Eric or Flique as we used to call him was my friend once. That was until Marijuana showed up and swept his mind away. Now, we barely speak.
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The last time we did speak, he told me that he is addicted to Marijuana but he did not see how it was affecting his life.
Apparently, he’s confident that he’ll live a normal life with it. I tried to show him the effects of his addiction but he did not budge.
I hope one day he decides to seek help. I keep asking myself, however, could I have done more to help him?
Understanding Marijuana Addiction
Addiction is a disease that affects the brain and the body.
Marijuana addiction is characterized by dependence on Marijuana. The brain of the addict is programmed to believe that it cannot do without Marijuana.
Physical Symptoms of a Marijuana Addiction
There are many symptoms of a Marijuana addict. Below are the most recognizable signs.
This is usually the first real sign of Marijuana addiction. This is characterized by the situation where a user needs more Marijuana than before to achieve a high. With time, the user will need more and more Marijuana to get high.
Withdrawal symptoms of Marijuana addiction include anxiety and loss of appetite. If you experience withdrawal symptoms after getting off the drug, then you are most likely addicted to marijuana.
3. Loss of control over use
This is where the user has no control over their Marijuana use. This can be seen where the user tries to reduce Marijuana intake but then finds that he is unable to break his regular smoking habit. This is usually a pointer to addiction.
4. Most of the time is spent getting high
This is mainly characterized by taking time out of other activities so as to get high. A user might find that time that was previously spent doing activities like sports is now spent abusing Marijuana.
5. Friendship choices
Most of the times you will find a Marijuana addict choosing friends based on whether they also get high.
However, this mostly happens subconsciously and with time the addict finds that most of his friends are also addicts. The user then finds that the time spent with friends is mostly spent smoking.
6. Smoking to relax
If you find that you need a hit of weed to relax, then you are most probably addicted to marijuana.
An addicted user might find that whenever they need to cool down they have to get some Marijuana. This is one of the clearest signs of addiction.
7. Laxity toward responsibility
An addicted marijuana user basically shrugs responsibility in order to get high. The user might begin to skip school or work.
Sometimes the user does not skip school or work, but his/her productivity decreases. This is because the user mostly focuses on Marijuana rather than responsibility.
8. Ignoring the consequences of using Marijuana
A tell-tale sign of Marijuana addiction is where the user does not seem to care about the consequences of using Marijuana. The user might get into trouble time after time but they will not stop.
9. Marijuana as a coping mechanism
Using Marijuana to escape reality is usually a sign of addiction. The user probably uses Marijuana to escape the pressures of home or work life.
10. Failing to cut-down or quit
This is a sure-fire way to tell if one is addicted or not. Failure to quit usually means that the user’s body has become dependent on the drug.
The above signs usually mean that help is needed. After a user becomes addicted it becomes very difficult for them to stop on their own.
Marijuana Addiction Statistics 2017
i). A study conducted by the National Institute of Drug Abuse found that 71% of high school seniors do not see Marijuana use as particularly harmful.
However, 64.7% of them were against regular Marijuana use. This shows how much Marijuana use has been normalized by young people.
The fact they disapprove of its regular use means that they know that it is potentially harmful. However, this doesn’t stop them from using the drug.
ii). The same study also found out that teens are more likely to abuse Marijuana than cigarettes. The study has shown a steep decline in cigarette use from 1997, where it was at its peak and 2017 where it has declined significantly.
This is probably because people are more aware of its harmful effects. Conversely, Marijuana use has enjoyed a steady increase from the year 1992.
It has not yet reached the popularity that cigarettes had achieved but its popularity is growing among teens.
iii). According to a NIDA study, Marijuana abuse is second only to Alcohol Abuse in the United States.
Marijuana users are twice the number of people who abuse prescription drugs and 5 times the number of people that abuse cocaine.
This statistic shows that Marijuana, which is still an illicit drug under federal law, continues to grow in popularity.
