs/marijuana/symptoms-signs/
10 Elkins, R., Richards, T., Nielsen, R., Repass, R., Stahlbrandt, H., & Hoffman, H. (2017). The Neurobiological Mechanism of Chemical Aversion (Emetic) Therapy for Alcohol Use Disorder: An fMRI Study. Frontiers In Behavioral Neuroscience, 11. doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2017.00182. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnbeh.2017.00182/full?utm_source=F-NTF&utm_medium=EMLX&utm_campaign=PRD_FEOPS_20170000_ARTICLE