By Deborah Brosseau
As of this month – January 2020 – marijuana is legal for recreational use in eleven of the United States. It is legal for medicinal use in 33 states. With its increased legality and access, it’s natural to wonder if pot addiction is a “thing,” and if so, is it a treatable thing.
Let’s look first at how pervasive marijuana use is in this country. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, marijuana usage has increased in all fifty states, with more than 15% of people aged 12+ smoking weed for medical or recreational reasons. Other polls suggest nearly 35 million American adults consider themselves regular users, ingesting weed one way or another at least once a month. It does seem that access is allowing more people the opportunity to partake.
While marijuana has been in use for centuries – first as part of faith and healing rituals before its more communal use – a major difference now is its potency. Both corporate and private growers are going for increased THC levels. Whether that’s in response to the high tolerance of regular smokers or a marketing tactic is up for debate, but the prevalence of more powerful pot is not.
The effects of marijuana usage have long been a source of contention. How could something sourced directly from nature be problematic? I mean, our brain has cannabinoid receptors! Science explains why you shouldn’t just smoke it if you got ‘em. When we flood our endocannabinoid system with THC, it throws off both the brain and body by messing with how our neurons communicate effectively with each other. On one end of the spectrum, you might experience short-term impaired reaction time, decision-making, and memory.
On the other, things get far less chill. So many parts of the brain get affected by THC, from balance and movement to eating and emotions, long term use – especially of highly potent pot – can be quite detrimental to oneself, and possibly others.
Some of the potential consequences of consistent usage include:
1. Your Brain: Attention, learning, and memory can be negatively impacted, long-term.
2. Also Your Brain: Cannabis use is associated with the development of social anxiety, paranoia, and psychoses including schizophrenia. It can worsen suicidal ideation as well as bipolar disorder symptoms.
3. Your Heart: Weed is detrimental to your cardiovascular system.
4. Your Lungs: Smoking cannabis puts cancer-causing substances into your lungs. It also leads to greater susceptibility to bronchitis and cough.
5. Lower Birth Weight: Smoking cannabis has been linked to lower infant birth weights.
6. Accidents: Because your decision-making and response time are both impaired, smoking pot has been linked to car accidents.
7. Overdosing: Cannabis-related emergency room visits have increased due to unexpected and undesirable side effects.
But is weed addictive? Yes, even with these consequences on the table, people become addicted to marijuana. In fact, about one in ten adults will become addicted to pot. Next to alcohol, it has the highest rate of dependence or abuse among all drugs. More than 4.2 million Americans met the criteria in 2013 for weed addiction. And as with any other addictions, it is serious.
If you try, but can’t quit smoking pot, if you’re decreasing or eliminating social connection for pot, or if smoking pot is causing problems at work, school, or home, you may be addicted to pot. Some other systems are:
1. You’re challenged to think and solve problems.
2. Your ability to learn and remember is shot.
3. You’re physically imbalanced or uncoordinated.
4. You’re coughing and phlegmy.
5. Your eyes are bloodshot and watery.
6. You’re hungry.
7. You’re anxious, paranoid, or impulsive.
8. If you try to quit smoking or ingesting weed, you become angry, irritable, depressed, or antsy while your appetite decreases and you get the sweats, chills, stomachache or headache
Marijuana treatment is available for addiction. Having a support system to help you get through the withdrawal period (which could last 1-2 weeks) is crucial to form a solid foundation for the rest of the recovery work. Residual symptoms could last many more months, so having coping skills, a safe support community, and accountability will make the journey to marijuana sobriety a lasting one.