A study by NIDA also found out that Marijuana use affects men and women differently. For example, women develop Marijuana use disorder faster than men but the effects are more severe in men than in women. The disorder also presents itself differently in men compared to women.
iv). Drug use costs the US about 740 billion dollars annually. These costs are related to crime, loss of productivity and healthcare for the addicts. This shows that addiction is a national issue that shouldn’t be ignored.
v). A survey by NIDA also found out that 9% of people who use marijuana will develop an addiction to it. This is contrary to popular belief that Marijuana is not addictive. This means that 9% of marijuana users that will suffer the effects of addiction.
vi). NIDA also found out that the risk of Marijuana addiction rises to 17% in users that begin using during adolescence.
It increases further to about 25-50% in people that use Marijuana daily. This means that marijuana addiction rates are set to increase as the drug’s popularity grows among teenagers and more states vote to legalize it.
vii). NIDA also found out that the level of potency in Marijuana has been on a steady increase in the past few decades. In the 1990s the average THC concentration in a Marijuana sample was 3.3.%. In 2012, the average THC concentration was 12.2%.
Now, some extracts have even been found to have more than 50% THC concentration. This pattern raises a concern that the effects of Marijuana can be worse than what was seen in the past.
viii). A survey shows that most Americans believe that Marijuana use is a socially acceptable behavior. This again shows the growing trend that is normalizing marijuana use. This will surely lead to increased cases of Marijuana addiction.
ix). The survey also shows that most Americans believe that Marijuana use is less risky than Alcohol or opiate use. This might be true as alcohol is more likely to lead to addiction than Marijuana.
However, with the steady increase of THC levels in Marijuana, that statistic may be subject to change in the coming years.
Marijuana Addiction Compared to Alcohol
Marijuana and Alcohol are the leading drugs used in America today. Below is a comparison of their addictions and their effects.
Most of the time alcohol drinking is not fatal. However, it is possible to overdose on alcohol. A report by the CDC stated half of the 88000 alcohol-related deaths were caused by binge drinking. Marijuana deaths caused by overdose are almost nonexistent.
A report by a research academy found that a fatal dose of THC (Chemical present in Marijuana) would be between 15g to 70g. This is the equivalent of smoking about 238-1200 joints in a day which is highly unlikely.
Driving while intoxicated or while high is extremely dangerous as both drugs cause significant motor dysfunction. An article by Elsevier Information Company found that alcohol causes more accidents than Marijuana.
The risk of being involved in an accident depends on how much either drug has infiltrated into the system of the driver. Combining the two drugs significantly increases the risk of an accident.
Most of the time alcohol intoxication causes the loss of short-term memory. This is referred to as a “blackout”.
An email survey conducted on college students found that this is a common occurrence, especially after heavy drinking. Recent studies have found that Marijuana use has some adverse effect on memory especially when taken during the adolescent stage of life.
Reports by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that alcohol use, especially during the first weeks of pregnancy, can cause long-term effects on the fetus.
The risk is that the child may be born with physical, behavioral or intellectual disabilities. Studies by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) have also linked Marijuana use to physical defects in babies when smoked during pregnancy.
The studies have shown that babies born of Marijuana addicts tend to have a lower weight.
Marijuana Addiction Counseling
Counseling to help stop drug use is encouraged by many addiction specialists.
Studies have shown that counseling coupled with medication is more effective than using medication only to treat addiction. A number of counseling techniques are used depending on the specific case.
a). Individualized Drug Counseling
This technique focuses directly on stopping your Marijuana drug use. It also focuses on improving your social and family relations.
This mode of counseling focuses on short-term behavioral goals that will assist you in finding mechanisms that will help you abstain from drug use.
b). Motivational Enhancement therapy
This method seeks to motivate you to quit Marijuana use by your personal will. This method will seek to encourage the self-belief in you that you can quit drug use.
It aims to show you that you have enough willpower to quit Marijuana use if you set your mind to it. It will help you develop coping mechanisms for difficult situations that you may encounter in the future.
If successful, this method will help you quit drug use in the short-term and in the long-term.
c). Contingency Therapy
This method involves the setting of goals for you and after you achieve them you get a tangible reward. It involves the monitoring of your behavior after certain behavioral goals are set.
The rewards seek to motivate you to continue on the upward trend towards a zero-drug life. It allows you to adapt your behavior toward resisting drug use.
