Is Marijuana Addictive?
The United States is currently going through a reawakening of knowledge and understanding of marijuana.
As more states legalize the drug, it becomes more socially acceptable in a recreational manner. While the benefits are clear — many people enjoy the “high” — there are also many downsides and risks associated with marijuana, particularly overuse or misuse.
Marijuana, while not technically an addictive substance in the way heroin, cocaine, opioids, or other drugs are, is still a substance that puts people at risk of misusing or becoming addicted.
If you consider marijuana in the company of other legal substances like alcohol or cigarettes/cigars, it makes sense that addiction is possible. Not all drugs are illegal.
The Changing Views of Marijuana in the U.S.
Marijuana, weed, or cannabis are all the same thing. All three can be defined as a substance that comes from the cannabis plant. When absorbed into the body, it produces mind-altering effects because of the compound THC. Marijuana also includes other compounds like CBD that are not mind-altering.
There is rarely a day in the United States when there isn’t a news story about marijuana and the trends in the country toward legalization.
At the time of this writing, in the United States, there are 19 states and two territories that have legalized recreational marijuana.
The states are (in alphabetical order):
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- South Dakota
The two U.S. territories are our capital, Washington, D.C., and Guam.
Election Day 2012 was when the domino effect in the country led to legalizing recreational marijuana in some states.
Voters in Colorado approved a ballot measure to allow for the recreational marijuana consumption and the sale of cannabis. It was the first state to do so.
Recreational marijuana and the sale of cannabis has yet to be legalized at the federal level.
There are 34 states and three territories in the U.S. that have legalized medical marijuana.
The states where medical marijuana is legal are:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Nebraska and Marijuana
Nebraska remains one of the few states in the U.S. where marijuana is still fully illegal. The Cornhusker State is one of just three states without legalized medical marijuana in any form.
Discussions have begun throughout the state over the last two years specifically on whether to legalize either or both medicinal and recreational cannabis.
There are continued efforts throughout the U.S. to get the question of legalization added to the November 2022 ballot.
Marijuana Stats In the United States
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approximates that more than 22 million Americans ingest marijuana in the United States monthly. This makes it the most-taken drug that is illegal in some places.
A 2017 poll by Marist University in New York dove deeper into the exact numbers in the country.
As of 2017, 52% of adult Americans were known to have taken marijuana at some point in their lives. That equates to more than 128 million people.
Of that 52%, 44% were currently ingesting it on a regular basis.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 12% of Nebraskans had consumed marijuana within the past month at the time of the survey.
This number is up from the number a decade earlier from the same study. The 2008 study found that just 9% of Nebraskans had ingested marijuana within the past month of the survey.
According to the CDC, which is the leader in addiction and disease information in the United States, marijuana addiction is very real.
There are many who oppose the thought that marijuana is addictive and because of that feel there should be no restrictions on cannabis as a whole.
Numbers show differently. According to the CDC, an estimated 10% of those who ingest marijuana become addicted. For those who smoke marijuana before turning 18, the number is closer to 20%.
So how do you become addicted to marijuana?
First, we must understand what exactly addiction is.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as when a person maintains a compulsive, or difficult to control, desire in searching for and obtaining drugs or substances despite the harmful consequences.
Addiction is not something that is a complete physical craving. Addiction is something that controls your day-to-day functions and prevents you from living life to the fullest.
Physical cravings come from dependence, which is closely related to addiction but not the same thing.
A substance dependency can feel like an addiction. It is totally possible that you can have both a dependency and an addiction to a substance.
A dependency is when your body and mind have adjusted and adapted to having the substance to help them maintain normal functioning. When you’ve become dependent on a substance, losing that substance will cause discomfort as your body will need to readjust to not having the substance anymore.
Dependency is not uncommon among even the most common of things. Many people form a dependency on caffeine from their daily coffee or soda intake.
Cigarettes are another substance that causes dependency. Smokers become dependent on the nicotine in the cigarettes and must fulfill the need for nicotine for them to maintain a sound mind and body.
With dependence on any substance, including marijuana, withdrawal symptoms can set in when someone stops taking it. When dependent on marijuana, withdrawal symptoms may include sleeplessness, restlessness, or irritability.
While the world continues to trend toward acceptance of marijuana, the thought of possible dependency on marijuana may be forgotten despite studies showing it can indeed happen.
A 2007 study showed that for those who ingest marijuana frequently, withdrawal symptoms can begin as quickly as 24-38 hours after they stop ingesting marijuana. While symptoms of withdrawal are commonly milder than those for other substances like opioids or alcohol, they still exist.