Effects of Marijuana Addiction on the Body
Marijuana addiction affects the body in various ways:
i). Effect on Brain Development
The brain remains in active development in a human body up to the age of 21 years. During this period the brain is highly susceptible to chemical changes in the body, such as exposure to THC, the primary active ingredient in marijuana.
Studies conducted on animals have already shown that THC exposure during the prenatal stage can affect the growth of neurons in the brain.
"Adolescents who smoke marijuana regularly have shown reduced neural connectivity in the brain.
The affected areas include precuneus and the hippocampus parts of the brain. These areas control alertness and memory respectively."
This, therefore, means that the memory and the self-conscious parts of the brain fail to develop completely in frequent marijuana users.
These effects are prominent in users that begin Marijuana use during adolescence or young adulthood. Studies have shown a decrease in IQ in users that begin Marijuana use at this time and then continue it into adulthood.
This is sufficient evidence to show that Marijuana use affects brain development and function.
ii). Marijuana as a Gateway drug
Epidemiologic data suggest that marijuana use in adolescence could lead to multiple addictive behaviors in adulthood. This is because frequent Marijuana use affects the reward system of the brain.
This decreases the brain’s ability to react to dopamine. Dopamine influences the brain’s ability to feel pleasure.
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Drug use basically leads to an increase in levels of dopamine and thus an increase in pleasure. This causes the “high” associated with drug use.
The brain’s inability to react to dopamine means that it has adopted a tolerance to Marijuana as a drug. The user does not feel the same high anymore.
This may cause the user to seek a stronger strain of Marijuana or a stronger drug. This is how Marijuana can act as a gateway drug to other drugs such as Heroin and cocaine.
The ease of availability of Marijuana facilitates its role as a gateway drug. It is has been made legal in some states in America and in some countries around the world. Even in social circles, Marijuana use is seen as the begin of a much greater drug problem.
iii). Risk Of Motor Vehicle Accidents
Marijuana use is the most frequently reported drug that is associated with impaired driving and accidents. It affects both short-term and long-term Marijuana users.
Studies conducted on driving simulators have shown a relationship between blood THC concentration and driving ability.
Blood concentration levels of 2-5 mg per ml have shown a significant driving impairment in users.
Meta-analysis further shows that the risk of involvement in an accident increases by a factor of 2 when a person drives immediately after using Marijuana.
Other studies show that a person with as little as 1 mg per ml of blood THC concentration was 3 to 7 more times likely to cause a motor vehicle accident than a person who has not used the drug. The risk factor increases if the Marijuana has been combined with another drug.
There is a general consensus that Marijuana use causes some form of motor dysfunction.
This is not limited to just motor vehicle driving. However, this is where the greatest risk is involved. The Marijuana user becomes a danger to himself and other motorists as well.
iv). Prenatal effects of Marijuana
Cannabis is the drug that is most used by women of childbearing age. The risk involved with Marijuana use is that THC can cross the placenta if it is present in the mother’s bloodstream.
Evidence indicates that this may have adverse effects on the baby’s body and brain development.
It was found that women are more likely to have a stillbirth if they are addicted to some type of drug.
Fetal development is also likely to be affected by Marijuana use. Research shows that mothers who were regular users of Cannabis birthed significantly lighter babies than mothers who did not use Cannabis at all during pregnancy.
This points toward the fact that Marijuana use has some effect on fetal development. The findings are consistent with the effects of Carboxyhemoglobin on fetal development. Carboxyhemoglobin is found in cigarette smoke and Marijuana smoke.
It is, however, worth noting that the levels of Carboxyhemoglobin in Marijuana smoke is five times higher than in cigarette smoke. This means that its effects on fetal development may be more pronounced than in cigarette smokers.
v). Respiratory Disease
Environmental exposure is the leading cause of respiratory disease in the world. This includes tobacco smoke and household air pollution. The effects of tobacco smoke on the respiratory system are well known.
Some experts opine that Marijuana use can cause more harm to the respiratory system than tobacco.
One joint of Marijuana contains exposes one to up to 4 times more carbon monoxide exposure and 5 times more tar than a single cigarette.
This immediate effects of marijuana smoke include irritation of the respiratory system. Regular smokers can complain of wheezing and coughing. One also becomes more susceptible to throat infections.
The long-term effects are more dangerous. Long-term use of the drug can cause bronchitis and other lung infections. It can also lead to the onset or aggravation of existing respiratory illnesses such as asthma.
vi). Risk of Cancer
The connection between long-term Marijuana smoking and the occurrence of lung cancer is unclear.
There are, however, some studies that have shown that 20-30 years of active marijuana use can cause the prevalence of upper digestive tract cancer. These cancers include mouth and throat cancer.
vii). Circulatory system
The heart rate in a Marijuana user increases significantly within minutes of Marijuana use. This rapid heartbeat can last for 1 to 3 hours. This can cause a greater risk of heart attack especially in a user with heart disease.
Marijuana Addiction Intervention
An intervention seeks to motivate a drug addict to seek help to cure his/her addiction. It helps the addict understand that his loved ones will be there with him as he undergoes addiction rehab.
Intervention involves a combined effort from the loved ones of an addict in order to kick start recovery.
It mainly involves the family and friends of the addict. For greater effectiveness, it should also involve a drug counselor. A typical intervention seeks to:
The following steps should be taken for an intervention to be successful:
Step One: Making a plan.
This is after a family member or a friend proposes an intervention. Here, it is advisable that you seek the help of a qualified counselor.
This is because intervention can be emotionally charged occasions. Your plan needs to be spot on to avoid a situation where your loved one will feel anger or resentment.
Step Two: Gathering information.
This stage involves seeking information on the extent of your loved one’s addiction and how the addiction has affected them.
This information will be useful when trying to explain to the addict how Marijuana use has become detrimental to their lives.
Step Three: Forming the intervention team.
The intervention team should include people that have an impact on the life of your loved one.
The team should help your loved one find solutions rather than illicit strong emotional responses. Remember that your loved one shouldn’t know of the intervention before it happens.
Step Four: Set consequences.
You should set consequences for your loved one if they choose not to kick the habit.
Step Five: Make notes on what to say.
Each member of the team should have incidences where your loved one’s drug use has affected them in some way.
This will not give your loved one the chance to argue with the fact of his/her addiction. It will help the addict realize that he/she really has an addiction problem.
Step Six: Hold the meeting.
The intervention should happen at the planned date and location. Team members should each express their concerns.
You should then present your loved one with a treatment option which they should accept there and then. If they refuse, each member should then read out the consequences. Members should only read out consequences that they are prepared to execute.
Step Seven: Follow up.
Follow up should involve a person who is really close to your loved one. It can be a spouse or a sibling or even a friend. This person will guide the addict through the recovery process and provide regular updates to friends and family.
A well-planned intervention will most likely yield positive results. On the other hand, a poorly planned one can only seek to anger the addict or make him feel hated and isolated.
Does Marijuana Addiction Lead to Depression?
The link between Marijuana and depression is complicated to understand since medical marijuana is sometimes used to treat depression and anxiety.
However, after its effects wear off, the depression comes back again.
According to a report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that people who abuse Marijuana are more likely to have depression and depressive symptoms than people who do not use Marijuana. The risk increases if the addict abuses both Marijuana and alcohol.Studies have also found that early exposure to Marijuana, especially if it exposure happens during adolescence, can lead to the development of anxiety disorders.
The probability of development of the disorder increases if the Marijuana is abused frequently or on a daily basis.
In addition, Marijuana abuse during adolescence has been linked to suicidal tendencies, certain personality disorders and interpersonal violence.
The Right Cure for Marijuana Addiction
According to NIDA, treating Marijuana addiction should involve standard treatments involving medications and behavioral therapies may help reduce Marijuana use. This is the same for both heavy and moderate users.
Marijuana Addiction Outpatient Treatment
Outpatient addiction treatment allows patients to go back home and engage in their daily activities while still undergoing addiction rehab during the day. The rate of therapy sessions per week decrease as the patient moves further along in recovery.
It usually lasts about 1 to 3 months but it can go for longer depending on the physical and mental state of the patient.