Where withdrawal symptoms exist, dependency exists.
Side Effects of Marijuana
Marijuana comes with side effects. Cannabis causes mind-altering thoughts in the person partaking, with the help of THC.
The effects felt in the immediate aftermath of ingesting marijuana range beyond simple mind alteration, though.
Short-term side effects of marijuana include:
- Loss of senses
- Red eyes
- Dry mouth
- Reduction in body temperature
Marijuana’s short-term side effects are much less serious than possible long-term side effects.
While research is still in the early stages of finding out what long-term effects marijuana has on the brain and body, some things have become clearer since marijuana was first popularized in the 1960s.
For those who partake of marijuana during their teenage years or younger, marijuana has been proved to slow or alter the development of the brain. One study found that marijuana may alter the brain enough that multiple IQ points may be lost.
Social side effects are also possible, particularly in young people. Teenagers and young adults who ingest marijuana are known to be likelier to have an unexpected pregnancy, a sexually transmitted disease, or drop out of school.
Teens are not alone in feeling the long-term social side effects of marijuana. Though the country is slowly gaining acceptance of the substance, marijuana can still lead to loss of job opportunities, loss of relationships, and more.
The compound THC has also been linked to long-term and short-term memory loss in those who consistently consume marijuana.
Many studies, and the CDC, express concern that those who smoke marijuana must be aware that the smoke of marijuana cigarettes contains the same toxins that are found in tobacco.
Consistent smoking of marijuana can lead to many lung diseases or other ailments, such as shortness of breath, wheezing, or cough.
Finding Marijuana Addiction Treatment
The first step in marijuana addiction treatment is finding the right fit. That begins with joining a program that caters to your specific needs.
Overcoming any addiction or dependence is not easy.
Changing habits that form in addiction or dealing with the symptoms of withdrawal can make overcoming a substance use disorder very challenging.
There are ways to make a positive change, however.
Recovery is not a straight road but rather a long and winding road with hills and valleys all throughout it. For some, it may come more easily than for others, but that’s because no two addictions or stories are the same.
Everyone has a story to tell, and when it comes to treatment for a substance use disorder, it’s important that each individual’s story is told and answered with a personalized treatment plan.
At Northpoint Nebraska, we take each individual’s story and build a treatment plan that uses the information shared with us by the patient. With that information, we are better able to find options that work for them.
Marijuana Recovery at Northpoint Nebraska
Treatment for marijuana use disorder rarely begins with a period of detox, unlike treatment for many other substances. As mentioned briefly above, the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal are milder than for most other substances.
Because of the mild symptoms, most clients coming into treatment at Northpoint Nebraska for marijuana use disorder are able to jump right into programming to disrupt the addiction they are facing.
Starting drug rehab for marijuana is a huge step toward a happier and healthier future. Rehab often features a mix of therapy sessions that will help our patients have a better understanding of why they became addicted and how their addiction can be overcome with some simple changes.
Therapy and Counseling
As most jump right into treatment for marijuana addiction, you may want to read first about what exactly that entails.
First, we think it’s important to determine if there is a co-occurring disorder you may be facing. A co-occurring disorder is a mental health disorder that exists along with a substance use disorder.
If we are able to uncover a co-occurring disorder, it will give us better guidance to discover if there is a direct root reason you became addicted in the first place.
Using evidence-based treatments like group therapy, one-on-one counseling, and more, we are able to zero in on the cause of your addiction.
Counseling sessions with a therapist will focus on two things:
- Discovering the reason for substance misuse
- Working to change negative patterns that lead to substance misuse
Using a mix of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), our therapists will help you discover why you became addicted and how you can change the pathways in your life that led to struggling with marijuana.
In group therapy, patients speak with others who are going through the same thing. This allows patients to gain an understanding that they are not alone in this process and that others are there to help them along the way.
Northpoint Nebraska Can Help You Heal
Northpoint Nebraska is located in Omaha, Nebraska, and offers a variety of inpatient and outpatient treatment options for those with a wide range of substance use disorders and mental health disorders.
With a 44-bed facility, we are able to take in many Nebraskans who may be facing their worst days but desire change.
Our outpatient programs offer assistance to those who can’t afford to take time away from family or work duties but still desire recovery. We offer both partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs.
If you or a loved one is struggling with marijuana misuse, addiction, or dependency, we want to hear from you and help you make positive changes for your future.
Marijuana addiction may be harder to detect than other substance use disorders, so if you’d just like to chat about your story with our team, we’d love to hear from you. Call us today at (402) 275-4333 We look forward to hearing from you.