Therapy basically involves:
The different types of outpatient treatment depend on the severity of addiction of the user and the stage of recovery the addict is at.
Available Treatment Programs
i). Day Programs
These have the highest level of care and structure provided for outpatients. They involve 5-7 day meetings a week where addicts are engaged in therapy, group counseling, biofeedback and other types of therapy (art or music therapy).
Patients can return home after each session, preferably to a sober environment. This program may take many hours so the addicts might find it difficult to engage in employment.
ii). Intensive Outpatient Programs
This program involves setting certain achievement milestones for patients during therapy. As the patient achieves these milestones, the time commitment required per week decreases respectively.
This is a good option for people who still wish to engage in employment and daily activities. It basically involves a few counseling sessions per week for counseling, group therapy and relapse prevention therapy.
iii). Continuing care
These are groups that try to solidify the addict’s commitment towards a drug free life. The groups are typically led by a licensed therapist and they meet weekly.
Such groups may be gender specific or age specific or they may focus on a particular aspect of recovery.
Who is it best suited for?
Outpatient addiction treatment is best suited for patients with less severe Marijuana addiction or patients who began with inpatient treatment but they have reached a stage in recovery where outpatient treatment can work. It is best suited for a patient who doesn’t need high level medical and psychiatric support.
How Marijuana Addiction Affects Relationships
Marijuana addiction affects relationships mainly impacts:
a). Personal life and friendships
An addict spends most of his time on the drug or trying to find the drug. Most of the time the addict lacks time to support friendships or to maintain his personal life.
The addict may even develop social anxiety and thus become introverted. The addict might also begin to keep a band of friends that fuel his addiction rather than those that try to help him kick the habit.
b). Intimacy and commitment
Intimacy can be the glue that holds a relationship together. In most cases of addiction, you will find that the addict no longer has the appetite for intimacy.
His life becomes only about Marijuana alone. Marijuana detaches one from the feelings of his/her loved one and thus intimacy can’t happen.
c). Family life and responsibilities
When addiction sets in, the user begins to neglect family duties and responsibilities. The addict cares only about Marijuana. It becomes a sad situation when the addict is the provider for his family. The dependence on pot consumes him and he begins to spend all of his money on the drug.
The addiction might also negatively affect the drug-free partner. The partner might feel neglected and even blame themselves for the addiction. At this point, without intervention, the relationship is usually doomed.
d). Marijuana and emotions
Marijuana users associate their happiness with the drug. Their minds are tuned to believe that happiness can only be achieved through the drug.
They thus end up neglecting their human relationships since those relationships don’t bring them the joy that the drug brings them.
Most relationships that Marijuana users had before addiction almost always break down. The only “relationships” they can maintain is with their fellow drug users.
Marijuana Addiction Family Support
Family support is integral if you are going to help a person quit marijuana use. There are several steps you should take to help the person quit.
- Planning an intervention: This is usually the first step that family and even friends can take to help a person quit an addiction. A successful intervention will help the addict realize his drug problem and embrace change.
- Providing support without enabling: Family should support the addict during recovery without providing him with the means to fuel his addiction. For example, you should not allow your loved one to shun his responsibilities.
- Avoiding approaches that may cause conflict: Family members should avoid unnecessary confrontation with the addict. The goal is to support the addict and not to regularly fight with them.
- Assist in finding a therapy that the loved one responds to: Different addicts respond better to some therapy techniques compared to others. Family members should help in finding the best form of therapy for their loved one since they know him best.
- Watching for relapse signs: Recovering addicts are sometimes prone to relapse. It is the duty of family members to find these signs and refocus the addict towards recovery.
Marijuana Addiction Recovery Time
Studies have shown that Marijuana takes 4-21 days to be fully metabolized in the body. However, for Marijuana addicts, it might take up to 90 days to flush the drug out of their systems.
The withdrawal systems do not last for that long. Most detox programs usually take 1-3 months.
Marijuana addiction is real and at the same time, it is curable through addiction therapy. However, It needs the collective effort of both the addict and his loved ones for addiction therapy to work. If you need additional help from professionals, you can call us now: (714)6765400